Domestic and family violence is an awful and present reality in many Australian households, including households in our churches. No Place for Violence Here provides churches with resources to raise awareness of family & domestic abuse, to equip their leaders and congregation make an effective response, and to advocate to State and Federal Governments in areas where current government provisioning is inadequate.
Call for more services for those leaving violence
READ THE REPORT
In 2017-18 we asked domestic violence service providers across Australia if they were able to meet the demand for their services. Far too many said “no”.
SHARE THE REPORT
Arrange a meet with your State and Federal MPs. Take a copy of the report, share with them the key findings and why your think they should ensure more services go to domestic and family violence services. Contact us and we can arrange a video conference briefing for your group.
Listen to Stories
Phillippa's Story #1. Til Violence Do Us Part
- Manipulating conservative spiritual beliefsto bolster his authority was one of my ex-husband’s tactics. Several churches had asked him to leave – while saying that the children and I could stay – but my ex said this showed the churches’ faults and had nothing to do with his behaviour. At the time, we were living in a relatively small, remote area, so the number and choice of churches was small with the result that we could not attend any churches – if the children and I went without him, then we would return to a house that seemed to be drowning in hostility.
- Delivering emotional threatswere an almost daily occurrence towards the end of the marriage. After my ex would list my apparently endless faults, he would withdraw and sulk in his study for days, sometimes weeks. Any attempt to discuss led to more lists of faults and more rabbit-holes down which the accusations would disappear.
- Wielding physical forcecame in many forms – physical assaults, reckless driving, descriptions of weapons bought overseas. Eventually, I learned to stand near a door or a ground-level window, but sometimes I was not quick enough. One time, after he punched my left temple, I lost some peripheral vision, but it returned gradually. Frequently, the assaults were physical restraint with threats of ‘what will the neighbours think if you run out of the house?’
- Delivering verbal harassmentwas a favourite of my ex – he was very intelligent and articulate. Mostly, the comments would centre on my family and friends, with the venue being public or private – there were no boundaries.
- Using sexual coercionbecame another favourite that forced me into acts that were either painful or humiliating, or both. The coercion also extended to verbal sexual fantasies.
- Applying economic intimidationdeveloped into a very effective weapon. My ex worked, occasionally, as a music composer so I carried the financial burdens. So, despite supporting five people – myself, three children and one man-child – I was labelled a spendthrift. One day, as I did the family budget for the next year, I joked that we could survive if we bought no pencils for 12 months. I was told to go back. re-do the budget until we could.
- Deploying social isolationforced my family and friends to visit us in the remote town to which we had moved. Fortunately, family and friends endured my ex’s rudeness by staying elsewhere during their visits. My family and friends learned to excuse themselves and leave because any challenge would be met with physical intimidation – he was 1.83m (6’3”) tall and well-built.
* Philippa Yelland is a writer who lives in Sydney with her three children – now young adults.
Phillippa's Story #2. As (un)safe as houses
WHEN the children and I were still in our home – that I owned – with my husband, we all enjoyed the security that home ownership brings. That disappeared when we fled for our safety – physical, emotional, spiritual. As I tossed some clothes in the car’s boot, I told the children that we were going on an adventure and to see their grandmother who was ill. So, we drove during the days and slept in cheap, 1-star motels at night, but this could not be sustained for long – it was exhausting, expensive and unhealthy.
Family and church helped with emergency housing
Miraculously, my mother’s house became available for us to stay in, with furniture and bedding provided by a nearby church. This stability allowed me to enroll the children in the nearest primary school so that they had routine immediately and friends very soon after that.
If it had not been for these two miracles (housing and furniture availability), my children and I would have had to find beds in the ever-decreasing number of women’s shelters. This was the last thing that I wanted to do for a number of reasons.
First, I wanted my children to be in a normal routine immediately, not suspended animation in a refuge. Second, I did not want my children to be in a victim-mentality environment. Third, I did not want to give my husband any ammunition in the Family Court by saying that we were in unsuitable accommodation.
Rental accommodation hard to find
Two years later, the children and I moved to Sydney for my work, a move which unleashed another hurricane of legal proceedings begun by my now ex-husband. The children’s father insisted relentlessly, in the Family Court, that each child must have her/his own bedroom until the Court suggested that my compliance with this demand may soften his demands for other concessions.
Four-bedroom houses in inner Sydney are rare and expensive, but again – miraculously – a hobbit-like cottage came up for rent in Rozelle. While Bilbo’s Bungalow had atmosphere, it also had mould, but I did not have the luxury of multiple-choice and high-income, so the children and I bunked there for a while.
Predictably, the mould caused health problems – which led to more affidavits in the Family Court.
Four-bedroom houses rarer than hens’ teeth
The father’s insistence on a four-bedroom, non-mouldy house forced us to move to a more expensive house – which meant that I had to find a well-paid, full-time job as well as attend frequent Family Court hearings and visits to the solicitor who briefed the Court’s Children’s Advocate.
