C of E and other Christians – What you need to know
Violence against women and girls is at epidemic levels worldwide. It is often ignored by the church or condemned as something that happens “in other parts of the world”. It is very difficult to measure the levels of violence and abuse suffered by women and girls, and different research will give different statistics, but all the statistics show that far too many women and girls will be subjected to violence.
In simple terms VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls) encompasses sexual violence, domestic violence, prostitution, honour based violence, female genital mutilation, porn, gangs, trafficking and forced marriage.
Whilst it would be great to be able to support every form of violence from a Christian perspective this is unlikely to be possible on a localised basis. However, what is essential is to have the knowledge and ability to provide information and referral to services that are already providing support. This site will always be transient. The world of VAWG is changing constantly with changes in law, provision, funding and priority.
What is also important is to keep raising awareness, preaching on issues that affect VAWG, and acknowledging that offenders/perpetrators will be amongst congregations and potentially some colleagues. It is also important to acknowledge that whilst separation in any relationship is difficult, it is also a fundamental part of safety, and therefore must be acknowleged. Leaving and planning to leave a domestic violence setting are often the most dangerous periods. Suggesting marriage guidance/Relate services are not applicable for domestic violence and could potentially put women in further danger. Historically churches have been easy targets for offenders. Offenders may have volunteered to get involved and help out in situations that have given them easy access to vulnerable, adults and children. They will also have used their status to manipulate to come across as “nice”. The introduction of CRB disclosures does not protect establishments and all workers should be scutinised before appointment.
The importance of VAWG is reflected in the UN Human Rights Convention, and CEDAW makes representations to change laws and practise worldwide.
VAWG affects many aspect of life. Many people believe that it stems from patriarchal rules and regulations and religious practice. Also that Christians have appeared to condone violence by keeping quiet about it, and keeping it “in- house”. “Confessional” admittance of VAWG should not be ignored, whilst confidentiality is important so is the safety of others. Some clergy feel that confession will lead to a change in character/behaviour, and an admittance of the confessor’s guilt will make that change happen. This is incredibly naïve. As sinners, by their nature sin, and keep on sinning, expecting that an offender will stop, because they have admitted their sin, is not a safeguard that this will happen. If the Church wants to be seen as “not condoning”, they must act, and explain that that is the course of action that will happen.
Change is beginning to happen but within Christian circles this is quite slow. The time to address this is now!
Sexual violence is the title given to many types of violence. It covers: child sexual abuse, rape/ buggery, sexual harassment, stalking, grooming. 1 in 3 women will be subjected to sexual violence during their life time. Many victims of all types of violence may not be able/or know how to name what they have experienced. Trauma does not readily relate to the extent of the violence either.