Thursday, April 27, 2006

Defining abuse opens eyes of Religious Leaders

0 comments Posted by Hannah at 8:20 AM

Click here for link to book purchase!

His other book, Domestic Violence: What Every Pastor Needs to Know

To end domestic violence, hospital chaplain the Rev. Al Miles of Hawaii believes more men and women of God must learn and then speak, preach and teach the truth about what it is, how widespread it is and how some Christian teachings can be twisted to condone, deny and exacerbate it.

Speaking recently at several gatherings in Spokane, he said domestic violence happens in the religious community as much as in the secular community.

One day he had a call from Carol, who was in the emergency room. Her loving, Christian boyfriend had broken her jaw.

“She did not grow up in a violent home, but a loving one,” he said. “I came and offered care, love and prayer. She is my youngest sister.

“We need to treat every victim of domestic violence or sexual assault as our sister, mother, daughter, granddaughter or friend,” Al said, “because those are the victims.”

He travels and speaks 20 times a year to awaken people to the hidden realities of the violence.

“There are survivors here. There are perpetrators here, too,” he said after prayers, songs and a biblical mini-drama at the Berachah Church. “There are survivors and perpetrators in pews and pulpits.”

After defining the range of emotional, mental, spiritual, sexual and physical violence at one clergy retreat, half of the male clergy realized they had said and done such things, but didn’t consider it abuse. They said his descriptions would “include everyone.”

“Name-calling is not illegal, as emotional abuse, but is immoral and inappropriate,” Al said.

“When women hear about tactics abusers use, many finally put their finger on what made them feel uncomfortable, afraid and ashamed,” he continued.

“Society and the church minimize abuse, encouraging denial and entitlement,” Al said. “We must speak the truth and work together to end domestic violence and sexual assault.”

While Scripture is a tool for healing, perpetrators often misuse it to justify their abuse.

“In John 13:34-35, Jesus gave a new commandment: ‘Love one another as I have loved you,’” Al said. “In love, there is no cursing, raping, strangling, threatening or violence.

“Across the country, I hear of male clergy and laity praising God and then raping, cursing, strangling, threatening and beating. It’s a crime and a sin. God did not ordain the horrors survivors experience nor empower perpetrators to abuse because of being male.”

“Mary’s husband beat, threatened and raped her many Sunday afternoons after preaching spirit-filled sermons. Their son hid his face in a pillow to muffle his mother’s pleas to stop,” Al said.

“Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior in which a person uses coercion, harassment, deception, humiliation, threat and force to establish and maintain power and control. It’s not about someone snapping, losing it, being pushed or being nagged until he can’t take it. It’s about power and control. The person does not ‘lose it’ in front of his commanding officer, in the pastor’s office or a business office. He ‘loses it’ with his wife and children.

“It’s not about being sick, but about being slick,” Al said.

Who are men who abuse? Athletes, construction workers, physicians, attorneys, pastors, fathers, uncles, brothers, anyone, he said, noting that he focuses on male abusers, because they are 95 percent of the perpetrators.
Who are the women violated? They work in all jobs and in homes. They are mothers, sisters, friends, daughters and granddaughters, he said.

Beyond physical abuse or sexual assault, he said domestic violence includes emotional, psychological and spiritual abuse.

First, a husband establishes control by cutting his wife off from contact with friends and family, dictating who she sees, what she wears, how she styles her hair, when she uses the car, how much money she has, what she does and where she goes.

From social isolation and control, the behavior escalates into psychological battering with name-calling from sexual slanders to putdowns, such as “stupid.”

Then come threats or destruction of property or pets, showing what the man can do to the woman, Al said.

“When Sarah declined sex one night, Ted beat a brick wall until the wall and his hands were covered with blood. She never turned him down again. She knew the wall was her body,” Al said.

Some pastors think it’s impossible for a married man to abuse, because a wife is a man’s property, he noted, but “no means no, and sexual assault is a crime even in marriage.”

Abuse may escalate to beatings, stabbing, shooting, strangulation or just blocking her from leaving a room.

Often people do not believe a woman who says she has been abused if they see no bruises.

“Emotional and psychological abuse leave no visible bruises, and perpetrators who claim to be out of control somehow hit so no bruises are visible,” said Al.

“Spiritual abuse misuses God, Jesus, sacred texts, doctrines and teachings to support male dominance,” Al said.

