by Julie Meredith, Director of Volunteers & Communication, Safe Harbor
Faith communities and churches provide a social network for individuals and families, comfort for the grieving, hope for those who are depressed, redemption for sinners, and care for the sick. When a church member is diagnosed with cancer, he/she is upheld in the prayers of the congregation and supported with encouraging cards. When a family in the church loses a loved one, church members bring meals and send flowers. In many churches, support groups and counseling are available for people who are dealing with addictions, grief, divorce, or other concerns.
But, what kind of support does a person receive from her congregation when she reveals that she is being abused by her spouse or partner? After working at Safe Harbor for the past two years, I honestly cannot answer this question. It is difficult to know what a victim of domestic violence might experience when she turns to her congregation for help. I have learned that the kind of support that a victim receives tends to vary from congregation to congregation. Congregational support for victims depends on the congregation’s leadership, its membership, its theology and beliefs, and its understanding of domestic violence.
Here are the stories of two victims: