Domestic Violence: The Shadow Pandemic
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month here in the United States. Domestic violence, also called intimate partner violence, continues to be a problem in every community and was exacerbated by the lockdowns that occurred at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Women are most often the targets of this violence, but men, trans, and non-binary folks can also be affected and people in same-gender relationships can experience this form of violence.
You most likely know someone who has experienced intimate partner violence in one of its many forms – physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, psychological aggression, and/or emotional manipulation. About 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 10 men have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime. There isn’t much data readily available on how this affects non-binary and trans folks, which is a huge gap preventing this issue from being fully understood and addressed.
While intimate partner violence and violence more broadly impacts all people in the United States, some individuals and communities experience a higher risk of violence due to the social and structural conditions in which they live, work, and play. Youth from groups that have been marginalized, such as sexual and gender minority youth, are at greater risk of experiencing sexual and physical dating violence.
What can we, as churches, do about this?
First, recognize that you will most likely have people in your pews that have experienced intimate partner violence or who are currently experiencing it. Providing a safe space for them to be is vital. Listen to and support them, don’t blame them, or tell them what to do when they share their experiences with you. The National Domestic Violence hotline has resources for folks who are trying to support those experiencing domestic violence.
Second, talk about this issue in your worship services. Break the Silence Sunday can be observed on any Sunday but is mostly observed by UCC churches on the last Sunday in April. You can find worship materials and other resources on their website. Thursdays in Black is another campaign your church can support all year. Every Thursday from October 6, 2022 through the end of the year, we will be sharing on UCC and Global Ministries social media video prayers from folks in the UCC, Disciples, and Global Ministries. Join us in action and in prayer.
Third, partner with local women’s shelters and organizations that support survivors. Reach out and ask them what they most need – money, volunteers, clothes, advocacy with your local or state government, etc. Or work with organizations in your community working on preventing intimate partner violence through violence disruption programs, hunger programs, economic support, housing programs, etc. There are broader systemic issues that contribute to intimate partner violence.
Fourth, support organizations globally that are working on prevention and support for survivors. This is a global problem. Global Ministries partners are working in a variety of ways to support women’s economic empowerment and to help survivors.
Finally, teach your children to have healthy relationships. The Our Whole Lives curriculum helps participants make informed and responsible decisions about their relationships, health, and behavior with accurate, age-appropriate information. Host classes in your church or get trained to teach.
We all must act to end violence in all its forms. Join us today.
Rebekah Choate is the Global Advocacy and Education Associate for Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