The oft-quoted justification from Ephesians 5:22 that wives are to be subject to their husbands leaves out verse 21 and following verses that say a man and a woman are to be subject to and responsible to each other.

“Using Christianity to justify abuse is blasphemy,” Al said. “What is it like for a pastor’s wife when the congregation believes him—the preacher who says wonderful things, kisses babies and visits them—then blames her for being abused or his having a mistress, and expects her to leave?

“What can we do? We need to keep as a top priority the safety of the victims—women and children—over keeping a marriage together,” he said.

Once clergy preach and teach about domestic violence, they discover how many women suffer, he said, advising clergy to know qualified domestic violence counselors and refer victims to them, rather than trying to do the counseling themselves.

Al knows his limits and does not counsel victims. He refers them to trained domestic violence counselors even if they are not Christian.

“We need to hold men accountable, not look the other way or blame the woman. We need to direct men into batterer-specific treatment, not anger management, where many learn new tactics.

“Once people thought abusers were angry and out of control,” he said, “but we realize they are in control. Anger is a feeling. Violence is a behavior.”

In a Wednesday workshop, he asserted: “Domestic violence is everyone’s business. We need to join together as people of different races, cultures and religions to fight domestic violence and sexual assault.”

He described an appropriate response by a church: A deacon admitted abusing his wife. The board removed him from office and encouraged him to enter offender-specific help. His wife sought safety and care through service providers. Although the church board continued to relate with the man, they knew how to do it without colluding.

In a contrasting example, after a pastor’s wife accused him of marital rape, beating, strangling and cursing her, he admitted it to the council, confessed, cried and said it would not happen again. The church asked him to confess publicly. They asked his wife to forgive him.

“It’s easy to cry contrived tears one Sunday and be in the pulpit the next as if nothing happened,” Al said.

Participants listed reasons women stay: fear, economics, dependency, low self-esteem, religious reasons, social norms, families, no support system, no resources, children, pride, shame and submission.

He added other reasons:

• An attractive man often charms his way into a woman’s life and preys on her vulnerability.

• Churches advise wives to stay with, pray for and obey their husbands.
• Many wives love their husbands and want the abuse to end, not the relationship.

Al then discussed some myths and realities about abuse:

• Fewer than 20 percent of abusers have a diagnosed mental disorder.

• Violence is an act of choice, not anger.

• Growing up in an abusive home, while a risk factor, is no guarantee that a boy will abuse as a man. Violence is behavior learned in society.

• Women stay for many reasons, not because they like being abused.

• Women do not provoke violence. Violence is a perpetrator’s choice.
• Some perpetrators work and some are unemployed.

• Some have low self esteem, and some are confident and charismatic.
• Abuse runs across races and income levels.

• Alcohol and drug abuse may make people more paranoid or aggressive, but they do not cause abuse. Both abuse and addiction need to be addressed.

• Marital counseling, when abuse is occurring or suspected, may endanger a woman because of something she says or doesn’t say in a session.

Al described five “pillars of Christian teaching” that are counterproductive responses to domestic violence:

1) Marriage is sacred: An abuser has already broken the marriage covenant by the abuse. Al considers the safety of the wife and children more sacred than keeping a marriage together at all costs.

2) Divorce under any circumstances is wrong: Jesus said divorce is permitted if there is adultery. The Apostle Paul also offers a concession when there is desertion. Al likens emotional and psychological abuse to desertion.
“Marriage is sacred if people are committed to be faithful and mutually loving, respecting and empowering to each other,” he said, “but I do not counsel a woman to divorce, because it may put her in more danger. I counsel a woman to get to safety.”
“To say divorce is an abomination sounds religious, but we must say violence is an abomination,” he said.

3) and 4) Women are to be submissive. Men are to be the head of the house: These teachings, based on a couple of verses in Ephesians 5, have caused many Christian women to be abused, even killed, Al said. Nine of 12 verses in Ephesians 5:21-33 admonish husbands and wives to be subject to each other and define a husband’s responsibility.

5) People should forgive those who wrong them.

“Misunderstanding about forgiveness often turns it into cheap grace,” he explained. “Some think women should ‘forgive and forget’—a quote from Shakespeare’s King Lear, not Scripture—but to forget is not realistic or wise, because the trauma goes on and a survivor needs to remember so she will be cautious.”

