By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
On Tuesday, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales announced the publication of Raising Awareness of Domestic Abuse, published by the National Board of Catholic Women (NBCW). Abbot Hugh Allan, O.Praem., the Bishops’ Conference liaison with the NBCW, presented the document, recommending it “to all parishes and communities in England and Wales” as an “excellent resource for all of us.”
Greater awareness to help victims
The publication of the 30-page booklet is timely with domestic abuse on the rise since the Coronavirus lockdown. The booklet is “intended to raise awareness in the Church of the devastating effects of domestic abuse and violence,” writes Margaret Clark, President of the NBCW, in the booklet’s Preface. She acknowledges that the booklet does not exhaust the topic. However, she expresses the NBCW’s hope that it will encourages readers “to seek out and support such initiatives” and promote them at the local level. “Promoting a greater awareness of the problem will, together with the support of existing specialist support services and projects, be the most effective method by which Catholics will be able to help victims of domestic abuse,” Ms. Clark continues.
The booklet begins with a brief presentation of the theological perspective and practical aspects of the issue. It then defines domestic abuse and provides short explanations and specific examples of each different category of abuse.
Statistics presented in the booklet serve to demonstrate how prevalent domestic abuse is in the UK. It also reminds people that “domestic abuse is a crime that can happen to anyone regardless of their race, religion, economic or social situation” and that it happens to both men and women alike, although more prevalently to women. Many victims do not want to alert the police but seek “emotional support and advice” and are often afraid to leave their abuser because they may not have “the resources or connections necessary to live independently.” A section of the booklet is dedicated to stories of particular women, and even includes a prayer written by an abuse survivor.
Categories of victims
After treating what the Catholic Church says about domestic abuse, both on the universal and national levels, the booklet focuses on the plight of children and adolescents who witness it. Elder abuse is also covered, as well as the particular challenges faced by abuse victims in Black and minority communities, persons in non-heterosexual relationships, and persons with disabilities.
The booklet outlines various means of legal protection and the steps needed to apply for various court orders. “Domestic violence,” the booklet says, “is one of the leading causes of homelessness for women” and provides helpful information and contacts.
How everyone can help
Not stopping at the abuse victim, the booklet also provides helpful information by which anyone can help “tackle” the phenomenon. It directs specific recommendations to priests and parishioners. The documents ends with six pages listing contacts for various categories of domestic abuse victims.