Though this topic has been much discussed, it continues to be relevant. Movies from not so long ago showed even the “good guys” slapping or pushing their girlfriends around. We don’t see that so much anymore on television or in the movies, but now that so many are taking videos on their cell phones, we can see what happens in real life. What once happened behind closed doors is now out in the open. Thus, in spite of the advances that women have made in America, we have to be deeply troubled by the amount of violence against women and girls that continues to exist in our society. What can you and I do to change this situation? How can we eradicate domestic violence and other forms of violence against women and girls?
We have to start by educating ourselves, if we are to help ourselves and others. We know that domestic violence is any kind of violence that a person exerts on his or her significant other. This violence is not limited to physical violence. It also can be psychological violence, intimidation or coercion, a restriction on liberty of movement or any form of devaluation of the person. To be considered domestic violence, the violence must be between a person and their significant other—i.e., spouse or ex-spouse, lover or ex-lover, or any person with whom the perpetrator has or has had an intimate, consensual relationship. This distinction is necessary inasmuch as, in the past, society considered any situation or event that occurred within a relationship private, and no one had to interfere in any way. This attitude left many victims defenseless in cases of violence in the home. More information may be found on the PC(USA)'s domestic violence web pages.
After becoming knowledgeable on the subject, try new and different ways to get the message out. A sermon from the pulpit would have the largest audience and conveys the authority of the pastor to his or her listeners.
Make the story “personal.” Have a domestic violence survivor speak to your circle or church. A first-person account has great emotional impact.
Involve teens and young adults in the discussion. Ask them to prepare a skit for the congregation or their youth group. Have written material available. Be prepared to answer questions, but let the young people do the work so they have ownership of the project.
Have leaflets with information on domestic violence at your church’s reception table.
To convey your message outside your church, prepare, distribute and display fliers or posters in women’s restrooms with the local domestic violence hotline number.
Make a commitment to help a local women’s shelter. Ask about their needs before deciding how to help. In my experience, personal care items such as toilet tissue and sanitary napkins are often a shelter's greatest needs. And of course, financial help. Every year, our local shelter has had to close for weeks at a time, for lack of money to pay employees.
The last step is helping to change the future. The goal is to eradicate domestic violence. How can we achieve this goal?
1) Ask all sectors of society to repudiate domestic violence.
2) Promote gender equality. People don’t mistreat those they feel are their equals; instead, they abuse those whom they see as their inferiors. Women should participate fully in public life and expect and work toward having a place at the decision table. Gender equality should be taught and included in school textbooks from first grade on.
3) Helping people achieve self-respect. When people love and respect themselves they are capable of loving and respecting others. Jesus Christ taught us: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” If we can help ourselves and others achieve this, then we will be doing God’s will.
May the Lord help us,
Elba Luisa Rico
Representative, Synod of Boriquén
Churchwide Coordinating Team
Presbyterian Women in the PC(USA), Inc.