Northside Baptist Church shares their six-year journey to better recognising and responding to Domestic and Family Violence within faith communities and Christian churches. Northside Baptist is part of a unique community-wide project to respond to and reduce Domestic and Family Violence. Read their story of how this project came about.
Domestic and Family Violence (DFV) knows no boundaries, with people affected across all ages, socioeconomic status, education levels, ethnicities, and languages.
But it is a gendered crisis. Women are far more likely to experience DFV than men. The latest Personal Safety Survey in 2022 by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that 1 in 4 women experienced intimate or family violence compared to 1 in 8 men since the age of 15. And 1 in 5 women have experienced sexual violence, compared to 1 in 16 men. But DFV is far more complex and broader than just physical or sexual violence. It includes behaviour that is coercive, controlling and threatening in an intimate or family relationship. DFV often means that someone is in fear for their life or having to change the way they live in order to feel safe.
I find these statistics horrifying and shocking every time I read them. I am anguished every time I remember the stories of my friends and family whose lives have been knocked sideways and upside down by the unimaginable injustice that is DFV.
Having seen people I love been torn apart by DFV, I am desperate for Australia to find a better way to treat women. I long for all homes and families to be places of comfort, beauty, goodness, and love. Where women are respected. Where their voices, bodies, and minds are honoured and adored.
I long for children to be safe and free from ever witnessing or experiencing violence from the hands that are meant to be lovingly raising them. I hope and pray that my own children will never be counted as a statistic. I seek to live and parent in ways that my daughter can be part of an extended community that is safe and nurturing, where she knows kindness and respect and dignity. And while it burdens me to know I cannot always be there to protect her, I seek to teach her what it means to surround herself with people who will not diminish or degrade her, but who will let her flourish. And for her younger brother, may I raise him to be like Christ; not using power to dominate but being servant-hearted and compassionate. And in my marriage, I have hope that it will show them both what a respectful and equal relationship looks like.
But beyond my role as parent, I long to see change in our whole society. I think it must start by seeing that when any one woman is abused, our society cannot fully flourish and be the one that God intended. Instead, may we know how to see the image of God in all of us. That in Creator’s grace to us all, we have been made in love to show love to others.
And so I deeply long for the church, the broken and yet beautiful body of Jesus, to be a place of refuge, and safety, and leading the way for change.
When I first heard about Common Grace, it was at the beginning of their SAFER Resource launch to churches. And it gave me great hope. Hope that churches were being generously resourced to prevent and respond to violence against women. The SAFER Resource helps churches see how gendered violence is a key faith issue and unpacks the prevalence in our churches. It helps church leaders recognise DFV in their community so they are better informed to help end it. And it equips churches to become safer; safer in how they treat women, safer in their preaching, and safer in their spaces. I believe that when churches can promote gender equality, provide support for victim-survivors (food, shelter, finances, relationship and emotional support, and access to community and government services), address harmful theological teachings, and create a culture of respect, all people will be better off.
Domestic violence might be something that is mostly hidden behind locked doors, but we must start seeing DFV as a crisis that is affecting every single one of us. Maybe then we will be bold enough to weave a new story in these lands, one that celebrates diversity and one where all relationships are safe and respectful.
How will you engage this May to raise awareness of DFV in your community and church?
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic and family violence please seek help. The following Domestic and Family Violence support services are available:
1800 RESPECT National Helpline: 1800 737 732 (specific 24hr hotline for DFV)
Women’s Crisis Line: 1800 811 811
Men’s Referral Service: 1300 766 491
Lifeline (24 hour crisis line): 131 114
For more information about Common Grace’s SAFER go to: https://www.saferresource.org.au/
To help support Common Grace get this resource into the hands of more church leaders please donate to www.commongrace.org.au/donate
The month of May is recognised as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Queensland and also widely marked by organisations throughout Australia. This May, Common Grace is joining in recognising this month as an important opportunity to raise awareness of Domestic and Family Violence in Australia and the need for us all to be taking action to call for justice and create spaces of safety and protection in our communities. Find out more about Common Grace's work in Domestic and Family Violence Justice here.