These sessions were like walking into Franz Kafka’s book, The Trial, in which the hapless protagonist never knows the nature of the crime for which he is being tried. I would try to explain to the solicitor, and later to the Family Court, that the cost of housing was crippling me and that I was having to work full-time in a demanding job, look after three children and respond to endless affidavits.
Friend mentions social housing
Fortunately, friends spoke with me about social housing. I had never heard of this. A friend came with me to HousingNSW, where I was told that I could afford to rent at Penrith. When I said that any move would unleash another Change of Circumstance in the Family Court, the bureaucrat stared blankly and said that was not her problem.
Eventually, another friend took me to Bridge Housing in Redfern where a housing officer seemed to understand the complexity of our situation and put me on the emergency list.
Eighteen months later, I received a phone call from HousingNSW, saying that a 3-bedroom unit was available near Erskineville train station. I said yes, grabbed my keys, drove as fast as I could legally to Waterloo, checked out the house, signed the lease and cried. A lot.
While the situation is not ideal, the availability of moderately secure housing has kept my family together – my children are now young adults, working, studying and able to laugh.
Contrary to popular misunderstanding, social housing is not secure. The rhetoric is ‘get a job and you can get out into the private rental market’. The reality is that the employment market is very unkind to mature women and the private rental market is becoming more vicious every day.
*Philippa Yelland is a writer who lives in Sydney with her three children – now young adults.
Phillippa's Story #3. What then should churches do?
CHRISTIANS sometimes freeze in the presence of domestic violence, caught between the theology of love and the reality of violence. Philippa Yelland* writes that churches could learn from athletics behemoth Nike’s slogan, Just Do It. This is the third in a three-part series.
- Share your coats
The crowd asked John the Baptist, ‘What then should we do?’ He answered, ‘If you have two coats, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.’ Luke 3.10-11
- Don’t phaff around
Don’t form a committee. Just do it. Ask your congregation if anyone has a spare room, a unit for rent, a vacant rectory, an unused house. Make that house/unit/granny flat available today. Not tomorrow, today.
- Don’t waste time and money titivating and renovating
It doesn’t matter if the old rectory/house/house/unit/granny flat is looking a bit tired. The important thing is safe, secure shelter.
- Ask parishioners for furniture
Cast your bread – and requests – upon the waters, and you will be surprised how quickly you can furnish a place of refuge.
- Tell people that a safe house is available within the parish
One of the main terrors for people fleeing violent homes is the disruption to children’s schooling. Having a safe house within the parish and near children’s current schools can be the deciding factor for women – and a few men – who are terrified to leave.
- Don’t judge
Please don’t ask a person fleeing violence ‘What did you do to provoke the attack?’ This happened to me, and a number of women have told me that they were asked this question.
- Go halves or quarters in rent
If no parishioner has spare housing within the parish, then ask if a number of parishioners could go halves or quarters or whatever in renting secure housing.
- Suggest different approaches to renting
Perhaps, the parish could rent housing from a friendly landlord. Or, maybe a parishioner could rent their house to the parish for an amount that covers mortgage payments only.
- Offer practical help
Go to the police station to help take out an AVO. Go to the Family Court for a hearing. Offer to do some child-minding.
- Be there for the long haul
Family violence does not sort in a month, or two months. The fallout is immense and ripples on down through the years. Be prepared to be there in every possible way.
*Philippa Yelland is a writer who lives in Sydney with her three children – now young adults.
San Souci Baptist Church (Sydney, New South Wales)
Sans Souci Baptist profiled domestic and family violence during a Sunday service and invited Scott Higgins, head of A Just Cause to speak on the topic. The church also placed a flyer in the foyer with key contact details for DFV services for church members to be able to take. Pastor Walz recommends that when talking about domestic and family violence on a Sunday, it is ideal to have someone present who is trained in pastoral care to be able to support people if needed.
The church also held a training workshop with leadership focused on how to recognise the signs of domestic and family violence, how to respond appropriately and how to refer to local community resources. The training helped the church leadership to be able to understand domestic and family violence and to support people who do decide to come forward.
He also said that the church was able to contact local community organisations working in domestic and family violence and build relationships; one such organisation is Southern Community Welfare.
A Just Cause and the NSW Baptist Public Engagement Group would like to thank Sans Souci Baptist for the work they have done in their church and community around domestic and family violence and the effort the church made to interview local community services for the No Place for Violence Here research project.
Mona Vale Anglican Church (Sydney, New South Wales)
Senior Minister John Reid, of Mona Vale Anglican, said that the “presentation was challenging” and he invited the counsellors back to run a session for the entire church. He is “convinced we all need to hear and be empowered to stand up against any form of abuse and be equipped to help those who suffer abuse.”
Minister Reid was concerned that people thought domestic and family violence didn’t happen in the church. The Anglican Diocese has issued a helpful response chart for domestic and family violence. To access something similar for Baptist Churches, visit https://nswactbaptists.org.au/project/domestic-violence-2/ under “Pastors Resource”. Minister Reid has also found the “Peacewise” materials to beneficial in helping people deal with conflict in a way that pleases God.
