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Area faith leaders collaborate to end intimate partner violence

Eight Inland Northwest faith leaders described their faiths’ teachings and policies on domestic violence as part of the Interfaith Council’s “Creating the Circle of Caring: Faith Communities Working to End Intimate Partner Violence” in October at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Spokane.

“We seek to draw the attention of the faith community to domestic violence and to educate faith leaders who can be resource people for women who are abused,” said Sandi Thompson-Royer of the Interfaith Council.

In her 20 years of work on domestic violence, she has found women’s stories key to understanding issues.

Other organizers included Spokane County Domestic Violence Consortium, Lutheran Community Services’ SaFeT program, the YWCA Alternatives to Domestic Violence and Cookie’s Retreat.

Debbie Dupey of the Domestic Violence Consortium said the program responds to victims and holds perpetrators accountable.

“It takes a community to end domestic violence,” she said.  “In a phone survey two years ago, we found one in three women has been a victim of domestic violence.  It’s not about two people not getting along, but about conflict in which one person’s need to control the other leads to physical, sexual, social or emotional abuse.”

Kim Bryan of Cookie’s Retreat, a faith-based center, said they offer eight weeks of counseling and advocacy to heal people.

Marcia Gallucci said the SaFeT program provides community education and legal advocacy for abused people and families.

Patty Wheeler of the YWCA program reported receiving 15,000 calls in 2002.  To address that “epidemic,” the YWCA provides a safe shelter, counseling and other services.

Debra Adams, keynote speaker, discussed Survivors In Service, Inc., which advocates for women and children affected by domestic and sexual violence and offers retreats, conferences, workshops and training, especially for helping the religious and faith community respond to survival of all forms of violence against women.

Sandi believes leaders of such programs must collaborate, to offer some “dos and don’ts” for clergy and to help people be aware of how different faith traditions respond.

Pastors discussing violence draws victims

In contrast to the national reaction to the deaths of 3,000 people at the World Trade Center, few react to the deaths of 4,000 women killed each year by their partners or spouses, said the Rev. Mike Bullard, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Coeur d’Alene.

MIke Bullard
MIke Bullard

“Christians tend to follow society, leaving victims separated from friends, confined, taunted, abused and killed,” he said.  “All the human race shares in the sinfulness.  We need to repent and turn from it.” 

Turning from the violence in this culture and society, he said, includes, for example, recognizing the violence degrading women in commercials shown during the Super Bowl, a day when domestic violence escalates.

“In a verbally abusive culture, violence gels.  Christians are called to challenge that violence,” said Mike, who has been a pastor for 30 years. “There is power just in talking about it,” he said.

When working on a doctorate in pastoral care for victims, he found that just telling his church he was studying the subject prompted victims and survivors to come forward and share their stories with him.
“In worship and education, we must define violence people may not recognize,” Mike said.

The Presbyterian Church, USA, offers materials for its 2 million members, but few use them, he said.  A national Presbyterian policy statement addresses theology and justice related to many aspects of violence in families. 

Two Presbyterian courses, “Turn Mourning into Dancing” and “Anguished Hearts,” identify and address abuse.

Mike said he is uncomfortable with the term “domestic” violence, because there is nothing “domesticated” about it.  He suggests speaking of violence against intimate partners, children, elders, dates or other vulnerable people.

He challenges Christian pastors who quote out of context the I Peter admonition for women to be submissive to their husbands.  The preceding verse instructs Christian wives on relating to and winning over non-Christian husbands.  He also said many quote Ephesians, “Wives be subject to your husbands” out of the context of “be subject to one another in love.”

Mike, who works on domestic violence at the Women’s Center in Coeur d’Alene, said Christians must respond to victims, know local resources and collaborate with other churches and faiths to challenge violence, support safe shelters and develop programs.

While there are resources for clergy, Mike recognizes there is lethargy about learning how serious the problem is and taking responsibility. 
“Clergy need to engender trust,” he asserted. “Most victims trust secular organizations over churches to deal with domestic violence.  We need to be part of the solution.”

For information, call (208) 667-8446.

