After you have organized workshops, or a Bible study and a worship service in your congregation about violence against women, what comes next? Here are a list of suggestions for you to consider as you work further on this issue.
Maintain an awareness of survivor issues in your church.
One worship service is not the answer to making survivors feel included. Have members of your group commit to bringing prayer concerns about violence against women to the congregation at various points during the year. Become aware of workshops being offered on this topic, and commission someone from your congregation to attend and report back on their experience.
Provide support groups.
Women who are dealing with violence need people around them to support them. Your church could organize a support group. It may be for someone in your church, it may be for someone that you know in the community. It may be that you don’t know anyone who needs a support group. If you have a group of people who are educated about the issue, caring and compassionate, and are willing to be supportive, just letting the congregation know that you are there is a step that may lead someone to ask for help.
A support group should consist of 3 to 5 people who are committed to walking with someone for an extended period of time. This group is committed to
- empowering the core member who has experienced violence
- allowing the core member to make decisions for herself
- not being judgmental
- praying with and for each other
- helping in practical ways
- going to court with the woman
- accompanying her to the lawyer’s office
- helping find housing
- helping to find or offering child-care
- conveying needs to larger church community
- remembering to maintain confidentiality, and with the permission of the woman, the group may turn to the church for help with a financial burden or collecting resources like furniture
Educate children and youth.
Learn about the Christian education program for children in your congregation. The way children are taught about God influences them for the rest of their lives. Spend time speaking with teachers and looking through the curriculum that your church uses. Think about the education that children get at school about sexuality, as well as the programming that they see on TV. Church teaching should address the questions children have from a faith perspective.
Are there ways that children are encouraged to think positively about their bodies as gifts from God?
Is there anything in the curriculum that encourages discussion of healthy boundaries? Does the curriculum assume that every child has a mother and father that lives at home, or does it allow for a variety of family groupings?
Are there balanced images of girls and boys?
Does it assume that parents always are right, and need to be obeyed, or is there openness to seeing that parents make mistakes?
Does the curriculum use any of the stories in the Bible that talk about violence or abuse?
(Contact your denominational office for resources that specifically address this topic, or see the resource section of this handbook.)
Have a movie night.
After a series of workshops about violence, your group may be ready for an evening where they sit back and enjoy a film. A good choice on this topic is Chocolat. This movie is about a woman who owns a chocolate shop. She decides to befriend a woman who has been battered; the story follows the reaction of the community and church. While dealing with heavy issues, the movie has a light touch that is at times humorous and interesting.
Equip your church library.
Make sure that the library in your church has resources on violence against women that are geared towards both children and adults. There is a good listing of resources in the bibliography section of this website. You may want to raise money for this project by holding a lunch, or sponsoring a movie night with refreshments. Once you have the resources in the library, encourage people to use them! This can be done by writing book or movie reviews in your church newsletter or bulletin.
Help organizations that help women.
Talk to the people in your community who run shelters or sexual assault centres or transition houses. Learn about the local needs. Is there need for furniture, clothing, or food? Your church may be able to help. Do they need financial help? Your church could collect an offering for a special project that they are undertaking. Do they need maintenance of buildings or yards? Perhaps you could help to organize a workday to help. Shelters often hold fund-raising events, and people from your group could volunteer their time. Some people in your group may be willing to make a longer commitment, and want to volunteer in the shelter or transition house, or for a crisis line. This usually involves a training program. Contact your local women’s organizations to see what opportunities are available.
Monitor the media.
Attitudes about violence against women are shaped by the media. As you see the news, whether on the TV or the internet or print media — how is violence against women reported?
You may notice that violence that happens to certain groups is minimized or under-reported. For example, how is the disappearance or murder of First Nations women covered? Watch for biases, and make your opinion known. Encourage your local newspaper to do investigative reporting showing the difficulties survivors face. Write letters to the editor commenting on the dedication of people who work to help survivors.
Become politically aware.
The government that we elect makes policy decisions about services for survivors of violence. If you are aware that there is a lack of services, become politically active and lobby for increased funding. Write letters to your members of parliament. Visit your local politicians on both a municipal, provincial and federal level. Your voice counts, particularly if you join with other like-minded people in a letter-writing campaign. During elections, be aware of the policy direction which different parties take, and use your vote to make a difference.