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Church condemns domestic abuse and encourages support for survivors

The Archbishops’ Council has commended a set of guidelines for anyone with pastoral responsibility as part of the Church’s commitment to victims of domestic abuse and to addressing the circumstances that lead to such abuse.

Responding to Domestic Abuse: Guidelines for those with pastoral responsibility encourages parishes and clergy to take domestic abuse seriously and to be honest and open about its occurrence. It encourages the condemnation of domestic abuse and the support of those who suffer domestic abuse, providing introductory guidelines for adopting good practice and working in partnership with other agencies.

The aim of these guidelines is to inform, direct and equip those working at a local level that want to offer the most appropriate care and support. These include clergy, readers and pastoral assistants, as well as those who may be entrusted with their stories by victims, survivors or perpetrators.

Responding to Domestic Abuse was produced by a group set up following a motion passed by General Synod in July 2004. The motion called for national guidelines and for dioceses to consider how they could work with other agencies and ‘speak out against the evil of domestic violence’.

Launching the guidelines, the Rt Rev Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, said: “We hope that these guidelines will play a small part in helping break down the silence and secrecy surrounding domestic abuse and equipping any of us entrusted by victim, survivor or perpetrator to offer the most appropriate care. These guidelines build on much good work already happening in dioceses and other agencies.”

Davina James-Hanman, Director of the Greater London Domestic Abuse Project, welcomed the publication: “Domestic violence wreaks devastation on thousands of families in the UK every year – physically, emotionally and spiritually. For many victims, their faith can play a key role in supporting them in a time of upheaval and in helping them to heal from its effects. Church leaders can play a vital role in educating congregations and in ensuring that churches can be a safe haven for victims to get help and support. The key to effectively addressing domestic violence is partnership working and I am pleased that the Church of England is joining us in our quest to ensure every home is a safe home.”

Kathleen Ben Rabha, Community Affairs Adviser to the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich and the mover of the motion that led to the guidelines, said: “This is evidence that the Church of England is recognising the issue of Domestic Violence and its catastrophic impact on people - women, men and children -  and is preparing itself for a more informed pastoral response.”

Responding to Domestic Abuse: Guidelines for those with pastoral responsibility can be read on the Church of England website, is published by Church House Publishing and is available, priced £5.99, from Christian bookshops including Church House Bookshop, 31 Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BN, tel 020-7898 1300, e-mail bookshop@c-of-e.org.uk, on the web at: www.chbookshop.co.uk (mail order available).