October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the Soul Care Collective exists to equip the Body of Christ to care for others, including the most vulnerable in our society. Clergy and lay leaders alike need to know the signs of Domestic Violence and how to help those who confide in us. Here are some things you need to know.
Common signs that abuse is taking place
Marked fearfulness around partner or family member
Unusually heavy makeup or wearing sunglasses indoors
Long sleeves in warm weather
Unwillingness to make eye contact
Frequent absence from work/school/church with poor excuses or no explanation
Control of money
Isolation from friends and family
Always accompanied by partner or family member
Not allowed to speak for self
5 Ways to Help
1) Be informed ahead of time! There are many ways to become trained to spot potential abuse and what you can do to intervene. Research into what services (if any) are offered in your local community. You can find information at the local health department or sheriff’s department. Many domestic violence advocacy agencies gladly offer free training. Especially if you are in a helping profession, make it a point to get to know the professionals in your area who are best equipped to help those in crisis situations.
2) Be sensitive! Believe the victim. Don’t blame the victim. Offer a listening ear, not criticism or advice. Refer the victim to services that may be helpful. Don’t ever minimize any danger she may be in. Often, danger is already minimized in the victim’s mind because the violence has become normalized and may not be visible to the person in the midst of the crisis.
3) Gift the victim with the power of choice! The primary dynamic that is at the root of domestic violence is a power and control dynamic. The abuser takes power and control away from the victim, so the best way to combat this dynamic is to help the victim regain power and control. Rather than telling her what she must do to improve her situation, ask her what she would like to see happen in her situation. Then, offer several choices of ways she can meet those goals.
4) Be confidential! Be sure that you inform the victim as soon as she discloses the abuse that anything she says to you will remain completely confidential unless she is in danger of hurting herself or others, or if there is a mandatory reporting situation.
5) Know the law! Many states have mandatory reporting laws that require certain people (such as clergy and counselors) to report instances of abuse. Know the law in your state, so you will know what (if any) information you must report to the authorities. Be honest with the victim about what things you must report and what things are not necessary to report. For abuse victims, trust is extremely difficult to give, and you cannot help someone if you break his or her trust.
There have been many helpful posts on our blog regarding domestic violence and abuse. To read more, see the links to past posts below.