Privilege insulates people from awareness

Social workers, advocates and church leaders at a workshop on domestic violence in the 1980s wondered why there were no judges meeting with them, said Jane Rinehart, professor of sociology and women’s studies at Gonzaga University.

Jane Rinehart
Jane Rinehart

From a sociological perspective, she sees that privilege alienates people of privilege from disadvantaged people.

A major task for anyone working in social justice issues is to recognize that privilege insulates people from awareness of the suffering and struggles of other people.  In contrast, disadvantage sensitizes people to “look up through the rest of society, and not be seduced by the privileged,” she said, committed to bring people of privilege to sensitivity about issues of domestic violence.

This mother of three found it refreshing when the priest in her parish, which had no active youth group, recommended that she send her teen to Young Life at the nearby Presbyterian church, because they “do such a good job with youth.”

She believes such cooperation among church communities would help address domestic violence.

“The American Catholic experience in the past two years has been dramatically changed by the focus on the scandal in dioceses across the United States,” Jane said.  “There is disturbance in the picture given Catholics about dynamics in the Catholic Church around the abuse and in the cover-up, silence and avoidance of honesty.  We can no longer deny the sexual violence and abuse by part of our community.”

In the midst of the scandal, she finds hopefulness in Catholic communities:  The scandal has called forth many people, who might otherwise sit and wait for leaders to see the malfeasance, to say the leaders are accountable to the people in the pews.

“We want our leaders to respond graciously and affirmatively to the victims.  This is a time of pain and hope.  If you look at ideas and practices,” she said, “the Catholic Church is filled with contradictions, as are all churches.”

Catholic documents on domestic violence clearly condemn sexual objectification and denigration of women, and violence in all forms, Jane said.  They teach mutuality, respect and dignity for all persons.
The current pope calls for achieving real equality among men and women.  He teaches equal pay for equal work, protecting working mothers, assuring equal rights of citizens.

Jane finds, however, the same documents that call for equality include contradictions, such as “over-emphasis on the service of women,” identifying women with families, fidelity and the capacity to give. 
“Those can be a detriment to women’s safety,” she said.

“Women are responsible to keep the family together, so they feel responsible if they experience violence,” she said.  “They will not seek to escape from abuse.  Divorce and remarriage are forbidden.  To limit access to the sacraments to those who divorce and remarry is devastating to Catholics and makes it hard for women to leave abusive marriages,” Jane continued, noting that the church tends to idealize marriage.

Church documents condemn violence in wars, sexual exploitation and trafficking women, but they are reluctant to talk about violence in families, she said.

Jane discussed some contradictions:
• First, it’s easy to talk of behavior and slide into abstracts isolated from “textured, concrete stories” of people.

• Second, despite talk of mutuality and respect, the church relies on a male authority in the priesthood and church hierarchy:  “Our organizational ways of being are male-centered and male identified.  ‘Normal’ is based on male identity.  Patriarchy means that we ignore women’s lives and silence their stories,” she said.

• Third, the Catholic Church has a difficult relationship with feminism.  A 37-page document on the “Collaboration of Men and Women in the World” condemns feminism, yet those most active in addressing domestic violence are feminists, Jane noted.

If Catholic documents say feminists are dangerous, then Catholics think they should stay away from feminists,” she said.

Jane said that practices point to a positive side.

“Catholics have many vibrant, dedicated communities of women religious, doing groundbreaking work with women who suffer.  The emergence of laity in leadership is also creating more positive practices,” she said.

Awareness opens doors to change

Although her church may lack the statements others have, Ella Harvey’s life makes a statement.

Ella Harvey
Ella Harvey

She overcame emotional abuse of the first 22 years of her 51-year marriage, when she was a stay-at-home mother of six children.

Now retired as a licensed social worker, she is an evangelist and church mother at Refreshing Spring Church of God in Christ.

Growing up Southern Baptist in Brandon, Miss., she was the 10th of 13 children born in that small community with many black families.  Her mother, 36, and father, 40, were homeowners as were many others in Brandon.