“Forgiveness is a process for the person wronged to put aside her rage or right to seek revenge or restitution,” he said. “It involves forgiving oneself—seeing how you were powerless and deceived. Some women hope if they forgive everything will be okay.

“Forgiveness does not do something for someone else. The abuser needs to be held accountable: to confess, admit what he did, accept responsibility and repent—which means to turn 180 degrees, not 360 degrees as perpetrators often do, taking counselors in circles with them,” Al continued.
“Reconciliation means restoration to harmony. Because the perpetrator cannot be trusted, the relationship cannot be restored to harmony.
Perpetrators need treatment that holds them accountable and requires restitution, such as paying for the victim’s therapy and property damage.”

“Christ said we are to love one another,” Al said, calling people to “tell the truth about domestic violence.”

For information, call 329-1410.

By Mary Stamp, Fig Tree editor - © April 2005
The Fig Tree
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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Sunday Sermon by Catherine Clark Kroeger

0 comments Posted by Hannah at 7:00 AM

Click here to here the sermon.

Co Author of the this book. Click here to view how to order!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Wife Abuse in the Muslim Community

1 comments Posted by Hannah at 9:21 AM

Note from Author of blog. I'm not to familiar with the Muslim Faith. If there is something inapproriate about this article please let me know.



Wife abuse has hurt many Muslim women, destroyed many Muslim families, and
weakened the entire Muslim community. How much longer can Muslims afford
to look the other way?

"And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among
yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and he has put
love and mercy between your (hearts)..." Qu'ran 30:21

"I recommend that you treat women with goodness. The best of you are those
who treat their wives the best." Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him)

While North American Muslims loudly protest the widely-documented Serbian
abuse of Muslim women in Bosnia, the abuse of many Muslim women at the
hands of their own husbands in North America is hidden and ignored by the

Domestic violence is the single major cause of injury to women in
America."Nearly one quarter of women in the United States - more than 12
million- will be abused by a current or former partner some time during
their lives," according to the American Medical Association; and, despite
Islamic teachings of justice and compassion, many Muslim women in the
United States and Canada are no exception.

Based on information from Muslim leaders, social workers, and activists in
North America, the North American Council for Muslim Women says that
approximately 10 percent of Muslim women are abused emotionally,
physically, and sexually by their Muslim husbands. (There are no hard
numbers, because community leaders haven't taken the well-known problem
seriously enough to research.)

Wife-abuse, which stretches across all ethnic, racial, educational, and
socio-economic lines in the Muslim community, results in severe emotional
and physical pain for many Muslim women, a stacking up of sins for many
Muslim men, and many weak, unhappy Muslim families that fail to contribute
adequately to the development of the Muslim community and the rest of
North American society.

Despite the severity of the problem, the Muslim community has largely
closed its eyes and devoted very few resources to helping the victims and
stopping the abusers.

This is doubly unfortunate because family violence is one of America's
most critical health problems (according to the American Medical
Association and the U.S. Surgeon General), and Islamic leadership is
needed to deal with this crisis; but Muslims are clearly in no moral
position to lead society because they commit and tolerate abuse within
their own community.


"Domestic violence is an ongoing, debilitating experience of physical,psychological, and/or sexual abuse in the home," says the American Medical

Although Islam promises women protection from such problems, the reality
in many Muslim homes is different.

The most common form of abuse is emotional and mental abuse. In Muslim
homes, this includes verbal threats to divorce the wife, to remarry, or to
take the kids away if she does not do exactly as she is told; intimidation
and threats of harm; degradation, humiliation, insults, ridicule,
name-calling, and criticism; false accusations and blaming her for
everything; ignoring, dismissing, or ridiculing her needs; neglect and the
silent treatment; spying on her; telling her she is a failure and will go
to hell; twisting Islamic teachings to make her feel worthless because she
is a woman; restricting her access to transportation, health care, food,
clothing, money, friends, or social services; physical and social
isolation; extreme jealousy and possessiveness; lying, breaking promises,
destroying trust; etc. Emotional abuse can take place in public or at

Although it's completely contrary to the example of Prophet Muhammad,
peace be upon him, the Muslim community nonetheless tends to dismiss the
seriousness of mental abuse, rationalizing it as a petty argument between
husband and wife, and saying it's not serious unless he hits her. In
reality, mental abuse does severe psychological harm to many Muslim women.
It destroys their self-esteem and makes them question their self-worth;
some have mental breakdowns and go insane.

