October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. We know that one in four women in the United States will suffer from some form of intimate-partner abuse during her lifetime. When we look at Mississippi, that number is much higher–40% or 2 in 5 Mississippi women have experienced sexual or domestic violence. Verbal abuse, physical abuse, reproductive coercion (i.e. sabotaging birth control methods), stalking, threatening, and financial abuse are all forms of domestic violence. Often perpetrators use multiple forms of abuse to control their partners.
As we reflect on how to respond to this endemic violence in our state and in all places, we must consider how we tend to the immediate needs of those who are suffering from abuse while we address the systems of oppression that have created and sustained this culture of violence that denies the sacred worth and dignity of so many.
The Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence (mcadv.org) offers training and other forms of technical assistance to shelters, support to survivors, and education for the wider Mississippi community to create social change and end domestic violence in the state. Their website includes a listing of every shelter in the state and what counties each of them serves.
In addition to direct services, the coalition advocates for better laws and policies, including the passage of SB 2680 in March of this year which modified Mississippi’s code to include “spousal domestic abuse” as a grounds for divorce. If you’d like to get involved with the coalition’s work, you can visit their “Get Involved” page.
For forty years the FaithTrust Institute (faithtrustinstitute.org) has been working to end domestic and sexual violence, particularly within faith communities. Their community-specific trainings focus on a range of issues at the intersections of religion and domestic violence, including teen relationships, child abuse, and healthy boundary setting for religious leaders.
FaithTrust offers a number of free webinar-based trainings for advocates and a quarterly interactive, online “Meaningful Voices Book Club” to discuss fiction and nonfiction books that explore faith, justice, and ending domestic violence. Their most recent book club featured a discussion of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale. If you’d like to be notified of future webinars, sign up for their newsletter here.
How Faith in Women is Involved
In 2016, Faith in Women was invited to participate on the Domestic Violence Task Force convened by Bishop Swanson of the Mississippi United Methodist Conference. Together the Task Force developed a mission and covenant for United Methodist churches across the state to commit to preventing and addressing intimate partner violence in their congregations and laid the groundwork for future educational opportunities for faith leaders and communities. Working alongside the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Conference held a series of training workshops throughout 2016 for clergy to better understand domestic violence and its complexities. Faith in Women is currently exploring a partnership with the Methodist Center for Ministry to develop further opportunities for faith leaders and congregations to learn and engage on this issue.
Faith in Women recognizes that addressing domestic violence in our faith spaces begins with creating a church culture that affirms the sacred worth of women and girls. From elevating women to positions of visible leadership, to teaching healthy relationships skills for young people within a comprehensive sex education program, there are many ways that churches can work to end domestic violence in their communities. Contact us for more information on how your church or faith community can get involved. Faith in Women has resources that can help you get started.