Lost as a middle child, she learned from her siblings not to touch the stove and other safety rules.  She did not know of anyone in Brandon experiencing domestic violence, not like “the squabbles in the next community, where people were thought not to be godly people.”  She knew a few families who divorced and when one remarried, she knew her church frowned on it.

“My father said you are bound to your mate as long as you live.  If you divorced, you needed to stay single.  If you remarried, you would go to hell,” said Ella, who was 14 when she visited her sister who was 13 years older and living with a violent husband.  She felt helpless to help her.

Ella’s mother died when Ella was 12.  Her father died in a car accident several years later.  She married at 18.  There was no physical violence, but there was emotional abuse.  With her mother dead, she had no one with whom to reflect about what was happening. 

“I couldn’t name it.  I knew it did not feel good.  To fix it, I thought I needed to be a good homemaker, stay home and pray,” Ella said.  “It was years before I learned that what I experienced was abuse. 

“I would have left, but I had no parents to go home to, no education beyond 12th grade, no income, no job and no money. 

“There was no welfare system in Mississippi and other states in the South in the 1950s and 1960s,” Ella said.  “So where would I have gone with six children? My cousins and sisters had their own households full of children.”

Ella put her children’s welfare before her own, because her husband was paying the bills, buying groceries and keeping a roof over their heads.  She believed if she left, he would remarry and not support her or the children. How could she work and care for the children?

“I chose to stay.  We were poor together, but we would be poo-oo-oor if we were separate,” she said.

When the children were in school, Ella went back to school and eventually graduated from Eastern Washington University on the same day as her oldest son.

In EWU women’s studies programs, she learned that emotional abuse hurts as much as physical abuse.

“It was liberating and validating,” she said.  “I knew something was wrong with it, but I could not name it.”

Then married 22 years and talking with her husband about renewing their vows on their 25th anniversary, Ella decided she would not put up with the emotional abuse any more.

“I didn’t want to tighten the tie any more,” she said.  “I told my husband, ‘You may not talk to me that way any more.  I will not tolerate it.’

“He was taken aback.  I said I wanted to be respected and talked to as a valuable person, as I learned about in social work classes.”
Ella filed for divorce and was ready to sign the papers, but agreed to give it another chance.

“When I demanded better for myself and showed I meant business, he changed his ways.  Now he tells me I’m smart.  I’m glad he found out,” Ella said.

She now realizes that when a wife in her home town was abused, she talked to her parents and moved home for three to four days, for a cooling off period.  Then she moved back.  Women could not afford to support themselves.  If the abuse continued, her brothers would talk to her husband and threaten him if he abused her again.  Law enforcement ignored it, so women did not go to authorities.  Churches ignored it, as if it was not their business.

“You did not tell people at church your problems,” she said.  “In my generation and my daughter’s generation, women went to agencies, not the church.

“No one should suffer in silence as I did,” said Ella, who worked 15 years in substance abuse, retired, and then worked in home health care before retiring again.

Despite equality, shame of abuse silences

While Islam values marriage as a contract between a man and a woman, divorce is possible if there is abuse, said Fatima Ansari of the Spokane Muslim Community and member of the Interfaith Council board.

Fatima Ansari
Fatima Ansari

“The Quran says that mates were created so a person could find rest in relationships.  Each is like a garment for the other—which adorns, comforts, covers the faults and protects,” she said.

“In the sight of God, men and women are created equal.  Both are to surrender to God, be truthful and humble, persevere, guard modesty, fast and remember God.  In front of God, men and women are equally responsible and should have equal rights.  They are equally accountable,” Fatima continued.  “Men are to protect, sustain and support the family.

“If a wife fears cruelty or sexual unfaithfulness, she has a right to divorce.  She approaches elders in the family and asks them for a divorce—a simple procedure which is done with two male witnesses from each family and which needs to be documented,” she said. 

Although divorce is simple, it is not encouraged, Fatima said.

“God made both marriage and divorce easy.  Cruelty is not to be tolerated.  Each person is answerable to God,” she said.

Despite the equality of men and women in Islam, cultures in the Middle East, Asia and Africa have created taboos.  Because of the shame associated with abuse, women are unwilling to talk about it, said Fatima, who has been in the United States 37 years and in Spokane 18.