Furthermore, psychological abuse can lead to physical abuse.

Physical abuse includes pushing, shoving, choking, slapping, punching,
kicking, and beating; assault with a weapon; tying up; refusing to help
her when she is sick or injured; physically throwing her out of the house;
etc. Physical abuse escalates in frequency and severity.

The third form of abuse is sexual abuse, involving forced, violent sex.
For example, a wife may not want to have sex for health reasons, but the
husband may force her anyway.

These three forms of abuse are usually related and occur of a long period
of time. Muslim men, just like non-Muslims, often start with mental abuse
and work their way up. Muslim women need to recognize the signs of
escalating abuse.


There are a number of factors that make many Muslim men abusive.

Abusers are often part of a cycle, picking up the habit after watching
their own fathers abuse their mothers in North America or in Muslim
countries. And their own children learn this abusive behavior and abuse
their wives. (This is an important point because the longer the Muslim
community tolerates abuse, the longer it will be passed on from father to
son, from generation to generation.)

For cultural reasons, some Muslim men accept the idea that it's normal for
a man to hit his wife and that she is no more than a piece of his

Some Muslim husbands abuse their wives as a result of frustrationresulting from economic hardship, political oppression experienced outside
the U.S., problems with the children, or an inferiority complex.

Some abuse their wives because they want them to be more "modern" and less
Islamic by removing their hijab (Islamic dress), while others are abusive
because they want the opposite.

Some Muslims with superficial ties to Islam don't know that abuse is
unacceptable due to their weak faith, poor Islamic knowledge, and lack of
interaction with the Muslim community.

Tragically, some Muslim men actually use Islam to "justify" their abusive
behavior. Focusing on rituals, considering themselves to be Islamically
knowledgeable, and disregarding the spirit of Islam, they wrongly use the
Qur'anic verse that says men are the protectors and maintainers of women
to go on power trips, demand total obedience, and order their wives
around. They disregard the Islamic requirement for the head of the
household to consult with other members of the family when making

Then, if their wives dare to speak up or question their orders, these men
misinterpret a Qur'anic verse that talks about how to treat a disobedient
wife and use it as a license for abuse.

In reality, the Qur'an and Sunnah provide clear instructions on what
procedures a husband must use in conflict situations where the husband is
innocent and the wife is rebellious and at fault. The first step is a
peaceful discussion between the two of them about the problem and
solutions. This is intended to soften hearts and eliminate
misunderstandings. If this doesn't work, the next step is for the husband
to tell his wife his expectations in a firm, decisive manner. If the
rebelliousness and disobedience continues, the husband is supposed to
leave the bed, which is really a punishment for both of them for not being
able to resolve their differences. If that fails to solve the problem,
representatives of both sides meet to try and arbitrate. As a last resort,
if he thinks it will prevent divorce by letting the wife know how serious
he is, the husband can use a light slap on the hand or shoulder but not on
any other part of the body, and it shouldn't leave a mark or scar.
Anything beyond this is Islamically prohibited.

This procedure is to be followed _only_ when the wife is the cause of a
serious problem and the husband is innocent, compassionate, and
well-behaved. If the husband is the cause of the problem, he has _no
right_ to do any of this.

Unfortunately, Muslim wives often accept un-Islamic treatment from their
husbands because they don't know their Islamic rights, and they don't
realize their husbands are crossing the Islamic line.

Abusive men are completely disregarding the Islamic teachings of kindness,
mercy, gentleness, and forgiveness, just as they are disregarding the
example of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who never hit a woman and
was extremely gentle and compassionate with his family.


One problem is that many Muslims don't want to get involved in the
"private" family affairs of other Muslims. Rather than enjoining good and
forbidding evil, rather than trying to stop abuse in a friend's or
neighbor's family by offering to mediate between the husband and wife or
by encouraging them to speak to Muslim counsellors, many irresponsible
Muslims close their eyes and pretend they don't know there's a problem. So
the abuse goes on.

