By Elspeth Kernebone
28 March 2022
CHURCHES have the chance to improve their capacity to handle family violence with new sessions of a training course available from the diocese’s Prevention of Violence Against Women program.
Its aim is to empower churches to take whatever steps lie within their capacity to prevent violence against women.
Anglican Diocese of Melbourne PVAW program manager Kerryn Lewis said the training would help churches consider how they could take a whole of church approach to preventing violence. She said this could mean looking at everything from sermons, to how the playgroup was run, or whether bystander training was an option.
Ms Lewis said even simple actions such as making sure there was a gender balance in all aspects of church life – from parish council to the morning tea roster – could help.
She said women and men had also often found catharsis and healing in the conversations between genders sparked during the training.
Ms Lewis said training would help build momentum of the family violence project, which was on the precipice of building across the diocese.
She said the National Anglican Family Violence Research Report released in 2021 confirmed that violence was taking place in the church at the same or higher rate than in broader society.
This report found 22 per cent of Anglicans surveyed who had ever been in an adult intimate relationship said they had experienced a violent relationship with any partner.
When presented with specific instances of violence, 44 per cent said they experienced this.
It found that unintentionally, Christian teachings could sometimes contribute to and potentially amplify situations of family violence, and that perpetrators misused Christian teachings and positional power.
Ms Lewis said there had been a lot of public criticism of the family violence situation in the church, but she hoped people would engage with the steps the church was taking in that area. She said it was important to focus on what churches could do to prevent family violence.
“As Christians we have a role to play in this. The church is doing something really good, and to continue to focus on the negatives is quite paralysing,” she said.
“The church is such a unique place in this sector, it’s really powerful. The church can have a powerful effect on preventing violence against women, it can not only prevent, but provide response and healing for people who have experienced violence.
“The training can help churches to start to think about this issue. And start to think about what they can do as a church.”
A University of Melbourne evaluation of the diocese’s Prevention of Violence Against Women program pilot found training participants experienced substantial changes in their skills and confidence to identify and respond to violence against women.
The evaluation also found capacity-building activities and resources helped faith leaders to take ownership of intentional prevention messaging within their parishes.
The training program addresses responding to disclosures of family violence, and what to do if someone in your parish is experiencing family violence, as well as steps churches can take to prevent family violence.
The diocese will run two training session on Saturday 14 May and Saturday 4 June. More information is available online at: bit.ly/3NervD0.
To find out more, or express interest in running training tailored to your parish, contact Kerryn Lewis, at firstname.lastname@example.org.