In the last five to 10 years, Asian communities have created more help and shelters for women, she said, noting that Muslim women are more likely to go to secular services than to services of another religious group.

The faith community plays a major role in helping women recognize if they have a problem and in encouraging them to go for help, Fatima said.

Counselor helps victims' tap strength

From her work with victims of domestic violence, Mable Dunbar, a Seventh Day Adventist who is president of Polly’s Place Network, believes the faith community must drop jealousy and fears of each other, and work together.

Mable Dunbar
Mable Dunbar

As a licensed therapist, pastor’s wife and founder of a safe shelter, she observes her church’s progress and admits that many are “still in denial, pretending domestic violence does not exist.”

However, she is hopeful, because “God has a way to make us do what we do not want to do.”

The Seventh Day Adventist Church affirms the dignity and worth of every human being and decries abuse of anyone.  What we say is not always what we do,” Mable said.

Polly’s Place Network is addressing this issue.  It started with a woman, Polly Westman, who had compassion for abused women.  She saw the need and gave her money to start the first Polly’s Place shelter in Niles, Mich. It continues to be funded by individuals.

Mable grew up thinking she was not good enough because her existence was the result of her mother’s rape.  Eventually, she learned at church that every human being is endowed with power akin to that of the Creator.

“I realized I had power in myself, internal strength from God, and I use that power to talk with victims, abused women.  In fact, they are strong, many living with abuse for many years yet producing strong healthy children. 

So I am not called to help ‘victims’ but to help women understand their potential,” Mable said.  “Women leave abusive relationships when they realize they are strong, have resources, options and community support.”

She believes her church’s view of abuse as a sin issue rather than a gender issue means men are more likely to support the efforts, because men are also abused.

We empower both men and women to work together to end the crisis,” she explained. 

Mable, who has 20 years of experience in dealing with abuse, leads training for pastors, training mandated by her church’s local conference president, Elder Max Torkelson.  As a result of a survey in the Pacific Northwest, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church learned that the rate of domestic violence among members was the same as the national rate. 

We need churches to address the religious issues—what clergy should and should not do—and to set boundaries.  We have found that about 80 percent of abused spouses stay in abusive relationships because of religion,” said Mable, who serves as a consultant to pastors.  “If clergy do not know what to do, they should refer people.” 

As another protection, the Seventh-Day Adventist churches are endeavoring to screen all volunteers who work with children.

The fourth Saturday of August is Domestic Violence Awareness Day throughout the Seventh Day Adventist Church in North America.  Pastors are required to give information and education on domestic violence then.

We are not where we should be, but our leaders are looking at what to do to address the issue of domestic violence.  They are focusing on education and on training pastors.

“We realize that if we do not have healthy families, we will not have healthy churches.  We also realize that people stay away from church because of shame.  We need to work together as churches and learn from each other to end domestic violence, so we can have healthier families, churches, communities and nation.  We need to work one family at a time to put a dent in the cycle of domestic violence.”

She thinks that churches consider physical violence more a matter for police and criminal justice than their concern.

“The faith community needs to look at physical, economic, sexual, psychological, emotional and spiritual abuse,” said Mable, who is writing a book with her husband on religious abuse.  She is also author of The Truth about Us:  How to Discover the Potential God Has Given You.

For information, call 323-2123.

Church statements, programs respond to violence

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has statements, resources and actions on domestic violence, said the Rev. Mark Nelson, assistant to the Eastern Washington Idaho bishop for 13 years.

Mark Nelson
Mark Nelson

His work over that time in the call process for clergy, in pastoral training and with congregations in conflict has been a period in which the denomination learned about clergy sexual misconduct and about domestic violence and sexual abuse.

A 1994 statement talks of God’s opposition to violence extending beyond murder:  “We are all accountable before God….The common worship is broken by the cycle of violence.”  It calls for embracing victims of violence and sharing the word of new life to heal pain and overcome fear.

Mark has seen action on that statement.  Some actions are presented at the ELCA website,

“There are many resources under ‘domestic violence’ or ‘safe sanctuary,’ including posters for congregations to put in restrooms giving a phone number for a person experiencing abuse to call.
In the late 1990s, Mark participated in an ELCA research project, “Stopping Family Violence,” sponsored by the national commissions for women, men and youth.