Another reason why abuse isn't stopped is that many abused Muslim women
simply don't seek out help. They're afraid that if their situation becomes
public they will lose their privacy because Muslims gossip so much, and
they fear the abusers will become more hostile when the negative publicity
gets back to them. Furthermore, many abused Muslim women remain silent
because they lack confidence in themselves and believe that they somehow
deserve the abuse. Abused Muslim women also keep quiet out of a feeling of
hopelessness and a belief that no one will help them, out of financial
dependence on their husbands, out of a desire to keep homes together for
the children's sake, or out of love for the abusive husbands. Other Muslim
women accept the abuse as a fact of life and learn to live with it.

Of those who reach a breaking point and seek help, many Muslim women turn
to imams but often find them unhelpful. Imams often tell these women to be
patient and pray for the abuse to end. Some imams make the abused Muslim
women feel guilty, telling them they have brought the abuse upon
themselves and instructing them to go home and please their husbands.
Other imams, who are sincerely but mistakenly misinterpreting Islam by
putting the importance of family privacy above any harm that might come to
the individual woman, tell the women it is wrong for them to discuss their
problems with anyone other than their husbands. The imams's reactions stem
from ignorance, cowardice, or friend-ship or blood relationship with the
abusive husbands. Relatively few imams have had the wisdom and courage to
tackle the problem head-on. As a result of this, many abused women don't
bother turning to imams for help.

Looking for other sources of help, many abused Muslim women have turned to
relatives only to be told to accept the abuse because making a big deal
out of it could hurt the relatives' family honor and reputation.

Finding many imams and relatives to be more cruel than Islamic, abused
Muslim women often turn to Muslim female activists and Muslim women's
organizations for help. While these activists are often untrained in
crisis intervention, they are getting the abused women out of their houses
and hiding them until Muslim men can be sent to try to reason with the
husbands. They often collect money from other women to give to the abused
women until it's safe for them to go back home. When continued attempts to
salvage the marriages have proven futile, these activists counsel the
abused women on how to get out of their marriages.

As for national Islamic organizations, most have largely ignored the issue
of wife abuse, neglecting to highlight the problem and solutions during
national conferences or to devote resources to helping abused Muslim

Overall, the services provided by the Muslim community for abused Muslim
women take care of one-quarter of the need, according to Muslim activists.

Because the Muslim community often leaves them to suffer, many abused
Muslim women turn to shelters run by non-Muslims for help. (Seeing abused
Muslim women at shelters leaves non-Muslim social workers with an ugly
picture of Islam. As far as many of them are concerned, Islam is no more
just and compassionate than Christianity or Judaism because the Muslim
community tolerates wife abuse too. Going to a non-Muslim shelter can
result social workers taking children away from troubled Muslim homes if
they think it is better for them to be in a more stable environment, which
often ends up being a non-Muslim home.)

Many women go even further, leaving Islam altogether because the Muslim
community fails to live up to the Islamic promise of protection,
brotherhood, and sisterhood.


The Muslim community has clearly failed in its obligations to protect many
Muslim women and to bring many cruel Muslim men to justice. The community
needs to deal much more effectively with wife abuse in order to stop the
immediate suffering of people in abusive situations and to help build
healthy Muslim families.

First, the community must accept the fact that there is a problem and that
it doesn't know how to deal with it.

Then a core group of trusted, active Muslim men and women in each North
American city, who are committed to ending wife abuse in the Muslim
community and to strengthening Muslim families, must become knowledgeable
about Islamic guidelines on the family and be trained in crisis
intervention and counseling. (Unfortunately, some community "leaders" will
be too ignorant or arrogant to seek such training; but they must not be
allowed to get in the way.)

Since there aren't yet many Muslims qualified to teach crisis intervention
and counseling, several Muslim women throughout North America have started
learning these techniques from non-Muslim social service agencies (listed
in the phone book under wife abuse, domestic violence, or crisis
intervention). Other Muslim women and men need to follow suit. Whatever
they learn from these agencies should be cast in the light of their
Islamic knowledge of properly functioning Muslim families.

Once they know what they're doing, members of core groups across the
continent should recruit and train others in their communities in crisis
intervention and the Islamic perspective on the family. There should be a
network of at least 100 trained counselors in every major North American

A list of trained Muslims and their phone numbers (or one Muslim hotline
number) should be circulated throughout the community in each city so that
abused women know whome they can turn to for meaningful help.

