Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What Positive Roles Can Churches Play In the Safety Planning Process if...?

Question: What positive roles can Churches play in the safety planning process if the victim does not want to pursue assistance from the criminal justice system, but is willing to pursue assistance from her religious community?

Answer: I'm going to be honest and say that for starters, it would be good if churches were even willing to participate in the safety planning process to begin with!

Sadly, in so many instances, I have not found this to be the case. So number one, I would have to say, is to be willing to get involved in the first place.

Then extend help without attaching conditions. There were times help was denied to me (not necessarily by my church) because I would not meet someone's condition (i.e., I'll come get you if you promise never go back. Or worse, why should I come get you? You'll just go back.).

The process must begin with the following two things:
  • Willingness to get involved
  • Not attaching conditions to the involvement such as requiring the woman to seek legal remedies or never go back.

Demonstrate respect for the woman who is seeking help, and grant her the liberty of making her own choices without risking losing our support.


Anonymous said...

This is so true. My husband, a preacher, tried to suffocate me in his attempt "to calm me down" and all I hear from church elders (one in particular) is when are you going to bail him out of jail? They did not care to find out what actually transpired - they were quick to demand the wife bail the husband out because he is her husband!! They totally forget the fact that he could have killed her and her children. Or worse, you will have church members throwing Ephesians 4 (wives submit to your husband....) at you demanding to know if you know your place!

Fortunately not everyone in the church is like that but what kind of counseling help can these church elders provide when they are quick to point fingers before even finding out the truth of the matter. Forget about a safety plan from a church or your neighbors, for that matter too. I have found that my safest bet was with people who have dealt with domestic violence and knows what to do. Someone your husband do not know about so you can make your escape easier.

jocelynandersen@yahoo.com said...

Thank you for your comment -- so sad but true. And you are so right about your best bet being "someone who has dealt with domestic violence and knows what to do."

It is a shame and a reproach upon the Christian community that almost no one in the local churches knows what to do in a domestic violence situation. That is why I formed the Dorcas Network. http://TheDorcasNetwork.org

When are you going to bail your husband out indeed!? God help us.

Anonymous said...

Although my church (not in US) is more supportive than most (a couple of pastors did support my separation, and now my nonreconciliatory stance until divorce), there were many times I was re-injured by pastors trying to help - like sitting us down together, watching the abuse take place under his nose, trying to get us to go on a holiday together after an "explosion", advising me not to report child abuse, getting me not to report breach of bail because I shouldn't be too fanatical and use reason if he is trying hard, telling my daughter he hopes I am not going too far by not allowing contact with children (which was not true), telling me I am responsible for being too submissive and not speaking up (I spoke up, he escalated and now we are separated), and now for
supporting him in encouraging contact after separation, so we can be friendly and discuss decisions regarding children. This pastor keeps thinking that this separation is due to my hurt over many years, tells him that I am resentful, and doesn't see the DANGER. Even official government mediators refuse to do mediation, not even in separate rooms.

I guess I shouldn't complain because my church does allow for divorce for abuse (although not many would know it), and in fact are making Not Under Bondage compulsory reading for leadership, I'm told. I really don't know what it must be like in some US churches and salute you for fighting so hard.