Research found women healing and empowered in small groups in congregations and people talking about violence with victims, children or sisters.

A men’s resource on “Building Bridges” discusses family violence, anger management, community issues and men’s issues.

“We were not prepared for how many men had painful stories of being victims of abuse as a child, or having a daughter or sister a victim of violence,” Mark said.

A youth program, “Beyond violence: Empowering Youth to Make a Difference,” is a 24-hour retreat inviting youth to share ways they have been hurt or abused. 

Ten people in the synod have been trained to do pilot programs in their congregations. 

Mark also has been involved in the early work of the FaithTrust Institute—formerly the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence—which developed curricula and requiring that pastors be trained on boundaries and family violence.

The Synod Assembly in the spring passed a resolution on caring and safety issues for children, promoting a curriculum to make the congregation a safe place for children and elders.   

Sunday school teachers and elder care workers need training in how to provide a safe place, how to recognize potential signs of abuse, what local resources are available and where to refer people.

The programs started us talking about issues close to our hearts and how hurt people might again trust,” he said. 

“In addition, we support the work of Lutheran Community Services in Spokane, Tri Cities and Boise as partners working to heal wounds of domestic violence.”

Mark added that there is need when offering education programs to provide child care.

For information, call 838-9871.

Churches around world plan event

Churches worldwide will address violence against women and children within the framework of a World Council of Churches (WCC) campaign, “On the Wings of a Dove.”

From Nov. 25 to Dec. 10, churches and church-related groups will promote public awareness, and attempt to bring justice and healing to those who have suffered or are still suffering from violence. Worship and prayer vigils, discussions and exhibitions are examples of the campaign activities planned for the 16 days.

The campaign is designed to encourage the churches to develop pastoral and practical responses to various forms of violence by providing a safe space for women to tell their stories, by offering counseling to both survivors and perpetrators of violence, and by linking with other groups and movements working on overcoming violence.

Organized under the WCC Decade to Overcome Violence (2001-2010), the campaign addresses various kinds of violence against women and children on both political and domestic levels. Violence in the family, sexual violence, violence against women and children in war areas, children’s work, female genital mutilation or discriminatory laws are examples of the multifaceted nature of violence against women and children.

Liturgical material, Bible studies and reflections as well as books, films, articles and exhibits to be used for campaign-related worship and other activities are available on the web. The material comes from different regional and social contexts, and thus helps to address the respective forms of violence that may vary depending on the context.

The 16-day campaign begins on the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and lasts until International Human Rights Day. It coincides with the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, an international campaign initiated 1991.

The theme, taken from Psalms, expresses hope that, with God’s help, it is possible to escape hopeless situations “on the wings of a dove.”  
For information, visit www.over or call 329-1410.

Domestic violence gains ground in Jewish agenda

Domestic violence is gaining ground in the Jewish agenda, said Adie Goldberg, education and youth director at Temple Beth Shalom and a former psychiatric social worker.  Her first job was at a domestic violence shelter.

Adie Goldberg
Adie Goldberg

It’s hard to recognize domestic violence because the Jewish standard of shalom bayit is about peace in the home, so many people do not want to know or admit domestic violence is happening.  Many prefer to assume it is something that happens among low-income, uneducated and non-observant Jews.  However, it cuts across economic status and education, Adie asserted.

The average Jewish victim will stay in a violent relationship seven to 25 years because of pressure on the woman to be the keeper of the hearth.  So women feel personally at fault if there is not shalom bayit.  They fear being seen as unsuccessful Jewish wives, so they keep from telling anyone.

If a woman consults a rabbi, however, the rabbi is not likely to say it is God’s punishment or to suggest the woman pray harder.  Rabbis are required to contact police and an attorney, she said.

Adie also explained that Jewish marriages are not until death, so  divorce is possible.

Ten years ago, the Conservative movement talked with Jewish professionals to help those who are too embarrassed to seek help.  Adie helps with that outreach at Temple Beth Shalom.

