A telephone survey of 1000 senior pastors by LifeWay Research in Protestant churches in America revealed that most of them are aware of domestic violence in their congregations, but 42% of them “rarely, if ever” address the issue.
In addition, the majority of pastors (52%) do not believe they have sufficient training to address situations of domestic violence.
Most pastors said that less than 5% of people in their congregations have been victims of domestic violence. When in reality, more than 1 in 3 (35.6 percent) women and 1 in 4 men (28.5 percent) have “experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime”, according to a report from The Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This statistic is virtually the same for Christians and non-Christians.
As the above chart illustrates, only 5-10% of pastors correctly identified the percentage of domestic violence in their congregations.
Clearly, pastors are not aware of the extent of domestic violence in their churches. The Lifeway study revealed that over half of senior pastors (52 percent) do not feel that they have sufficient training to deal effectively with domestic or sexual violence. And most (81%), say they would do more to reduce domestic violence if they had more training.
Domestic violence can take many forms. Commonly, we think of domestic violence as only being physical or sexual. The Duluth Model shows some of the other forms.
Emotional Abuse: Undermining an individual’s sense of self-worth and/or self-esteem is abusive. This may include, but is not limited to constant criticism, diminishing one’s abilities, name-calling, or damaging one’s relationship with his or her children.
Economic Abuse: Is defined as making or attempting to make an individual financially dependent by maintaining total control over financial resources, withholding one’s access to money, or forbidding one’s attendance at school or employment.
Psychological Abuse: Elements of psychological abuse include – but are not limited to – causing fear by intimidation; threatening physical harm to self, partner, children, or partner’s family or friends; destruction of pets and property; and forcing isolation from family, friends, or school and/or work.
These forms of abuse can be equally harmful to people.
We need to address domestic violence, both inside and outside of our churches. What can we do?
- Get domestic violence training. The National Center for Domestic and Sexual Violence provides training, as well as several community agencies. This applies to pastors, church members, and anyone that works with families. I get trained two times a year with the Northwest Marriage Institute.
- Provide training in schools. One of the best ways to avoid problems is to be proactive. This means addressing potential problems with children. Many of them are already either victims of domestic violence or they have witnessed domestic violence firsthand.
- Keep your eyes open. We should not assume a family is not struggling with domestic violence issues. According to the Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
What would you like to add to this discussion?