Whole-of-church response to family violence

Whole-of-church response in combatting domestic and family violence

If violence has its source in the human heart, then it is fundamental that nonviolence be practised before all else within families… From within families, the joy of love spills out into the world and radiates to the whole of society. [17] An ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence between individuals and among peoples cannot be based on the logic of fear, violence and closed-mindedness, but on responsibility, respect and sincere dialogue. …I plead with equal urgency for an end to domestic violence and to the abuse of women and children.

Pope Francis, Message for World Day of Peace 2017 #5

During the pandemic there has been significant increase in reporting of instances of domestic and family violence and abuse – to both police and help lines. As Victoria and parishes open up and we are able to be in community with each other again, accompanying one another and our communities, pointing to supports that are available is important. 

In a letter to sent to parish priests of Victoria recently, Chair of Catholic Social Services Victoria’s Domestic Violence Working Group and Executive Director of Good Samaritan Inn, Felicity Rorke wrote, “COVID-19 has created a range of social issues but has also worked to compound problems that existed long before this state of crisis. Catholic social service agencies are reporting more complexity and an increase in calls to helplines regarding domestic violence.” 

Citing a recent report by Monash University Gender & Family Violence Prevention Centre, she states that there are “disturbing trends” including:

  • Perpetrators of violence have and are using COVID-19 to restrict women’s movements, gain access to women’s residences and coerce women into residing with them if they usually reside separately
  • victim survivors have reported less ability to seek help
  • case workers report that violence has become more extreme, especially if perpetrator is at home 24/7that people experiencing emotional abuse are now increasingly experiencing physical abuse and that more violence has been reported to include children.

“Catholic Social Services Victoria’s Domestic Violence Working Group have been meeting regularly to respond and develop a whole-of-Church response to violence in the home. We write to make sure you know we stand to be a resource, and to request you to join with us in our work,” she wrote. 

“Many Catholic social service organisations work to respond to the situation of victim survivors, and together we long for a country and culture where violence in the home does not happen. To make this ideal closer to reality we must be intentional and create change at a community level.” 

“Government is funding service responses, but research shows faith communities have a significant role to play. The need to be aware of what constitutes as violence, to be able to identify and work through the factors that perpetuate such levels of violence in our communities, as well as being equipped to respond with Christian love and concern is an ongoing task for us all.” 

“Together with social services and schools, parishes have a key role to play to be a part of a whole of Church approach to community awareness and prevention, and a just and compassionate response to violence in the home. COVID-19 has amplified and compounded the need for attentive action.” 

To start a phase of work, Catholic Social Services Victoria (CSSV) has developed a poster with some key telephone numbers, that can be placed in parish or school offices should someone seek help, on a noticeboard to catch someone’s eye, or sent around electronically to increase awareness of options and what services are available to assist someone if they are facing issues of domestic violence. This new poster is part of CSSV’s efforts to update the 2016 Responding to Domestic Violence – Parish Resource Kit.

Commenting on the letter and resources, Executive Director of Catholic Social Services Victoria, Joshua Lourensz said, “We look forward to working together, social services and parishes in partnership, to develop and implement a whole-of-Church approach and address the issues of domestic and family violence in Victoria.”

Download poster here.