As many of you may know, October is designated as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Just recently a string of high-profile domestic violence cases have garnered lots of media attention. This illustrates what many in the domestic violence community are quick to point out—this is a problem that knows no bounds. No segment of society is left untouched by domestic violence.
But we don’t need the stories of famous football players and the women who have suffered at their hands to know that this is a problem of epidemic proportions.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime and each year 1.3 million women will be physically assaulted by an intimate partner. Many of us know women who are survivors. Many of us are survivors. Many of us have loved those who didn’t survive. It is important that we carry their stories with us as we go about raising awareness and working to end the violence.
We must also acknowledge that, at least statistically, we are surrounded by those who may be living in an abusive situation who don’t see a way out, who are afraid, who lack resources, or who don’t even fully realize that they are in an abusive relationship. How do we as individuals, as Christians, as women, and as an organization respond?
There are some really great organizations that address this important topic, including United Methodist Women! Not only is domestic violence one of our priority areas, it is also the focus of the Inelda Gonzalez Domestic Violence Initiative, which is providing awareness and training events designed to help shape our response as a community of faith and build vibrant partnerships to work toward ending abuse as well as responding to the needs of survivors.
Each week I hear from women who are planning programs on domestic violence, looking for resources and training, raising awareness in their local church and community, and finding ways to incorporate the work that United Methodist Women has been doing into the life of the church. You can find lots of suggestions and resources to do likewise on our website and around the Web. However, I would like to suggest a couple of events that may help you delve further into this issue and give you the tools to train others to respond to domestic violence as individuals and as a faith community.
First, you might consider attending Leadership Development Days. We are offering a wonderful domestic violence “train the trainer” workshop as part of this event. This workshop is not just for United Methodist Women officers but for all women, and this particular workshop is open to men and women. Participants will be trained in domestic violence response and advocacy and will then be able to go back and train others in their conference or community. This is also a great way to connect with others who are already passionate about this issue or perhaps plan to offer local trainings or a ministry for survivors. No prior experience is needed; we will provide all the tools necessary and will be available for follow-up long after the event. Registration for Leadership Development Days ends Oct. 7 for Fall events.
Second, I would like to share an exciting opportunity for your conference to partner with the national office, United Methodist Men, and FaithTrust Institute to offer comprehensive training for teams from churches across your conference to be trained to respond to domestic violence in their communities.
In just a few weeks we will hold our pilot event in the Baltimore-Washington Conference, and I cannot wait to see what God will do through the teams who are participating! I do hope you will consider applying. More information as well as the conference application is available on our website on the domestic violence page. I will also be in contact with conference presidents and social action coordinators as well as members, deaconesses, home missioners and National Mission Institutions who already do work in this area to build excitement around these events and the kind of work that could result from these partnerships.
Finally, I want to leave you with the most sobering statistic of all—according to the Department of Justice, each day in this country, four women die as a result of domestic abuse. This makes the work we are doing even more important, more vital and more urgent.
I do hope that you will be able to take advantage of some of the programs and resources mentioned here or connect with local, state and national groups. I also hope that you will take the time to listen to the stories of survivors as they find the strength and courage to share. I ask that you remember those who didn’t make it out, precious children of God who died at the hands of those who promised to love them. Let us continue this work in their honor and in their memory not just during domestic violence month but every day, with our prayers, our time, our talents and our resources.
If you or somebody you know needs help, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
United Methodist Women executive for children, youth and family advocacy