Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Choosing to see black and blue March 16, 2015

IF YOU ARE PART OF A FAITH community, what is your church doing to raise awareness and help victims, survivors and families/friends of those involved in domestic violence/abuse?

Nothing? Something?

I hadn’t considered this in depth until reading an article, Aiming for AWARENESS, CARING RESPONSE—Domestic violence task force to hold spring training sessions, in the March issue of Reporter, the official newspaper of The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.

A snippet of the domestic violence poster published by the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.

A snippet of the domestic violence poster published by the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.

Additionally, the paper includes an insert, Domestic Violence and Abuse is Everyone’s Concern—There Are No Gender Or Socioeconomic Barriers, for posting in churches.

I am pleased to see the LCMS working on this issue which has been so much in the public eye in recent months. It’s important that clergy, parish nurses and other church workers understand domestic abuse and learn how to assist by listening, by offering help, hope and referrals, and by educating parishioners.

I’ve read conflicting data on the number of women who experience domestic violence. Some sources say one in three. Others one in six. Whatever the correct number, one is one too many. (Note here that I am well aware that men are also victims. But, since the majority are women, that is the reference I am using in this post.)

Among people I am connected to, either directly or indirectly, 10 women have been/are being abused. Two of them were murdered by the men who supposedly loved them.

Last year in Minnesota, at least 23 individuals were killed due to violence from a current or former intimate partner, according to a report issued by the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women. You can read that full report by clicking here.

As LCMS Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Task Force Chair Kim Schave says, “Domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone.”

Don’t think it can’t.

And let’s remember the secondary victims—children, parents, siblings, friends… They, too, need support, encouragement and healing.

The faith-based Salvation Army South Africa’s recent campaign, WHY IS IT SO HARD TO SEE BLACK AND BLUE, utilizing a photo of that infamous black and blue striped (or gold and white striped depending on what you see) dress is brilliant. A subtext published in the Cape Times newspaper stated, “The only illusion is if you think it was her choice.”

While I still cannot see a black and blue dress, the message is absolutely clear to me. We all need to start seeing domestic abuse in all its forms. Sometimes the abuse is visible. Often it is not. Emotional abuse (lies, manipulation, controlling behavior, etc.) is even more common than physical abuse. Domestic abuse can also take the form of spiritual abuse.

We need to understand that these women are not to blame for the abuse inflicted upon them. We need to understand that they are being manipulated/controlled/brainwashed. We need to understand that “love” and mind control are powerful. We need to understand that we cannot simply swoop in and “rescue” them.

Knowledge is power.

What have you learned about domestic abuse in recent months with the spotlight shining on the issue? What are you doing with that knowledge? If you are part of a faith community, what is your church doing, if anything? Do you know a survivor of domestic abuse or someone currently in an abusive situation (no names or identifying details, please)? Let’s hear your voice and insights.

FYI: If you are in an abusive situation, contact the 24/7 National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

I’d encourage you to learn more about domestic violence from a personal perspective by checking out (click here) “My Inner Chick,” a blog written by a Minnesota woman whose sister was abused and murdered by her husband. Be sure to read the comments section. This blog and the comments posted therein are powerful.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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