“When faced with an angry partner you could ask them if they think they have a problem” – you probably don’t need to know an awful lot about domestic abuse to know that this is not a good, or safe suggestion. Yet this is just one of several potentially life endangering pieces of advice in a book I recently picked up, not any old book – a book in a Christian bookshop purporting to give advice to victims of domestic abuse. The book focussed solely on physical abuse, with no real acknowledgement of psychological, sexual, financial, emotional, or spiritual abuse, and no understanding of coercive control. I was, in turn, horrified and saddened at the same time.
1 in 4 women in the UK will experience domestic abuse in their life time, 2 women a week are murdered by a current or former partner. These are sobering statistics, and it’s easy as we sit in church to think that it’s happening ‘out there’ outside the confines of our church community, but sadly that’s not the case. Domestic abuse, in all its forms, happens in churches too, even if you don’t think it is. I’ve spoken to many people in the last few years who have confidently told me “there’s no-one in my church”. My response is the same for each of them “are you SURE?”, followed by some of my own story as a survivor of abuse.
Abusive men often come across as charming, friendly, and witty with outsiders, while abused women often become skilled at hiding the abuse. Of course, not all of those suffering domestic abuse are women, men and children suffer too. However, women are more likely to experience repeated and severe forms of violence, threats and harassment, overall creating a context of fear and control. Most women survivors of domestic abuse suffer in silence because of the stigma and shame it still carries. A misunderstanding of domestic abuse and publications containing dangerous advice, means that many women are in contact with churches who are often ill equipped to recognize the signs of abuse and sadly, as a result, are often given advice that at best leaves a women trapped in an abusive relationship, at worst could see them dead.
Yet churches should be a place of sanctuary and security, not just for those in the pews Sunday by Sunday. For those whose churches come into contact with the community - the parents from the local school, at the toddler group, the foodbank, the coffee mornings….- church should be a place where the signs are recognized, and women supported so they can be released from the shame and live life in all its fullness as Christ intended. I was one of those who carried the shame and stigma until I came across Restored, through them, and with a church where I was supported, my life has quite literally been transformed. Looking back just 4 or 5 years I see a woman I hardly recognise.
Restored trains and equips churches to break the silence surrounding domestic abuse , to encourage women affected to come forward for help, and provide them with the help and support they desperately need. Since Restored was founded in 2010, they've trained leaders of more than 5,000 churches, distributed 10,000 church packs (which gives churches the information they need to be able to take action), raised awareness of the issue in the media and spoken at high profile gatherings of those that can influence change, such as the Church of England General Synod and side events at the UN.
Next they want to do more work with survivors of violence. They have women regularly contacting them and know they need support. They have created a Survivor’s Network and a hidden area on their website containing supportive book reviews, member’s stories and recovery topics but they really want to launch an online forum for survivors where the women will be able to speak to each other and share their stories, gain encouragement from each other, and some practical tips on moving forward. They can't do this yet as they don't have the funds to do so. They'd love to launch an online pilot of the forum by the end of the year. Can you help them do this?
They are a small charity with a big vision and stacks of experience, and your support makes a huge difference to them!
Your donation can help to end violence against women sooner.
On September the 9th (and 10th) I am doing the Thames Path Challenge. It’s 100km (62 miles) from Putney Bridge to Henley. I’ll be running some of it, and walking other bits, but the key thing is that it’s all in one go. There’s no stopping overnight, I start at 6.45am on the Saturday morning, and except for the occasional stop for snack/food will keep on going until the bitter end. I expect blisters, fatigue, and hopefully not too much rain. I’m hoping to raise £1500 for Restored and would really appreciate your support. Please click here http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/GwenMtambirwa to sponsor me online. For more information on Restored go to http://www.restoredrelationships.org/