Ali Holcomb, Social Work Intern
October was domestic violence awareness month. Last semester, I had the privilege of interning at WRAP (Women’s Resource and Rape Assistance Program), and I met some incredible survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Every survivor I met would tell me their story, and I would ask what made them decide to leave. The most common story would involve their realization that the abuse would not stop. The second most common story would begin when they left their church.
Many of these women would say that their church made them afraid to leave their abuser. Some said that they were afraid that if they divorced, they might not be forgiven. Many of them said that they finally switched because they realized that people in their church knew they were being abused, but that the congregation did nothing. Recently, I heard a woman say that her church actually asked her to leave because her family situation made the other families “uncomfortable.”
Now, I image that most people would agree that asking a women who is being beaten by her spouse to leave her church is totally unacceptable. However, I’m more interested in the congregations who knew that evil was happening and chose to do nothing. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously wrote in “Letter from a Birmingham Jail“ that the people who chose to do nothing about injustice are ultimately as responsible for injustice as those who inflict it.
We are responsible as Christians to carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). One in four women have or will experience domestic violence. Statistically speaking, we all know someone who is currently suffering from the effects of abuse. Studies show that almost 60% of women in these relationships regularly attend church. I believe that our community is broken if a woman does not only fear her spouse, but also fears her church as well.
I want to challenge you to consider: Is All Saints a church where a woman would need to leave in order to break free from her abusive relationship? Or is All Saints a church that would support a victim through abuse and healing? After spending a few months with the members at All Saints, I believe this environment would be a safe haven for survivors. However, you know your community better than I do, so I hope that you will still take time to reflect on these questions.
Walking with a woman through violence is not easy (and can be really daunting), so I want to give you some resources to support you during this process:
- WRAP’s website: www.wraptn.org
- 24-hour hotline: 1-800-273-8712
I also want you to feel free to discuss what your next steps might be with Fr. Wes or me. I know from personal experience that talking to women about abuse is not easy, but we have a tremendous opportunity to walk with people who are suffering and show them Christ’s love.