“We continue to remind people that we are a community in which there is no place for violence, and trust that we can match our words to our responses as we teach on the nature of Christian Community.” Minister Reid
Gymea Baptist Church (Sydney, New South Wales)
This past year churches from around the country have been engaging with the No Place for Violence Here campaign, raising congregational awareness of domestic and family violence (DFV) and exploring how the church could respond. Gymea Baptist Church has been raising awareness, training leaders, providing resources and engaging with their local community on this important issue.
The Catalyst Team at Gymea Baptist watched the three training videos delivered by expert, Carolyn Cousins, that are available on the No Place for Violence Here website. Pastor Jodene Watling said, “It was a complete eye opener to the complexity of DFV, but also why it is necessary that we as a community must address this and contribute to being the change for the future.”
The church then invited Carolyn Cousins to speak during its May Mission Month so the whole church community could engage in a conversation around domestic and family violence.
A Q&A forum was also provided. You can listen to one of Carolyn’s sessions at Gymea here: http://www.gymeabaptist.org.au/sermons/sunday-6th-may-2018-may-mission-month-week-1/
The Catalyst Group at Gymea Baptist also created its own resources for domestic and family violence that would be more suitable to the needs of the local community. They created cards to show the church’s stand on domestic and family violence and to provide contextual information. Pastor Watling recommends that if churches want to develop their own resource cards, they should “know who their target audience is, the why behind their wording and what resources should be mentioned.” Watling also said that, “Because the card is a tool and raises awareness, it then also required us to ensure our backend process was clear amongst our staff and volunteer leaders.
Gymea Baptist also supported the No Place for Violence Here research project through A Just Cause by interviewing local domestic and family violence services. They liaised with Southern Community Welfare, a counselling service that started in Gymea Baptist and runs out of the church, to understand DFV and how they can support the community together.
“We’ve started the conversation. We’re continuing to develop our awareness and then working out together what are our next faithful steps. Its complex and any sustained change will require us to dig deep, but seeing the dignity and equality of women restored (along with families and community in general!) is such a worthwhile cause.” Pastor Jodene Watling
Gymea Baptist will be participating in the Sutherland Shire White Ribbon Walk once again! It will be held on November 23, 2018 and involves schools, local government, emergency services and community groups. Anyone is welcome to join in!
Hamilton Baptist Church (Newcastle, New South Wales)
In week two we focused on what a healthy response to domestic violence might look like. We heard from a survivor who runs a local charity, Survivors R Us, and the “sermon” consisted of our pastor interviewing a member of our congregation who is a social worker very involved with domestic violence abotu the best ways we can respond if it’s happening to us or someone we know.
Week three focused on how to deal with the biblical passages about headship and submission. We adopted a strongly egalitarian approach and opened up the question of how we build healthy relationships from a position of mutual respect and full equality. This was followed by mid week session in which we explored the issue further.
Week four saw an all-female panel consisting of a relationships counsellor, a social worker, and a psychiatrist sharing in a panel format the key skills required for us to build strong and healthy relationships. We hope to run some midweek workshops later in the year that will help people hone some of these skills.
It was for many of us among the most powerful set of church services we have been part of. The first week in particular aroused very strong emotion and our pastoral care team spent considerable time following up with people over the following weeks and in some instances referring people onto professional counselling. For some who had survived violence it was very uncomfortable, but for others a cause for joy that the church had finally addressed what they thought had been swept under the carpet. One thing is for certain, we staked a peg in the ground that there was no place for violence in our church, that we would stand with those who suffered violence, and that we are committed to building healthy and healing relationships.
Cottage Care Counselling Centre (Northern beaches, Sydney)
“When we talk about domestic and family violence, it loses its power.”- Counsellor
There are also opportunities in the Counselling Centre’s local area for counsellors to meet with ministry teams to educate them on domestic and family violence, its particular manifestation in the church and how to respond.
For more information on domestic and family violence as a men’s issue, access Jackson Katz’s Ted Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/jackson_katz_violence_against_women_it_s_a_men_s_issue
If you would like to register with the No Place for Violence Here campaign, visit https://ajustcause.com.au/no-place-for-violence/.
To learn more about the Cottage Care Counselling Centre, visit http://cottagecounselling.org.au/.
Resources You Can Use
Sit in on this workshop for church leaders and carers run by domestic violence specialist Carolyn Cousins in 2016. The workshop has been broken down into three hour long sessions, which you can take all at once or at your leisure. We you download the speaker’s presentation files and follow along as you watch the videos.
Everything you need to run a 1.5 hour workshop for members of your church and local community. We recommend that facilitator’s complete the Leader’s workshop and that a counsellor or social worker with experience in the field of domestic violence be present during the workshops.
"Our Pastoral Response" Booklet
A short booklet overviewing domestic and family abuse and a reference sheet for leaders outlining what to do if someone discloses an abusive situation to you.
A Theological Framework