Over 1.3 million women are victims of domestic violence each year. Take a minute to mentally absorb how many women that is.
Now quickly, think of four women you know. According to statistics, one of those four is a domestic abuse victim. We need to reflect on, then properly respond to, these acts occurring in epidemic proportion in society today. October is national Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
We typically associate a certain stereotype with a victim of domestic violence. But, it affects individuals “in every community, regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality, or educational background.”
Psalm 34:18, says, “ The Lord is near the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit.”
The Bible does not teach that people may abuse one another. We are God’s children and deserve to be treated accordingly. God commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Our closest neighbors are our spouses and children. The apostle Paul taught that family members, out of devotion to Christ, can and should demonstrate mutual subjection, love, and respect.
Any attempt to help victims of domestic violence, sometimes referred to as intimate partner violence, must first begin with the safety of the victim, and any children in the home. Visit with your pastor before attempting to reach out to a victim. Research what is available in your community to help victims. Visit shelters, law enforcement officials, domestic violence outreach centers, and call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE, for more information.
Sandie Morgan, director of the Global Center for Women and Justice at Vanguard University, in her article on Influencemagazine.com, says, “Yours may be the only voice to break the silence. You may offer the only opportunity to speak up. When that happens, be ready. Trust your instincts and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
When Bethzaida Garcia married at a young age, she found her husband to be abusive. She fled Puerto Rico and escaped to Florida, where she more recently established Life in Your Hands, a ministry to bring awareness to the reality of domestic violence.
After speaking with Nino Gonzalez, who also serves as the district superintendent for the Florida Multicultural District Council, Garcia started a Fragile Soul ministry at the church. Through a seminar to prepare leaders to work with survivors and to create ministries in local churches, many women have been blessed.
“Beth has allowed God to use her own experience as a domestic violence survivor to share His redeeming power,” Gonzalez says. “She has gained the respect of local, city, and state government officials, and has been part of many task forces regarding family and healthy living.”
Bethzaida says, “In the United States, we have the education and we have access to news, but we still have domestic violence.”
Churchgoing families are not immune to these problems. In her role as a victims’ advocate, Garcia has spoken to church members and even pastors’ wives who have suffered the horrors of domestic violence.
Yet Garcia believes the Church can provide the solution. She says the first step toward becoming a place of refuge and healing is to talk about it rather than hiding it.
Women need help on many levels when they are struggling against domestic violence and abuse. When the church steps up to become a safe place for these women, they can bring hope, healing, and health back into their lives.
Here are some suggested resources for more on this topic:
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Violence Information and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/index.html
Life in Your Hands, directed by Beth Garcia, Orlando, Florida
“What Pastors Can Do to Help Domestic Violence Victims in the Church” by Grant L. Martin, with sidebar “Pastoral Response to the Abuser,” Enrichment journal, http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/200704/200704_122_DomViolence.cfm
“Ministering to Victims of Abuse,” by Melody Palm. https://influencemagazine.com/en/Practice/Ministering-to-Victims-of-Abuse
“Responding to Domestic Abuse” by Sandie Morgan.
 Clergy Committee of the Fourth Judicial Circuit Family Violence Coordinating Council. Used with permission.
“Responding to Domestic Abuse: Is your church a safe place for victims?” by Sandra Morgan, posted October 24, 2017. https://influencemagazine.com/en/Practice/Responding-to-Domestic-Abuse. Accessed October 10, 2018.
 “Rescuing the Hurting: A Conversation with Bethzaida Garcia” by Chris Colvin, posted July 10, 2018. https://influencemagazine.com/en/Practice/Rescuing-the-Hurting. Accessed October 10, 2018.