Windows to the church

Does the Church condone domestic violence? This is a tricky question, or two-sided at the very least. Do I believe the church condones domestic violence? Not intentionally. Do I believe domestic violence is condoned in churches today? Yes, unintentionally.

I believe many churches are simply unaware, untrained or uneducated on the nuts and bolts of domestic violence. It is not an issue of sending a victim straight to a divorce lawyer, but rather, helping her find solace, healing and restoration first and foremost. It is about reassuring her that God certainly does care about the events taking place in her life. And it is also about doing what we can to keep her safe.

How can churches make a difference in the field of domestic violence awareness? First, realize that a victim of spousal battery is no more at fault for being beaten or abused than a rape victim is responsible for the sexual assault that was perpetrated upon her. It’s kind of like pointing a finger at children in a Baghdad kindergarten class for the bomb that was dropped on their building. Who would dare make such a suggestion? Yet, every day victims of domestic violence and sexual assault are blamed for the attack they are subjected to.

Reach out to agencies and organizations who are equipped to teach and train clergy and congregations about the complexities of domestic violence. Invite them into your places of worship to share the valuable information they can afford you. There are organizations that actually have volunteers and staff in the clergy who will provide training in an interfaith or specific faith format.

Reach out to survivors who have been trained to share their stories of healing and restoration. Invite them to come in and share their testimonies with your staff, and perhaps your flock. Schedule a women’s event and utilize part of that time to cover the topics of domestic violence or sexual abuse. Leaders in major denominations are now encouraging congregations to become actively involved in training regarding domestic violence and how to prevent or deal with it.

Learn what the statistics are. Look out into the audience and realize that for every three women sitting in a pew, one of them is or has been a victim of domestic violence. Bear in mind that for every six women seated before you, one has been or will be sexually assaulted. For every two minutes a sermon is preached or a beautiful hymn has been sung, know that another person has been raped in the United States.

There is a nation of victims, such as Karen Jessing, out there who need to feel a hand stretching out to them, drawing them into the place where they can find strong spiritual support and encouragement. Don’t just open the doors of the sanctuary—become a sanctuary for all who have suffered at the hands of domestic violence or sexual assault. It’s what God would have us do.

If you are interested in receiving communication from Carolyn regarding training and equipping your congregation concerning domestic violence/abuse, forward this post to your spiritual leader or you can contact her at her website (See “Blogroll” column). Classes, material and training sessions are available.

Listen to Carolyn’s interview with Cynthia Brennen, on “Help, Hope & Healing.” Visit her Everyday Health blog, Emotional Wellbeing, or her website at

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