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Domestic Family Violence Requires a Community Response

Jul 28 2017

Families are the building blocks of our community, our society, and therefore domestic family violence (DFV) affects us all.

There has been much on the news recently about domestic family violence but this has been a prevailing problem in our society for a long time.

If we were to pose the question of where would someone stand on the issue, the majority would say that it is wrong to physically, emotionally and mentally abuse another person. However, have you allowed yourself to sit and really think about how you, personally, feel about this issue? Why? Because how we feel about something determines our response to it.

The world we live in is hurting there are countless stories in every sphere of life that are fraught with injustice, trauma, horror and man’s inhumanity to man so it is easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless. What we need is empathy, because empathy drives compassion, which leads to action. To be a part of any significant change, we must allow our hearts to be affected.

Decisions or events with emotive consequences reinforce our learning, strengthen our values systems, and create convictions. This is important because without it, we can use emotional detachment to absolve ourselves, at least in our own minds, from any responsibility or response.

Generally our reaction to an issue is determined by what we have already considered as something that is important and matters. Even apathy, by default, is a decision. When something is overtly unjust, wrong or victimising others, most of us would immediately take action, as we know it is clearly the right thing to do.

But what of issues where there is less clarity? What about when what you’re seeing or hearing is enough for you to sense you should act, but not obvious enough for the course of action you should take to be clear?

Because domestic family violence is something that is not always obvious or identifiable, even for the victims and perpetrators themselves, it’s easy for us to see or hear something, sense our discomfort at its “wrongness” but justify it away.

A great illustration is: ‘If I find out that someone I know well, whom I know to be a “great person” has been verbally abusive to his or her partner, or squeezed their arm so hard it bruised; I would feel discomfort at having to confront this or do anything at all. In this situation many of us would probably find it easier to write it off as a “one time thing” or “having a bad day”, or say nothing at all.’

If we open our hearts to empathy for victims; if we understand that a culture of violence takes unity and community to change; if we’ve learned that what we see at one end of the spectrum whether it’s assault or murder, starts on the other end where there is less clarity or even intent; if we understand that issues like disrespect, gender inequality and discrimination can be a breeding ground for relationship violence, then we are less likely to be able to walk away and tell ourselves it’s none of our business.

When we are informed it makes us more aware and personally accountable, and as we hear so often in our church ‘I can’t do everything but I must do something’. We can no longer downplay what we are seeing because of what it entails to confront and hold a perpetrator of DFV accountable. When our values and convictions on the issue are firm, it makes it easier. Because it’s no longer if I act or respond, but how I respond.

We don’t have to become a victim of DFV for it to affect us. Let us consider the impact of our actions on the next generation, our children, nephews, nieces, cousins, grandchildren; the culture of the society they grow up in matters. We must remember that DFV is not just “out there”; it exists in our community, and in the church.

The response of ‘The Church’ to the issue of domestic family violence starts with each person taking personal ownership. We are ‘The Church’, this is our community and it’s safety and support for the women, men, and children that are affected is our responsibility.