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In Theory: How should we address domestic abuse?

November 25, 2011

In Glendale, 339 cases of domestic violence were reported to police in 2010. The department's latest figures, as of September of this year, are 238. But many women don't report assaults to the police, and others report them to organizations like the YWCA. With this in mind, the Safe Family Task Force, the YWCA of Glendale and the Glendale Religious Leaders Assn. are holding a workshop on Dec. 15 on family violence for local clergy members to attend. The workshop is designed to help clergy learn about domestic violence, what resources are available, and how to respond.

Paula Devine, the chair of the Glendale Commission on the Status of Women, said, “In 2005 the police had 422 reports of domestic abuse but the YWCA had more than 900. Domestic violence is a learned behavior — the abuser more than likely has experienced this violent behavior at home while growing up. Most women don't like to call authorities out fear of repercussions for reporting their partner and a feeling of shame for being seen as a victim of domestic violence.”

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Linda Pillsbury, a clinical social worker who is active with the Safe Family Task Force, said, “A lot of people can't understand why abused women don't leave the relationship. The truth is that leaving is the most dangerous time. If the abusive partner discovers the woman is planning on leaving, the violence may increase. The workshop will help clergy learn more about what domestic violence is and how to talk to victims. We're also hoping they can help spread awareness of it to their communities by speaking out in the pulpit.”

Have you encountered victims of domestic violence in your work? If you have, did you know how to handle it? Can clergy play a role in ending domestic abuse?

So far, I have not encountered any domestic violence that I know of in my congregation. I have perhaps encountered the alleged abuse of seniors, and I am required to report such alleged abuse.

A minister is a mandated reporter, and as such, the minister is required to notify the proper authorities, who then do the investigation. Can clergy help to reduce domestic violence? Perhaps in a small way, but not in any meaningful way. We can quote the apostle Paul from the pulpit, and say, “Husbands, love your wives” (Ephesians 5:25), and then we could add, “Loving them means not beating them up!”

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