For Clergy and pastoral workers

The Uniting Church supports respectful relationships and has created the Beyond Violence campaign to educate and bring awareness of domestic violence to individuals, people in placements and pastoral carers. In Australia the disrespecting of one’s family members or others in one’s household through acts of violence is not only morally and ethically wrong but is also illegal and the ramifications for those charged with domestic violence are very serious.

*NB for ease of reading, the genders referred to reflect the majority statistics of males perpetrating violence against females. Note that this does not apply to ALL situations.

Domestic violence is a pattern of controlling and abusive behaviour used by an intimate partner during a relationship or after separation. Domestic violence and abuse can take many forms: some are physically violent (including punching, hitting and/or throwing of objects) whilst others are more difficult to recognise and include manipulation, sexual abuse, withholding of money or coercing the signing of legal or other documents,  and even mind games.

Many of us have come from, or have ancestors from, cultures where men have been those with power. This may have resulted in men thinking that they are more entitled to more decisions, money and rights; where men may act as though they are the ‘master of the house’ and may treat others like servants; where men make all the decisions and women obey. These attitudes lay a foundation for domestic violence to exist. In all forms of domestic violence fear, control and power are always components.

A few facts to remember:

  • Domestic violence occurs in all walks of life, regardless of socio-economic status, race, age, religion, culture and sexual orientation.
  • Domestic violence is a crime, and violence against women and children is a violation of basic human rights. Current statistics tell us that about 87% of domestic violence is carried out by men against their female partners/wives. About 3% is women toward their male partners/husbands. This explains why most of what we read about domestic violence and resources for supporting victims is targeted at women.
  • Domestic Violence does affect children – it teaches them that violence is a way to get what they want, that it is okay to disrespect others and it fills many children with fear of the abusing parent/s.
  • Domestic Violence does affect families – think of how much energy our minds to give to small stresses in our lives. If we are living in fear, this kind of stress will impact all aspects of our lives.
  • No one ever does anything that means she/he deserve to be subjected to violence and abuse. There is always another way.
  • Whilst men and women may say Sorry after being abusive, this does not signify a changed attitude. A changed attitude can only come about with rigorous counselling and behaviour modification.
  • There is no excuse for domestic violence. Stress, anxiety, a difficult time, use of drugs or alcohol are not acceptable excuses for violence.
  • People who are violent towards others need assistance to adapt to new behaviours and to learn new ways of communicating and expressing themselves. The person must be able to acknowledge and be prepared to take responsibility for their own behaviour.
    • As Christians, we are may be called to care for people affected by domestic violence.

As Christians, because we care about others, we may at some time in our Ministry (lay or ordained) find ourselves caring for a family where domestic violence has or is occurring. They, and you, will need support if this is to result in new behaviours, the following list is offered to assist:

If you are the first person a person experiencing violence and abuse confides in:

  • Listen
  • Believe the story you are being told no matter how horrible it might sound
  • Confront the seriousness of the situation by ensuring that immediate safety is a priority.
  • Explore options and allow the person to be in control of their situation
  • Referrals and ongoing support

Resources you may find helpful:

  • Domestic Violence Services SA: www.dvsa.asn.au
  • Women’s legal Service (SA) Inc: Phone: 1800 816 349; 1800 690 864 (country callers)
  • Victim Support Service Inc: 8231 5626
  • Migrant women’s support and accommodation Service: 8346 9417 (24 hour service)

If you are being asked to care for a whole family including children:

  • Listen and acknowledge any feelings of confusion and fear
  • Let them know that domestic violence does occur in families but that violence is not okay and is not their fault.
  • Develop a safety plan

Resources you may find helpful:

  • Child abuse report line: 131 478
  • Family Violence courts: 8204 2444
  • Domestic Violence Crisis Service: 1300 782 200 (24 hour service)

If you are responding to a person who is violent and abusive:

  • Make sure you keep safe; confronting a person might seem the right thing to do but it may just aggravate the situation.
  • Listen, if this person will speak with you and assure them that violence and abuse is a choice
  • There are services and resources that can assist

Resources you may find helpful:

  • Migrant Health Service: 8237 3900
  • Men’s helpline: 1300 789 978 (24 hour service)
  • Uniting Communities; family and relationship services: 8202 5190

General resources:

  • National Translating and Interpreting Service: 131 450

Would you benefit from the support and encouragement of people within the Uniting Church who have some experience in caring for people affected by domestic violence? 

Alternatively, the “Where to find help” page lists a broad range of starting points if you or your family needs help in overcoming family and domestic violence or if you are caring for people is this situation.