Responding to Domestic & Family Violence
Throughout 2019 we have hosted seminars on Preaching, Evangelism, and Mental Health, as well as a Prayer Day in the city. Our final seminar for the year was on the important topic of Responding to Domestic and Family Violence, hosted on November 7, at Richmond Baptist Church. Special guest speaker, Carolyn Cousins, is a social worker and educator who specialises in training people working in the sector, including medical staff, police, and social workers, as well as speaking to churches and pastors. (And yes, she is Melinda’s sister).
Mike Mills spoke about the importance of addressing this topic and read from Australian Baptist Ministries’ National Council’s Statement on Domestic and Family Violence, which commits to increasing our awareness, making changes to the culture of our churches, supporting services helping people escape family violence, and advocating in this space.
Carolyn outlined the sobering prevalence of Domestic and Family Violence in Australian communities, including particularly vulnerable groups, as well as the effects and impact on those involved, children who are exposed to violence, and the wider community. She then helped us consider how we can understand the impact of trauma on people and their relational capacities and responses so that we can better understand and support people experiencing family violence. She talked through how we can respond well by ensuring safety, preventing further violence, enforcing accountability of those responsible, providing support for those experiencing violence, and referring people to appropriate services. We were also challenged as churches to encourage and model respectful relationships and healthy conflict in our context.
Melinda led us through a theological reflection on the topic, including specific challenges churches face and the mistakes we have too often made in the past. We reflected on biblical teaching on violence, power, justice, marriage, forgiveness, and repentance. In naming the complexities around this topic, we acknowledged the need to ensure our biblical and theological teaching is not misinterpreted and to be explicitly naming the sin of domestic and family violence. Pastors were encouraged to ask themselves how both perpetrators and victims will hear their preaching.
Anne van Loon from Baptist Care finished our time off with a review of the services and resources available to us here in South Australia. We are grateful to all who participated in this significant session.