From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSANEWS] Love hurts

Date 19 Feb 2003 15:36:49 -0500

Note #7594 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

Love hurts

Love hurts

Household terrorism is focus of Valentine's Day event 

by John Filiatreau

If an enemy had reviled me, that I could bear; If my foe had viewed me with
contempt, from that I could hide. But it was you, my other self, my comrade
and friend, You, whose company I enjoyed, at whose side I walked ...

- Psalm 55

LOUISVILLE - About 40 members of the national staff of the Presbyterian
Church (USA) observed Valentine's Day with an "observance" for victims of
domestic violence.

The noontime program, organized by the Office of Women's Advocacy and Women's
Ministries, was a somber reminder of the terrorism too often involved in what
is jocularly called "the war between the sexes."

Speakers pointed out that a woman is physically abused in the United States
every 12 to 15 seconds, and a woman is sexually assaulted in our supposedly
enlightened society every two minutes.

Participants viewed a sample of evocative T-shirts created by survivors of
domestic abuse for the Clothesline Project, which conducts therapeutic
workshops for victims and their families at locations around the country,
including the Center for Women and Families in downtown Louisville. 

The dozen or so shirts - sad but spirited, all festooned with messages of
hurt, sorrow, anger and re-awakened self-regard - are part of a collection of
more than 700. 

Katheryne Goodman, coordinator of the women's advocacy office, kicked off the
event by presenting some of the appalling statistics. She noted that 95
percent of abuse victims in this country are women, and that in more than
two-thirds of cases, children in the household are also direct or secondary

Among the most striking of a long litany of unpleasant facts: Four women in
the United States are killed in a typical day by a husband or partner; and
domestic abuse is the nation's number-one cause of birth defects.

Wilma Bennett, chair of the Justice for Women project of Central Kentucky
Presbytery, described a packet of resources the presbytery has prepared for
congregations and for families faced with the problems of domestic abuse,
child abuse and elder abuse.

Other speakers observed that Christian pastors, including Presbyterians, have
often responded to pleas for help from victims of domestic violence with
silence or with suggestions that the women "must be doing something to prompt
this (violent) behavior" in their men.

Jane Larson Wigger, pastor of Crescent Hill Presbyterian Church in
Louisville, observed that the church "has been part of the problem as often
as part of the healing." Peter Sulyok, coordinator of the Advisory Committee
for Social Witness Policy, said Christians must "acknowledge our complicity"
in such violence; Curtis Kearns, director of National Ministries Division,
said it's time to face up to "shameful things about our society that we don't
like to admit"; and Nancy Troy, associate for Social Welfare Ministries,
noted that "the most dangerous place for a woman is in a rigid, conservative
religious home."

Troy noted that nearly every crowd that gathers to talk about or pray over
domestic violence includes "victims, survivors, prepetrators and bystanders."

The program for the event sai dthe church must "live up to its pastoral and
prophetic role to hear the abuse, hold the abuser accountable, and be God's
good instrument of healing ... (and) must work for changes in society so that
violence is not accepted or in anyw ay legitimated."

Kate Rudd, community educator for the Center for Women and Families, said
"the only known risk factor" for domestic abuse is "being a woman."

"Domestic violence is everywhere," she said. "It is all around us."

Rudd said the questions she is most often asked about victims of such
violence is, "Why does she stay? What's wrong with her?" She said victims may
stay for many reasons, including fear, love, economic dependency, the sake of
children, and love, often coupled with an unreasonable hope that the
perpetrator will change his behavior.

Rudd pointed out that the center offers free, confidential services for
victims and families, including counseling, financial assistance and
emergency shelter, in English or another language, without regard as to
whether the client is a legal U.S. resident or an "illegal," and "whether the
abuse happened yesterday or 10 years ago."

She said the center's residential facility, which has a capacity of 48 but
usually has around 60 residents, "is full, 100 percent of the time." 

Rudd said the center has served 30,000 victims in the past year - people from
all walks of life, religious backgrounds and social classes.

Goodman concluded on a hopeful note, with a quotation from anthropologist
Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a few dedicated human beings can change the
world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

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