Survey reveals evangelical work to tackle domestic violence

By staff writers
December 15, 2009

Churches may be donating millions of pounds every year towards tackling domestic abuse, as well as counselling tens of thousands of victims and providing hundreds of thousands of nights of accommodation, a new survey has indicated in the run-up to Christmas – the most violent time of year in the home.

The findings come after an online survey on domestic abuse was sent to approximately 2,500 member churches of the Evangelical Alliance.

Although exact figures cannot be extrapolated reliably, 230 of its member churches responded. Of those, 81 per cent felt they had a responsibility to address the issue in their communities.

Almost one in three churches gave an average of £540 a year to charities supporting victims of domestic abuse, with 43 per cent donating gifts such as food, toys and clothing to refugees. If these figures were typical of churches in the UK, including an adjustment for church size, then the UK church would be providing £6.5 million to domestic abuse charities and organisations each year.

More than half of the churches surveyed provided counselling to victims of domestic abuse. Twenty-two per cent had counselled perpetrators of domestic abuse. Sixteen per cent of the churches provided on average 290 nights accommodation each year to victims.

The problem of domestic abuse was widely recognised, with 58 per cent of churches saying they could be doing more to respond. Only five per cent felt they were doing enough already. Problems hindering churches doing more included a lack of volunteers (71 per cent), lack of knowledge about how to help (58 per cent) and lack of finances (32 per cent).

Forty-one per cent felt the issue of domestic abuse needed to be talked about more in their church.

The evangelical churches who had women in overall leadership were also significantly more likely to donate money (50 per cent against 29 per cent), send volunteers to help (14 per cent v 12 per cent), donate gifts (52 per cent v 41 per cent), provide counselling to victims (73 per cent v 56 per cent), provide mentoring to perpetrators (41 per cent v 22 per cent), provide accommodation (23 per cent v 15 per cent), and refer victims to other support agencies (59 per cent v 33 per cent).

Female-led churches also seemed to make it easier for people to come forward asking for help, especially among members of the congregation. In almost half of female-led congregations, someone in the church had asked for help, where the figure was 34 per cent among male-led congregations.

Steve Clifford, General Director of the Evangelical Alliance, said: “Domestic abuse is a huge problem in this country, but it is an issue churches often find difficult to tackle. We are encouraged that so many churches are seeking to respond in practical ways and we hope that more will be motivated to engage further.

“Domestic abuse often increases at Christmas, so we would particularly encourage churches to be ready to respond at this time.”

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