Peace begins at home: What can a church do?

“Home should be a sanctuary, a refuge from the cares and concerns of the world. But for too many, home is just the opposite. Instead of a place of peace and harmony, it is a battleground where words and fists damage body and soul,” write Kim Ebersole. director of family life ministries, Church of the Brethren.

Most of us would like to believe that domestic violence is a rare situation that only takes place in families much different from our own. However, national statistics indicate that one in four women in the United States will experience domestic violence. Over the years, there have been countless surveys that continue to tell us that domestic violence takes place in every ethnic group, every social class, within every racial group. Sometimes it is more visible to the community and sometimes it is deeply hidden within the family. Most of the community has no idea what is happening, or if they see the signs they don’t want to believe that it is possible. Many don’t know how to help.

What can the church do? First and foremost, the church should be a safe place to openly discuss this issue. Pastors can preach on the issue, or use examples of abuse in their sermons. Adult church school classes can talk about the issue and study biblical texts about healthy families and healthy relationships. Prayers and vigils can be offered for the general public, but also to victims and their families. Outreach and mission activity can support the local domestic violence center, like the Family Abuse Center. Congregations can show the community that they know that domestic violence exists, that they are willing to talk about it, and are willing to listen and support victims.

Most importantly, congregations can look for the signs of domestic violence. Families that seem isolated from others are often homes where secrets are kept. Notice when a wife doesn’t come to church for a period of time or wears dark glasses periodically to cover up bruises. Remember that most abusers know to beat someone in the middle of their bodies so that clothing covers up the bruising. They know that strangulation generally doesn’t leave marks. Look for fearfulness. Listen for signs that the abuser has all the power and control in the relationship, leaving the other party weak and vulnerable. Ask if you can help. Frame your questions with gentle words. “Is your relationship a healthy relationship? Do you feel threatened or afraid?” Reassure the person that you are available to listen. Respect her right to privacy and don’t make her more vulnerable by disclosing her situation publically. Know who to go to for help in your community.

Finally, know what resources are available in your community. A woman and her children who are abused need the safety of a secure location that limits access. They may need financial support to live independently, coaching and mentoring for a job search and placement, ongoing legal assistance and much more. They need continued emotional support from their church family.

All churches pray for peace, but most of the time these prayers are for global peace in distant lands. Sometimes it is easier to be focused on violence and war around the world than across the street or within our own families. Peaceful homes are healthy homes where everyone is respected and everyone helps in the decision making process. There are no threats of violence or beatings. A five year old boy said grace recently at the shelter with the words, “Thank you for safety.” No child should have to worry about safety from the very people living in his/her own home. Peace begins at home.

12 Tips to Discuss if Someone You Know is in Danger

This was originally posted by the National Network to End Domestic Violence

  1. Trust Your Instincts If you suspect the abusive person knows too much, it is possible that your phone, computer, email, or other activities are being monitored.
  2. Plan For Safety Navigating violence, abuse, and stalking is very difficult and dangerous. Advocates at the National Domestic Violence Hotline are trained on technology issues, and can help you in your safety planning.
  3. Take Precautions If You Have A “Techy” Abuser If computers and technology are a profession or a hobby for the abuser/stalker, trust your instincts. If you think he/she may be monitoring or tracking you, talk to a hotline advocate or the police.
  4. Use A Safer Computer If anyone abusive has access to your computer, he/she might be monitoring your computer activities. It may be safest to use a computer at a public library, community center, or internet café.
  5. Create A New Email Account Consider creating an additional email account on a safer computer. Do not create or check this new email from a computer your abuser could access. Use an anonymous name and account. Look for free web-based email accounts and do not provide detailed information about yourself.
  6. Check Your Cell Phone Settings If you are using a cell phone provided by the abusive person, consider turning it off when not in use. If your phone has an optional location service, you may want to switch the location feature off/on.
  7. Change Passwords & Pin Numbers If anyone abusive knows or could guess your passwords, change them quickly and frequently.
  8. Minimize Use of Cordless Phones Or Baby Monitors If you don’t want others to overhear your conversations, turn baby monitors off when not in use and use a traditional corded phone for sensitive conversations.
  9. Use A Donated Or New Cell Phone When making or receiving private calls or arranging escape plans, try not to use a shared or family cell phone because cell phone billing records and phone logs might reveal your plans to an abuser. Contact your local hotline program to learn about donation programs that provide new cell phones and/or prepaid phone cards to victims of abuse and stalking.
  10. Ask About Your Records And Data Ask agencies how they protect or publish your records and request that court, government, post office, and others seal or restrict access to your files to protect your safety.
  11. Get A Private Mailbox And Don’t Give Out Your Real Address When asked by anyone for your address, have a private mailbox address or a safer address to give them. Try to keep your true residential address out of national databases.
  12. Search For Your Name On The Internet Major search engines (ie Google, Yahoo) may have links to your contact information. Search for your name in quotation marks: “Full Name”. Check phone directory pages because unlisted numbers might be listed if you have given the number to anyone.

How I Stalked My Girlfriend

This was originally posted by The Guardian, written by Ben Goldacre, on Wednesday February 1, 2006.

For the past week I’ve been tracking my girlfriend through her mobile phone. I can see exactly where she is, at any time of day or night, within 150 yards, as long as her phone is on. It has been very interesting to find out about her day. Now I’m going to tell you how I did it.

First, though, I ought to point out, that my girlfriend is a journalist, that I had her permission (“in principle …”) and that this was all in the name of science, bagging a Pulitzer and paying the school fees. You have nothing to worry about, or at least not from me.

But back to business. First I had to get hold of her phone. It wasn’t difficult. We live together and she has no reason not to trust me, so she often leaves it lying around. And, after all, I only needed it for five minutes.

I unplugged her phone and took it upstairs to register it on a website I had been told about. It looks as if the service is mainly for tracking stock and staff movements: the Guardian, rather sensibly, doesn’t want me to tell you any more than that. I ticked the website’s terms and conditions without reading them, put in my debit card details, and bought 25 GSM Credits for £5 plus vat.