Physical Abuse Happens in Christian Homes, Too

Post a Comment » Written on August 20th, 2009     
Filed under: News
CHICAGO, IL (August 20, 2009) – Yvonne DeVaughn sat in churches wishing she could tell another person that someone had sexually assaulted her from the time she was six years old until she turned 17, when he impregnated her.

It would be years later before she told anyone. “I wonder if my life would have been different if I had known that it was okay to talk about it,” she says.

“I think there’s a real misperception out there that this doesn’t happen in Christian homes, or at least not as much as in non-Christian homes,” says DeVaughn, the director of Advocacy for Victims of Abuse (AVA), an initiative of the Department of Women ministries. “It happens in Christian homes as much as in non-Christian homes.”

DeVaughn hopes churches will participate in the Covenant’s Domestic Violence Awareness Sunday on October 4.

“There is such a need for awareness and sensitivity in our churches so victims feel it is a safe place and not just a healing place,” DeVaughn says. “There is so much shame around battery and sexual assault that people are terrified of coming forward. It’s almost like having a scarlet letter put upon you, and you’re afraid that people will look down on you.”

People often stay in abusive situations because they don’t know where to turn for help or how they will survive, she says. That is especially true if the victims don’t have financial resources to live independently.

Even if they are able to escape the violence, victims frequently wind up in other abusive situations, she finds. DeVaughn, 60, has been married 41 years to a husband she says has been wonderful. “I’ve been one of the fortunate ones.”

People also suffer spiritually when they are physically abused. It is common for victims to turn from their faith in God as a result.

“It’s just a part of your soul that gets torn up and conflicted,” DeVaughn says.

Churches increasingly are addressing the issue of domestic violence. In February, the men’s group at Congregational Covenant Church in North Easton, Massachusetts, raised $36,000 for two local agencies helping battered women. To read a previous Covenant News Service story, click here.

Still, DeVaughn says, much work remains. Congregation members and pastors may find it hard to accept that someone who is a friend also is abusing their spouse or children. Additionally, churches may not know where to turn for resources.

DeVaugn notes that the denomination offers numerous resources or links to information. The AVA network also includes trained regional coordinators. The coordinators equip local churches to minister to victims of domestic violence and childhood sexual abuse.

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