Home Christian News Breaking the Silence: Clergy Address Pandemic’s Surge in Domestic Violence

Breaking the Silence: Clergy Address Pandemic’s Surge in Domestic Violence

Today I direct the Odyssey Fellows program for Odyssey Impact, using the power of film to equip emerging faith leaders to lead brave and healing conversations on difficult civic issues. The issue of domestic violence was a crucial focus during this pandemic, one that these future faith leaders were inspired to tackle during their fellowship.

One of our fellows, Staci Plonsky, coordinated a special screening of “Healing the Healers: Domestic Violence” in Melbourne, Florida. Afterward, faith leaders, domestic violence victims advocates, survivors and local law enforcement discussed how to build better liaisons to respond to domestic violence.

The group talked about the complex issues that emerge when a faith leader learns of abuse within a family in a congregation. Faith leaders are often the first point of contact for a victim reaching out for help. What are “do’s” and “don’ts” for clergy on this issue? Whom do clergy call when they’re unsure?

“Courage is what’s needed, when an abuser in your congregation is being confronted,” said Officer Bill Stanley of the Cocoa Beach Police Department and an ordained minister. “As a former pastor, I know how these dynamics unfold. The buddy of the abuser will also happen to be on your personnel committee, or chairing the finance committee, and might say, ‘Hey Pastor, seems like maybe we could just find a way to avoid any kind of ugliness, don’t you think?’”

We all have work to do in our faith contexts. If the pandemic has taught us anything, avoidance can lead to death for both adults and children.

Addressing domestic and family violence is always hard, but it need not be overwhelming if we can open up our conversations as clergy and build strong community liaisons for a network of resources. We must get beyond the silence and shame that we perpetuate in our houses of worship when we don’t take diligent and faithful action to create safe and accountable faith communities for all.

(The Rev. Katie Givens Kime is the director of religion and civic engagement at Odyssey Impact. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

This article originally appeared here.