Local diocese on mission to ensure clergy equipped to handle domestic violence

The Anglican Church is training its clergy to deal with the scourge of domestic violence.

In addition to looking at a facility that can help some of those in need of assistance, Chairman of the church’s Commission on Advocacy and Social Justice, John Goddard, said they were hoping overall to bring stability to the situation.

Goddard’s comments came as he noted the church’s alarm over the recent deaths of women as a result of domestic violence.

“As the commission has been stressing in its family violence campaign over the last year, all human beings, having been made in the image of God have inherent worth and dignity which must be respected. Abuse and violence devalue the image in both the perpetrator and the victim and must be condemned.

“We take this opportunity to remind both men and women that striking out violently is not an appropriate nor acceptable response to feelings of hurt or disappointment. As rational beings we need to find civilised ways of resolving conflict and where efforts fail we need to walk away from unwholesome relationships,” said the clergyman, who noted too that men needed to understand that relationships were based on mutual respect and not control of one’s partner.

He further encouraged the Attorney General to “fast track a new domestic violence act, which would make it easier for the police to act decisively to deal with cases of domestic violence”.

As to what the church is actively doing, the commission chairman said they had done a sensitisation programme, television programme, flyers, posters, as well as sensitised the clergy and other members on the issue.

More victims were turning to the church, he noted according to a CADRES survey, adding that the abused often saw it as a first resort.

“So we want to make sure we equip them that they can get the job done well because you can’t assume that because somebody’s a priest he will know how to deal with matters like this.

“Not all priests are trained counsellors. We need now to embark on this. We are hoping now to have introduced at Codrington, we are hoping to encourage the church to have built into their programme at Codrington College, training for priests and lay persons to deal with cases of abuse. We think that is now a priority.”

Additionally, he said they were now preparing the individual parishes for action in their own parishes.

“Ideally we are hoping that centres will be set up and staffed to be at least first respondents when people have cases they can go and where the staff, personnel can’t help they can at least direct people to the appropriate resources and facilitate it, not just let them to go but make the contact for them. Our first attempt is to bring stability to the situation and give the initial help.

“That’s what we’re trying to encourage the church to take on board. So we’re looking at that. The ultimate goal, of course, is to make sure the church has one main centre in the diocese which is staffed with all kinds of trained individuals who can deal with these cases so that the church can actually have a hands on when dealing with the matter.”

While not calling it a shelter, Goddard said the focus was to provide support and counselling, which was necessary for both perpetrator and victim. (LB)

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