Monday, April 27, 2009

Churches Becoming Shelters for Domestic Violence Victims

Posted by Hannah at 6:43 AM

I saw this story recently, and it was based in Hawaii, and I have to admit my jaded side came out. Churches Could Soon Become Shelters for Domestic Violence Victims?  

'Don't count on it' was my first reaction. I realize that isn't the best reaction, but it was coming from my GUT and experience.

KHON out of Hawaii mentioned due to huge budget cuts, etc they are looking to the church to help with this issue. They feel that it may cut close to the separation of church and state, but many other programs such as homelessness and food pantries are supplemented by churches. They hope the church will stand up and be counted, because its a HUGE need!

I hope they do to, but I wouldn't place any bets on it! You may get a couple of churches that did bother to educate themselves, but that's all you will get. A VERY small number!

Shelters need partnerships with churches

When I say this I normally get some examples of horror stories of their experiences with domestic violence shelters.

Before anyone gets upset with me lets keep in mind that not all shelters are alike. Some may have volunteers that are MORE trained than others, and some have alot of what I call newbies to the field. I wouldn't give up on a shelter after just one phone call in most cases. Chances are you may have had ONE person that wasn't your cup of tea. Personality conflicts and uneducated volunteers/staff do happen, but that doesn't always make up the whole organization. Call back and try to speak to someone else!  Be daring and ask for a manager!

Families that are dealing with domestic violence need spiritual help along with help in the realm of safety. We need churches that don't get paranoid when right away about a certain divorce in the future, and ONLY set their eyes to quickly on restoration and reconciliation. They need to stick with the 'safety' portion for now. Shelter's ask for help from churches all the time, and are ignored. That's plain sinful in my eyes!

BUT IS SECULAR! (shutter)

Churches, pastors at times have a really hard time thinking of how a 'secular' domestic violence shelter can help them. Goodness knows I have heard all kinds of opinions! The one I tend to hear the most? Its full of feminists that tell you to tear apart your family! That's not the purpose of the shelter! The first purpose is safety.  Divorce, separation or staying together must always be the decision of the victim.  These shelters aren't there to tell people how to run their lifes.

They can give resources, but REMEMBER its not their job to tell people what to do. Part of healing is learning proper decision making skills, and its a way of getting your sense of self respect back! You are the only one that knows your life well enough to make the decisions that work.

Most shelters know if you talk someone into leaving - since they are in a emotional state - the chances of them coming down off that emotional state and returning to danger is likely to happen. That decision for safety can't come from the workers! It has to come from the victim!

If you look at it from that common sense stand it shows how that myth that is spread around in churches is just that...a MYTH!

Lack of support from churches HAS to change!

betrayal. domestic violence pastorsMy shelter was located in a fairly large town of a couple hundred thousand people, and it has a TON of churches there! Our shelter helps a huge area, and that means it serves than its own local community its located in.

They started to market their services and education to build relationships, so pastors and their churches had the tools to deal with domestic violence. The shelter taking on the safety portion, and the church taking the spirituality portion.

They not only wanted to help, but education from churches as well.

They needed a game plan on HOW they could work together, and all the rest of the dynamics that come into play during a crisis. Most shelters are open to this. They wanted plans they could both work with. This relationship needed to be built, because neither side could do justice by themselves. No one can be experts in everything...NOR should be!

You know how many faith based organizations - that included not just Christians responded? I think it was three. THREE!

The shelter didn't give up, and they are still there letting churches know they are ready when they are. They had a few other churches that were really scared about what they were dealing with (domestic violence within their church), and just couldn't get past that fear of working outside the church. They don't know what happened to those women, men and children.  They wanted that cycle to stop, and this was the purpose of this relationship.

I will say they at least have a handful of what I call 'safe' churches to send people to that need their faith based advice and guidance. To me? That's disgusting...only a few.

Domestic Violence - What every Pastor needs to know!

I have to wonder if most pastors truly pay attention to the title of that book. If they do and see its about domestic violence and the church? I wonder how many more place it back on the shelf and keep looking.

Al MilesAl Miles is a Pastor that speaks out and tries to educate pastors about domestic violence. He will attend conferences to speak on this subject, and guess who is normally missing in the audience? You GOT IT! The Pastors the church that invited him!

He speaks in the book about how he is invited to speak at churches, but again WHO do you think was missing on the days he was there to speak? YOU GOT IT.... The PASTORS!

