Chart: Is Domestic or Sexual Violence a problem? In my community: 72% say yes. In my church: 25% say yes.

Responding faithfully to end Domestic Violence

Interest in the Faith-based Response to Domestic Violence training event, scheduled for June 6, from 8 AM to 5 PM at West Lawn UMC in Reading, is growing as districts prepare to submit participant teams for consideration. The conference-wide training opportunity represents a partnership between the Eastern PA Conference and the national offices of United Methodist Women, United Methodist Men and FaithTrust Institute, which will facilitate the training.

The selection committee will try to ensure diversity in gender, racial-ethnicity, church size and other demographics among teams consisting of up to 6 members each. Organizers want to attract participants who have genuine interest in helping churches to learn about domestic violence and to engage in collaborative, compassionate, multi-dimensional responses to a persistent but too-often ignored social and spiritual crisis.

Sharon Hachtman, a nurse and deaconess whose ministry is advocacy against domestic violence and support for victims, is coordinating the event. She secured UMW funding for the training and says national leaders of UMW, UMM and the Seattle-based FaithTrust Institute are excited about our conference’s potential for developing effective, broad-based solutions.

“There is much we can learn, and this will be a huge opportunity for us to support one another in this ministry of justice,” she said.

Read the following article by Hachtman, who shares insights about women suffering and recovering from domestic violence and the urgent responsibility of churches and faith groups to respond. Hachtman can be reached at shhooma@live.com or 570-460-7301.

‘When one is hurt, we are all hurt’

By Sharon Hachtman, RN, Deaconess

As a deaconess I work in advocacy efforts for victims of domestic violence. God’s calling led me to a domestic violence agency where I worked as a nurse to minister to women who had fled abusive relationships.

Every day I saw evidence of the violence in broken bones, bruises, brain injuries and bite marks. I saw people with depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome. I witnessed the reality of sexually transmitted diseases and forced pregnancies due to birth-control sabotage by controlling partners. I saw women who had a total disconnect from their personal health, living day-to-day in survival modes, seeking safety, shelter, food, childcare, and a source of income.

We must consider wellness as a holistic journey of physical, mental, psychological, emotional, relational, spiritual, and environmental health. God, who created us, wants us to be healthy. As people living in a fallen world we face a constant challenge to find healing from the brokenness within ourselves and others.

As a nurse in shelter I designed wellness programs that offered clients ways to build their self-worth and reconnect pieces of their broken health. As humans, one of our greatest strengths is our ability to connect to one another. When you affirm me, I am empowered, and in turn, I see the value of affirming others.

In working with victims of domestic violence I’ve learned to simply be present, to honor their struggle and let them know I care. That is my connecting point to them. It also places me squarely in the center of a holy space, because God is already there loving them.

I found myself constantly challenged at the shelter. It is not enough to teach good nutrition if I don’t consider the cost, the quality, or the availability of food. It is not helpful to educate women about the importance of being proactive instead of just reactive when it comes to health care if we don’t establish connections with community health resources to make health care accessible.

It doesn’t serve any purpose to warn about the safety risks of substandard housing if we don’t provide people with pathways to advocate and find housing for themselves and their children. And it is harmful when we do not honor the human need for essential spiritual health.

As a woman of faith I bring a voice that is certain of God’s deep love for each of us and God’s amazing, boundless capacity to heal our wounds. I am concerned about the historical silence, or worse yet, the harm that has been done by communities of faith. Too often we have offered roadblocks instead of resources to victims who seek sanctuary and safety within our doors.

The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV) urges faith leaders to become better informed about the power and control issues of domestic violence. We need to develop protocols and systems that ensure access and knowledgeable referrals to emergency resources in our communities.

The Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune of FaithTrust Institute in Seattle, Wash., challenges faith leaders to speak up to their congregations and begin the process of sensitizing listeners to the great harm domestic violence does to families, communities and society. Nationally, United Methodist Men and United Methodist Women are partnering in a “dual witness” to assert that faith community responses are not to be developed as simply programs for women, but as an “imperative about violence.”

Mississippi Area Bishop James Swanson, president of the United Methodist General Commission on United Methodist Men, states, “This [partnership] will be a witness that the world and the church both need, as we seek to bring healing and wholeness to women, children and families that have suffered for far too long. The church has either ignored or refused to bring the full power that God has given us to bear upon this evil.”

Marie Fortune says, “God continues to speak through the voices of women and men who understand that the community of God calls us to respect the value of each individual and…acknowledge that when one is hurt, we are all hurt”.

On Saturday, June 6, our Eastern PA Conference has a powerful opportunity to step into the gap. We are one of two conferences across the nation selected to receive special training for church teams by FaithTrust Institute educators.They will guide us forward in important ways to promote lasting systemic change. They will:

  • Educate us about the nature of domestic violence.
  • Affirm our value as church communities in providing safety and spiritual support to victims, as well as accountability of abusers.
  • Help us identify ways to join the network of community resources already present in our neighborhoods.
  • Encourage us to trust that God will show us how to use the training in the ministries to which we are called.
  • Equip us to share our learning with other UM churches in our districts.

We might ask, “How am I involved?” Eastern PA Conference Youth and Young Adult Ministries Coordinator David Piltz answers this question well with three more questions and an answer: “Are you in ministry with others? Does your ministry touch the lives of others? Do you know that one of the biggest issues we face today is domestic violence in all its forms? Wherever you are called…if you are doing ministry, then you are dealing with domestic violence.…Even if you don’t think you are…YOU ARE!”

This article is from remarks Sharon Hachtman will present to the Northwest District UM Women on April 25, 2015.