“Jewish law is a compendium of laws.  Familial violence is not at the top.  Two rabbinic courts 2,700 years ago summed up Jewish response to a husband’s violence:  One required the husband to grant the wife a divorce.  The other forced the man to cease the abuse because no one should ‘live in the same cage as a serpent.’

“Religious leaders need to intervene in families.  No one should endure violence,” Adie said. 

Jewish tradition offers two messages:
1) a moral imperative to recognize a cruel, abusive relationship;
2) a moral obligation to do what one can to protect the victim.
“Each brings risk of becoming involved in people’s lives.  We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.  We are responsible.  The Talmud says that all Israelites are responsible to each other,” she said.

Adie said Jewish women are likely to go to secular sources of help.  So she suggests shelters be sensitive to dietary restrictions of people of different faiths.

Faith calms people troubled by violence

Judy Patterson, a psychiatric occupational therapist and artist,  knows from her Tibetan Buddhist faith that shelter, food and calmness open people to find faith that can transform their hearts and minds.

Judy Patterson
Judy Patterson

“People troubled with violence or suffering need to find a spiritual path,” said Judy, who leads a Buddhist meditation group at the Airway Heights Correctional Facility.

The Buddha taught that there are 84,000 methods to change one’s heart and mind.  While a social worker can show compassion, she knows that transformation takes faith.

“The bottom line of Buddhism is to learn to do no harm,” said Judy, whose moved from Presbyterian roots through Unitarianism into Buddhism.

The Buddhist tradition says four thoughts change minds: 
• The human body is precious.  It sees, hears, runs, dances, learns and has the capacity to for the mind to recognize its true nature, which is all-knowing, all-loving and infinitely compassionate.

• The second is to accept impermanence:  Everyone is born to die.  Nothing is solid.  Everything changes. 

• The third, karma, is about cause and effect:  As one sows, so one will reap.

• Fourth, human beings experience suffering because of desire, anger, pride, jealousy and ignorance: “We allow TV ads make us want things or someone’s actions to make us angry,” she said.

Those who suffer domestic violence need to know they do not need to stay in the situation. It is more faithful and compassionate to leave a violent situation than to stay in it and try to fix it.” Judy said. “That is because you remove yourself from danger and you stop the violent one from incurring more negative karma, which will eventually cause that person more suffering.”

Tibetan Buddhists believe people are to bring six transcendent qualities into a marriage—generosity, discipline, patience, compassion, equanimity and wisdom.  Without working diligently on those qualities, a couple will have difficulty being together in love and compassion, she said.

Although Buddhists do not have a specific domestic violence program, each day they are to work on the practices.  There are meditations each day at the Tibetan Buddhist Center and Thursday evening sessions about working on violence led by Lama Inge Sandvass, teacher at the center.

Lamas will also refer people to western counselors who can provide help, Judy said.

Pastor asks men to end violence

The Rev. Nell Taboloff of the Chewelah United Church of Christ won the Interfaith Council’s contest for the best sermon submitted on domestic violence.  The sermon, which she preached originally for Father’s Day, was preached for a healing service that was part of the Creating Circles of Caring workshop in October.

“Hush little baby, don’t say a word, Papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird . . . a golden ring . . . a looking glass . . . a Billy goat.”
There are several variations of this old lullaby, including one that says all this is done by the mama, but the papas, dads, fathers have been given the job, historically, of providing for their children’s needs.

History keeps changing and we are in one of those “hinge” periods where shared responsibility for children includes financial contributions of women to a greater percentage than ever before.  That’s good, because history needs to change.

Mockingbirds, Billy goats and possessions of any extravagant nature aside, fathers have long been expected to take responsibility to provide for their children’s needs, safety, education and health.

Most fathers provide in mundane ways.  They get up and go to work, even when they don’t want to, so there will be a paycheck at the end of the month.

They stay up late listening for the car door in the driveway when a teen has been out with friends.

They pass up Saturday golf to attend a piano recital, to be at a track meet or a baseball game.

