Saturday, September 24, 2005

Once every nine seconds

Once every nine seconds someone is beaten by an intimate partner.

This was only one of many statistics shared by Cathy Dutko from the Alle-Kiski HOPE Center as she led a workshop on domestic violence at the Central Presbyterian Church in Tarentum.

Eighteen church leaders were present from nine congregations, as far away as the Bethel Presbyterian Church in Bethel Park and the Prospect Presbyterian Church near Butler. The Cheswick Presbyterian Church, the Janes United Methodist Church of Creighton, and the Central Presbyterian Church of Tarentum each sent their full pastoral staff.

Cathy DutkoCathy Dutko led the two-hour workshop, which included information about the many forms that abuse can take, as well as an appreciation of the various types of people who are abused.

It was important to understand how many reasons influence a victim's perception of his or her freedom to leave an abusive situation. The pattern of abuse takes a toll on a person's self-esteem, and often the victim has been isolated from any external support network and may lack awareness of how many forms of help are available.

The issue of respecting the victim's choices provoked a healthy discussion of how one determines when to intervene and the level at which one should intervene in an abusive situation. A very helpful observation was that when a person is asking for help it should be clear that the victim is in the middle of a crisis. That would be a time when action would be warranted.

Because victims may not be aware of their options, churches can do a lot to increase awareness. Some of the simple things a church can do would include having literature, posters, tear-off sheets with crisis phone numbers available and visible. Having a pastor preach a sermon on domestic violence would also help to create a climate of awareness within the congregation and community.

We ended the morning knowing we had only scratched the surface of this issue, but before we parted we prayed for the Spirit's guidance as we returned to places where we would minister.

The path ahead at Central will unfold in October, which happens to be Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Our Session has approved the Presbyterian Peacemaking Offering to be received on October 9, and our congregation uses the local portion of that offering to support the work at the HOPE Center.

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