Congregational awareness raising

Promoting Peace in Families was a Australian award winning program for preventing family violence.

It began with a pastors' network in the municipality of Casey, an outer suburb of Melbourne.Together with their local council and community health centre, they obtained a federal grant for a multi-congregation family violence education and prevention project. The pilot project then expanded to 16 congregations. This shows what churches can achieve when they join forces with secular agencies.

During the project, women victims and past survivors came forward in significant numbers seeking support. Perpetrators also disclosed their stories. The level of disclosures appeared to be a result of the leaders taking measures to ensure they provided a safe place for help to be provided.

The churches obtained secular DV training for key leaders, developed policies, then ran a four week program on domestic abuse across each church. This involved weekly sermons and small group studies tailored to suit to the age and sex of participants. Everyone was involved. They also adapted the program to the ethnic backgrounds found in each church's particular demographic.

The project reached about 4,500 people, 16 faith communities and 300 leaders. It resulted in 84 disclosures by victims and 30 perpetrators came forward.

It also led to the formation of a recovery group for Christian victim/survivors which adapted a program from the secular health service, giving it a Christian component. Counsellors from Relationships Australia, a secular counselling service, are now working to provide a Men's Behaviour Change Program which is culturally responsive to Christian men.

The legal advice contained in the package applies to Victoria Australia at the time the project was delivered. Other jurisdictions may have different legislation for domestic abuse. Consult your local domestic abuse/legal services to find out what applies in your own state and country.

Here is a small excerpt from their Model Package:

During the implementation of the four week campaign on family violence a woman reached out to a neighbour who was experiencing family violence and invited her to church. The neighbour attended the Sunday morning service, and while it was in progress her husband stormed into church yelling abuse, demanding his wife return home.

A few of the men of the church quietly rose, surrounded the man and ushered him outside while some of the congregational women gathered around the woman who was being abused. The men spoke to the husband about his inappropriate behaviour and inquired whether they could help by escorting him home and talking further.
A few of the men spoke with the husband for several hours offering referral information and follow up if required. Another woman from the community had a house, that was not rented, and offered this to the neighbour as a refuge in the interim if she wanted to leave the abusive situation. The neighbour took her up on the offer and was able to escape the abusive relationship.