Wednesday, 6 July 2016

It's Not OK

This month, I'm getting on my soapbox. If there is one thing that both deeply grieves and angers me, it’s domestic violence in all its various manifestations. It's a shocking scourge on our landscape.

A quick overview of the stats:
(Data from this website: Bolding is mine.)

NZ Police recorded a family violence investigation, on average, every five and a half minutes in 2014. 76% of family violence incidents are NOT reported to Police. 101,981 family violence investigations were recorded by NZ Police in 2014, up 7% from 95,101 in 2013.

24% of women and 6% of men have experienced one or more sexual offences at some point during their lives.

14% of young people report being hit or physically harmed on purpose by an adult at home in the last 12 months.

20% of girls and 9% of boys in New Zealand report unwanted sexual touching or being forced to do sexual things.

Family violence is estimated to cost the country between 4.1 and 7.0 billion dollars each year.

And here is the clincher: 1 in 3 women experience physical and/or sexual violence from a partner in their lifetime. Please read this again: 1 in 3 women are bashed or sexually violated by their husbands, partners or boyfriends in their lifetime. It's just too hard to believe, and don't even get me started on violence against children.

So where is the church's voice and action on this sad situation?

But let’s focus on the victims first:

The women themselves (and I’ve sadly had to come to the side of a few as a pastor) feel guilty—as if what is happening is somehow their fault. It’s not, of course. Never, ever, does any woman deserve to have their husband or boyfriend physically harm them in any form whatsoever.

Then there are those who feel locked in. They feel they can’t leave. Somehow they feel that would not only make their husband angry and even more violent, but would also disappoint Jesus.

And then they say, “Isn’t that what the Bible says?”

Okay, time for some pastoral intervention:
No!” You should not feel guilty, and you can leave, in fact you should leave for your sake AND the children's sake. Being counselled to stay by a pastor is, in my view, one of the most egregious areas of spiritual malpractice if not abuse. Leaving a violent relationship is NOT divorce. It is merely a separation for personal safety reasons for the victim and her children. As a pastor we should even be willing to escort her out the door. The divorce issue is an entirely separate issue and I will leave that discussion for another day.

So pastor, what can you do?

1.    Preach on the subject of anger and violence. Offer very clear advice on what your people should say (or do) if they find themselves in this situation.
2.    Encourage your congregation to be attentive neighbours and work colleagues. When they come across domestic violence or even suspect it, help your people with practical advise as to what they can do—no ... what they MUST do.
3.    Start a support group for victims. But please make sure the facilitator of the group has a load of empathy and skill.
4.    Support/partner in some way with the It's Not OK campaign. They are doing a great job. Organise an event under this banner.
5.    Support a women's refuge.

Let's commit to doing something today. And if you're already doing something, could you post a comment and tell me briefly what it is you are doing?

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