As Christians, we believe all people are created in the image of God. All are precious, all are equally loved and all should have the opportunity to thrive in keeping with their God-given potential. Yet, too many are denied this opportunity, prevented through the impact of violence.
Family and intimate partner violence is a widespread and serious problem in Australia. Did you know that one in three women has experienced physical violence,1 one in five women has experienced sexual violence,² one in four women has experienced physical or sexual violence from a husband or intimate partner³ and that one in two women has experienced sexual harassment?⁴
Violence occurs right across our society. It is not confined to socio-economic backgrounds, race, age, culture, gender or faith. Violence affects members of our congregations too.
Would you know what to do if someone disclosed to you that they are experiencing family violence? Our training session held on Saturday 10 September looked at a wide range of aspects related to this issue. We explored an understanding of the problem, recognising some indicative signs, responses to a disclosure, and looked at how to become better allies, which included ways to get help.
The Royal Commission into Family Violence reported in 2016 that faith communities were vital settings for influencing attitudes and providing leadership in relation to family violence.⁵ We need to talk about it, not only so we understand the prevalence and seriousness of the problem, but also to be better equipped to respond and to take action to prevent it.
Some information we learned:
- Family violence is described as physically, sexually, spiritually, financially or socially abusive, threatening or coercive behaviour, or behaviour that causes a child to hear or witness the effects of these actions.
- It is a pattern of abuse which aims to control or dominate another (the opposite of love and freedom which God offers us).
- Intimate partner violence occurs as frequently among the general population as in Anglican congregations, but most victims did not seek help from the church.
- Women who are more targeted include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, disabled women, refugees, and LGBTQI+ people.
- It was not a surprise to learn that victims were more often women rather than men.
- We were all surprised to learn that intimate partner violence is the single greatest risk factor facing Australian women between 18 and 44.
Some skills we learned:
- How to start a conversation if you are concerned for someone
- Who is best placed to begin this conversation
- The listener’s role in a conversation
- Key principles to remember in such a conversation
How to access help:
- How to reach out to family violence services
- Which services would be appropriate for a range of circumstances
- Contacting services
Where to from here?
Having explored some of the issues and strategies in responding to family violence, the next task is to share this information more widely with congregants and friends, then to work towards learning how to prevent violence.
If you were unable to attend this information session but would still like to hear more than the outline above, please contact Jane Window by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (03) 9653 4320.
The Revd Canon Jane Window
Program Manager, Melbourne Anglican Diocese Prevention of Violence Against Women Program
Where to get help
If you would like to speak to someone about family violence or sexual assault, you can contact 1800 RESPECT – 1800 737 732 (National sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling and information referral service, available 24 hours a day, every day of the year).
If you are in immediate danger, please call for the police or an ambulance on 000.
1 Cox, P. (2015) Violence against women: Additional analysis of the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Personal Safety Survey 2012, Horizons Research Report, Issue 1, Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety, Sydney.
2 Australian Bureau of Statistics (2017), Personal safety, Australia, 2016, Canberra, ACT.
3 Cox, P. (2015) Violence against women: Additional analysis of the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Personal Safety Survey 2012, Horizons Research Report, Issue 1, Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety, Sydney.
4 Australian Bureau of Statistics (2017), Personal safety, Australia, 2016, Canberra, ACT.
5 http:rcfv.archive.royalcommission.vic.gov.au/MedialLibraries/ RCFamilyViolence/Reports/Final/RCFV-Vol-V.pdf,p32ff.