(Most of women approaching the network initially will be physically abused
Muslims. Victims of mental abuse will less likely to reach out at first
because many have become accustomed to the abuse and accept it as a way of
life. But educational programs at community gatherings -- explaining what
Islamic family life should be like and explaining that there is help
available for abused women -- will let emotionally abused Muslim women
know they have a way to stop the pain.)

These trained Muslims should give abused women shelter (at people's homes
or at community facilities, such as a rented apartment) for periods
ranging from several days to several months depending on the extent of the
abuse, while counseling them.

(Beyond this, taking into account the fact that many Muslim women will
still turn to non-Muslim shelters because they don't want to deal with the
Muslim community or because the community program is not big enough to
help them, the Muslim community should sensitize people running non-Muslim
shelters to the particular needs of Muslim women; and trained Muslims
should visit the shelters regularly and constantly remind shelter
operators that they are available to help whenever a Muslim woman comes

While caring for the abused women, the trained Muslims should counsel the
abusers separately, making them aware of the reasons they abuse, of the
fact that their actions are truly harming their wives, that such behavior
is completely un-Islamic, and that God will hold them accountable.

After separate counselling, the next step would be joint counselling for
the husband and wife, and then counselling for the entire family. The
objective should be to heal the family, but divorce may be necessary.

Another option, that some Muslims in New York have tried, is to punish
Muslim men for their abusive actions. A "security force" warns, and then
beats up, if necessary, Muslim men who continue beating their wives.
Usually the abusers get the message; this is the only language many of
them understand. Some men have to be beaten before they wake up and are
ready to listen to rational, Islamic arguments.

Police and psychiatrists may have to be involved in severe cases of
chronic abuse.

Community education is an indispensable factor on top of all this.
Starting today, throughout the process outlined above, community leaders
and other concerned Muslims need to educate people -- about the problem
and about efforts to help victims and prevent future abuse -- through
Friday khutbahs (sermons), educational seminars, and workshops. These
educational programs can themselves reduce abuse by letting people know
the community isn't going to tolerate it anymore. the community isn't
going to tolerate if anymore.

Furthermore, the community needs to extablish classes to teach Muslim men,
young and old, how ot be proper husbands and fathers and to teach Muslim
women, young and old, how to be proper wives and mothers. Many Muslims
don't know their rights and obligations in these roles.

In addition, in order to prevent future family problems, parents and
community leaders must teach shildren and young adults to be
compassionate, to value the family, and to resolve problems in an Islamic,
non-violent manner.

It's also important for Muslims to go into field like psychiatry, women's
issues law, social work,and counselling.

No Muslim community in any North American city has taken all these steps.
Unfortunately, the entire plan could take years to implement. (Of course,
that makes it all the more necissary to start immediately.) But when
theses steps are taken, abuse should decrease if not stop in the Muslim
community, according to Muslim social workers and activists.

If, once all these steps are taken, there are more abused Muslim women in
specific communities than these networks can adequately help, then Muslims
should establish good quality, properly staffed, and well funded Muslim
shelters. Many communities may not need to go this far, but some may.


It sounds like a lot of work, but the problem is serious enough to warrant
a lot of work. The Muslim community has shamefully tolerated abuse for a
long time. How much longer will Muslim families (and therefore the Muslim
community) be weakened by abuse? How much longer will abusers be allowed
to run free and unpunished in the community? How much more abuse will
Muslim women have to endure before the community decides that enough is

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Getting out of abusive relationships

1 comments Posted by Hannah at 4:48 AM

Quietly, often with little fanfare and even less thanks, Catholic nuns have for years been battling domestic violence throughout the country and around the world. From gritty urban centers to the nation’s hushed and tidy suburbs to rural farming communities, they work tirelessly to help women and children get out and stay out of abusive relationships.

“Leaving is a process,” said Sr. Maria Klosowski, who recruits and trains volunteers for the Riverhouse Shelter in a remote four-county region of northern Michigan. “It’s not a one-shot event, so many [who do this work] experience a sense of frustration when you see the person return. But I remind them to keep in mind it’s a process, and you’ve helped them with a part of a process you hope they will continue. Then you can keep a perspective.”

Women like Klosowski, who is a Sister of Mercy, are experts at ferreting out hope. “I was over at the library the diocese here has one day last week,” she commented, “and I happened to notice they had several videos on domestic violence. I was pleasantly surprised to see that.”