He started a policy that he would agree to speakat their church only IF the pastors would agree to attend the conferences as well.  What would happen in the past that made him change this policy?  They would be there at the start, but would disappear shortly afterwards. They had 'emergencies' ALWAYS! The stranger part of this? No emergencies would happen when he was asked to speak on other topics. Hmmmm. Mysterious huh?

He was asked to come to Wisconsin to speak one year, and the coordinators of the event sent out 1,200 invitations to clergy...and personally followed UP!  When they day came of the event he asked the clergy to stand up to identify themselves.  Out of 135 people that were present less than 10 were pastors.  

This is what motivated him to start to write this book about domestic violence. His outrage over the avoidance of this issue.

He wanted to know WHY that was! It would have to start he assumed with interviews, and he figured they would ask him about his qualification and position on domestic violence. That would make sense to most.  Sadly most were more concerned with his position on roles, doctrinal issues, denomination background, authority of scripture, divorce, homosexuality, how long has he been born again. No one seems to care about the issues surrounding his views on domestic violence within the church. Can we say pigeon hole?!


I read a number of faith boards online, and also do alot of reading within the faith realm outside of the online world. I see alot of pastor comments about how this isn't happening within THEIR church! I was appalled at one clergy mentioning that they don't need to deal with 'social ills' of society. Others that mentioned they have encountered domestic violence decided they fixed the issue in their congregation toot sweet! As I watched them clear this off the discussion realm quickly you had to wonder how they did 'fix this' ya know? Most of the responses? Denial was the strongest I have seen anywhere.

Pastor Al Miles it seems had alot of the same during his interviews with 158 clergy. He even mentioned if you hand them resources, and make sure you follow up with them and insist on a meeting so they will at least READ the material! You got it ... he found most didn't take the time to look at the resources!

He was nicer in his book, but the attitude he speaks of is what frustrates me the most. Where are all the pastors? That is what everyone asks when education is offered, help is extended...and pastors never come. Something is seriously WRONG with this picture!

Clergy need to be a safe resource for those that are abused

Clergy need to read more of the stories and comments left on this blog. Most of the time clergy aren't a safe resource, and I have to tell you that was one of the biggest betrayals I experienced in my life.

We tell our children the church is a safe, and alot of people engulf themselves in this bubble. We will have fellowship, accountability, and those that pray and help support us in troubling times.

When it comes to emotional abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse...well domestic violence within the church in general pastors have failed their flocks! I felt lied to and as if I had been kicked in the stomach. They aren't safe most of the time, and I feel awful telling victims to be VERY careful if they choose to approach their church.

sad domestic violence pastors
People tell us we should have seen the red flags.
We should have known better.
We should have been more careful with whom we married.
We made our bed and now we need to lay in it.

What I find very frustrating is how small the amount of men that are brave enough to face this issue without all the excuses. They ask survivors to be stronger, pray more, have more faith ... yet their faith within this realm is clearly more lacking than ours.

Fear and denial on their part is much stronger than what they ask of survivors. I hate to say this but it seems survivors faith seems to be stronger than the pastors that we ask help from.

We are asked to ENDURE the abuse, and we DO! We strive to be better spouses. We try to grasp on to the words, 'he will not give you more than you can bare' because the church is to cowardly to help. That's the truth!

The parroted scripture and the fact you can read on MOST church denomination statements on their stands on domestic violence...and how their pastors don't follow it shows that clearly most aren't safe! Its easy to write the statement out, but harder to follow up and actually DO IT! It pains me to say there is more lip service than action. Its truth that hurts deeply.

Churches Becoming Shelters for Domestic Violence Victims? I wonder if that miracle could happen in my lifetime.

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Anonymous said...


Thanks for posting on my blog. Ironically, the pastor who conducted Crystal Judson Brame's funeral allegedly abuses his wife. I learned this when I raised questions similar to those in this excellent post.

Unfortunately, in too many churches, the leaders are heavily invested in power and control ~ the abuse dynamic. They speak more about fear than faith.

Bravo for Al Miles! It takes real courage to keep plugging with such resistance.

I don't know if you are aware of the Faith Trust Institute here in Seattle. Their founder Marie M. Fortune has written a wonderful book for Christians dealing with abuse issues.

I also want to applaud you for thinking churches would be excellent places for people experiencing abuse to seek shelter. When we're in this valley, we need our faith.

May God bless you for the work you're doing.
Anne Caroline

Hannah on 1:27 PM said...

Thank you Anne! I wouldn't be surprised if Rev. Miles and the Faith Trust Institute have worked together in the past on things!

I have been reading their sermon contests for YEARS! Those are so neat!

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