They give up sleep to walk the floor with a crying baby.
It is all for one end:  to keep the child safe, protected and secure, because a child cannot grow, learn or love unless it is first safe.
We salute all you ordinary, extraordinary dads, granddads, Dutch uncles and older brothers, and all you do to keep the children in your lives safe.

Only you need to do more, because children are not safe, often from dads, granddads, Dutch uncles and older brothers.

Phones ring off the wall at the Colville police dispatch office, which answers 911 calls for Stevens County.

It may be barking dogs or noisy teens, drunks or drug deals, a theft, battery or an occasional murder.

Most of the calls, however, are because of domestic violence.   Husbands, boyfriends, partners or papas have hit, berated or abused women while children watch.

Most are about domestic violence, even though 90 percent of domestic violence is never reported.

Most—99 percent—domestic violence is men against women.  The majority is with children present.

We salute you ordinary, extraordinary dads, granddads, Dutch uncles and older brothers in all you do to take care of children in your homes.
Only you need to do more, because what we are doing is not working. Domestic violence is just getting worse.

There is a theory about why that is happening
.  Domestic violence is seen as a women’s issue:
• Women are the victims.
• Usually women are the ones who work with victims, raise money for the cause, raise awareness, answer crisis lines, make safety plans and go to court with victims.

The truth is, it’s not a woman’s issue.  It’s a man’s issue.
It will only continue to get worse, until men understand that for your children, for all children to be safe in their homes, you have to do something yourselves.

Not just a few, but many men have to understand that it’s their turn to work for an end to domestic violence.

Men are the ones with the power to stop men from abusing women.  Because men have said it was okay in the first place and still say its okay, so they are the ones who will have to say, “No more!”

Even if you have never consciously said it is okay to use physical power against another person or to use emotional abuse to solve a problem or to use isolation of a partner to make you feel better about your life, unless you are saying “no” to the definition of men as ones who do use physical, emotional, psychological power against another person, then you are a part of the problem. 

If you have ever laughed at a joke that said abuse of power was okay, because other men were laughing, then you are a part of the problem. 

If you have ever gone along with the conversation, listened to gossip, because some men might question your manhood or sexual orientation, then you are a part of the problem. 

If you have excused domestic violence in service men returning home from duty or in NFL players who are paid to [be violent] on the field and it might slip over into the home, then you are a part of the problem.

If you ever said, it isn’t my business, you are a part of the problem
Your daughters, granddaughters and the little girl down the street who waves when she rides by on her bike are not safe.

Your sons are not safe from the influences of fists and power in our world.

It will improve only when men say, if you hit a woman, use intimidation, verbally threaten, degrade or insult, you are not a man.  You are out of the man club.  You have failed the man test.  It’s not okay, not in a word, a joke, a sneer, an insult, a push, a punch, a broken bone or a death.

If all men do that, it is still not enough.

Men must have the courage to do one more thing and challenge those who would say, “under these circumstances, in that part of town, with his history, it’s okay to be violent in the home.”

The story of Nichodemus in John 3:1-21 is about personal salvation.  He thinks about saving himself.  We know that he never gets it.  He’s not alone.

There’s a difference between being born again and being born anew.  Metaphors and John’s emphasis on the connection between Jesus and the Father create difficulty.

Jesus’ presence on the earth was about the salvation of all people—of a whole world.  No one is left out of the love that keeps calling them back into the place of peace with justice that God desires for creation.

We have a culture that needs to be redeemed.

It reflects less what God intends for us and more what endangers us all.

Those of us who can work for the safety of people within their own homes have been called to claim the courage of faith, the vision of Christ, the Voice of heaven, and say to those who hurt another, that [violence] is not what it means to be a man.

• Tell your sons and your grandsons the truth:  to hurt another does not make you a man.  It’s wrong.

• Think about what you do that is good as a man, that reflects a faith based on God’s relationship to you.

• Give yourself credit for what you are doing right.

• Hear the call to courage and say it’s not okay for violence to define even one more man.

We women ask your help in ending this epidemic of domestic violence.

The courage you as men find will make the difference in what happens in our homes.  Say, “Not one more time, not again, no to domestic violence!”

Copyright © November 2004 - The Fig Tree