The Sisters of Mercy are “front and center” on the domestic violence issue, said Sr. Fran Stein, director of the social justice ministry at the Catholic diocese in Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Rebecca Mathis, who is not Catholic but worked for nine years with a coalition of various churches in the Houston area, acknowledges that domestic violence work can be heart-rending and frustrating. “The vast majority of women who finally make the leap can’t get their kids out. Very few are successful in extricating the children because in court he looks wonderful. He’s got his pastor, his employer, who also happens to be a deacon of the church, his parents who were founders of the church. So he looks great, and she looks like a flake. So she’s punished or she goes back. It’s so sad. It happens over and over.”

Sr. Marilyn Lacey, said, “Faith can give people tremendous strength and endurance and hope about moving out. Or religion can be used to keep women in abusive situations in places where the church is not enlightened. It depends on the level of integrity with which the gospel is interpreted.” Lacey, a Sister of Mercy, is the director of immigration legal services with Catholic Charities in San Jose, Calif.

She said a lesser-known provision of the Violence Against Women Act reauthorized by Congress last year -- an important law that provides federal funding for programs to combat violence against women -- allows an abused immigrant spouse to petition for citizenship or residency without affiliation with her abuser. Many women stay in abusive situations because the abuser is a U.S. citizen or resident who holds legal status over their heads, Lacey noted. The women knew if they left they couldn’t work legally or support their children. “That section of the law has changed and now allows any bona fide abused immigrant spouse to petition on her own for herself and her children,” said Lacey. “It’s a huge benefit.”

It’s also a huge challenge for Lacey’s organization to spread the word in Santa Clara County where 40 percent of the population is foreign born (60 percent if U.S.-born children of immigrants are counted).

Domestic violence poses a particularly thorny situation within immigrant communities, said Mathis, who now works for the McAuley Institute in Houston. “Battered women in the immigrant community are much more reluctant to speak to anybody about this situation because of their sense of vulnerability, isolation -- cultural issues. Also, we found that when they went to the priest or sister or whomever, they really expected that the church would be able to solve this problem. They were much more naive about all the ramifications about what it would take to be able to leave, and they were much more reluctant to leave.”

Anna Ganahl, director of communications for the Sisters of Social Service in Los Angeles who run domestic violence shelters on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, said, “Latino culture and the angle on abuse, the reluctance to acknowledge abuse on the part of the abuser or the abused, has been an issue for the church for some time.”

In Santa Clara County, David Lee, formerly community education director for the Support Network for Battered Women, is hesitant to paint immigrants with a broad brush. He acknowledges that there has been a disproportionate number of domestic violence deaths among the Asian communities in his area, and he points to one study that showed a decrease in domestic violence among Mexican immigrants the longer they stayed in this country. But Lee notes, “People point to immigrants and say those people are violent. But mainstream America is a highly violent society, from our media, to foreign policy, to relationships.”

“Acculturation -- losing traditional ties -- can be a very dangerous thing,” Lee added. Immigrants face a new culture with unfamiliar rules, and many come with an inherent distrust of authorities. “Traditionally our focus has been on what an individual can do to promote her own safety,” Lee said. The challenge in immigrant communities is to “change the message and make it culturally appropriate.”

-- Kathryn Casa

National Catholic Reporter, June 29, 2001

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Lutheran Stand on Domestic Violence

0 comments Posted by Hannah at 6:56 PM

Domestic Violence

Assembly Action CA89.4.20 (1989)

To affirm and continue the strong commitment of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to provide a compassionate response to victims of family violence;

To acknowledge the role of the church in the process of healing for victims of family violence and to educate the church for the process of healing;

To affirm, support, and initiate the variety of ministries in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America that advocate for victims, provide public education and training, and provide direct services, including shelters, and appropriate treatment for offenders, working in conjunction with appropriate local law enforcement and community agencies;

To intensify efforts by all expressions of the ELCA designed to decrease the incidence of domestic violence and to educate the church in ways to end domestic violence and to work for a violence-free society;

To continue and expand through the Division for Social Ministry Organizations, the Commission for Church in Society, the Division for Congregational Life, and the Commission for Women, education and training of clergy, associates in ministry, congregations, and institutions of this church as care givers to victims of family violence; and

To receive, at the 1991 Churchwide Assembly, a report of these efforts to decrease the incidence of domestic violence.

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