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Homosexual rights activists gain influence in public schools (10/17/04)

Church’s prayer births children’s ministry (10/17/04)

Partner program revitalizes dying church (10/10/04)

Church music festival attracts variety of visitors (10/10/04)

Churches urge compassion for alienated smokers (9/19/04)

Youth ride wooden waves in church parking lots (9/12/04)

A/G, COGIC join forces through inner-city campus (9/12/04)

Christians respond to victimized women and children (8/29/04)

Growing slavic church shares new facility (8/29/04)

Couple embarks on capitol prayer tour (8/29/04)

ADHD requires multifaceted treatment approach (8/22/04)

Small congregation grows — by planting churches (8/22/04)

‘Under God’ stays in Pledge of Allegiance, at least for now (8/8/04)

Church reaches out to those feeling loss (8/8/04)

Churches act pre-emptively to reduce risk of abuse (7/25/04)

Credit cards ensnare record number of Americans (7/25/04)

Church helps out with donated CD, recycled buses (7/25/04)

New wave of pastors minister to emerging adults (7/18/04)

‘Walking Witnesses’ raise thousands for missions (7/18/04)

Healing center offers alternative medicine (7/18/04)

Growing number of Hispanics impact economy (7/11/04)

'Busy' couple finds time for compassion ministry (7/11/04)

Hand-copied Bible leaves 40-year legacy (7/11/04)

Pastor ends hunger strike when strip club promises to sell (6/27/04)

‘Military survival kit’ requests inundate A/G (6/27/04)

Fourth of July outreach draws thousands (6/27/04)

Drivers warned to steer clear of distractions (6/27/04)

Pastors face more counseling demands (6/20/04)

Church uses touch of ‘flavor’ to reach community (6/20/04)

Outrageous self-expression often starts, stops at home (6/13/04)

Runner raises $5,200 for Convoy of Hope (6/13/04)

Euphemisms tempt Christians to conveniently shed sin, guilt (5/30/04)

Funds for Easter play buy groceries instead (5/30/04)

Identity theft threatens millions of Americans (5/23/04)

Spanish speakers face challenges, opportunities in United States culture (5/16/04)

Health experts implore Americans to get fit (5/9/04)

Leaders say Christian faith stems recidivism (4/25/04)

Riders feel at home in Orlando sanctuary (4/18/04)

Churches try to keep human touch with new media (4/11/04)

Christians see Passion as ministry opportunity (3/28/04)

Tutoring improves lives, opens doors for evangelism (3/21/04)

Cybertheft costly — especially for Christians (3/14/04)

A/G women seize new ministry opportunities (2/29/04)

Investment in early spiritual maturity reaps rewards (2/22/04)

Christian families respond to foster care opportunities (2/15/04)

Childless couples grapple with emotional roller coaster, faith challenges (2/8/04)

Few men seek help from abortion grief, guilt (1/18/04)

Women who answer God's call provide valuable local ministries (1/11/04)

2003 PE Report stories

Frontline Reports

2002 PE Report stories

2001 News Digest stories

2000 News Digest stories


Christians respond to victimized women and children

By Katy Attanasi (8/29/04)

One out of every three American women will experience an incident of domestic violence at least once in her life, according to national statistics. In up to 60 percent of these homes, a child is also being abused. While response to this suffering has at times been slow, the Southern California District’s Teen Challenge and Women’s Ministries, as well as the Assemblies of God national Women’s Ministries, are working to minister to victims of violence.

Two years ago, the Southern California Women’s Ministries financed the purchase of Home of Hope, a residential facility for abused women with life-controlling problems at the Los Angeles Teen Challenge women’s center. The Home of Hope houses 24 women for up to four months as they begin a yearlong treatment program.

In addition to responses through Teen Challenge, the national Women’s Ministries Department of the Assemblies of God is working on “Fragile Soul,” a ministry packet that will be available next year for churches to assist victims of domestic violence.

“It’s important for women to understand that they do not have to stay in abusive homes,” says national Women’s Ministries Director Arlene Allen. “Often they feel they have no other choice. We hope that churches will see the need and minister to both the abused and the abuser.”

Close to 95 percent of violent incidents involve a male perpetrator, but women are not the only victims. “Domestic violence is an issue of power and control,” says Elizabeth Leonard, associate professor of sociology and co-director of the Center for Women’s Studies at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, Calif. “If a perpetrator begins by beating his wife, it may spread broader, with children becoming direct victims. In these homes children are at a higher risk for all forms of maltreatment — physical, emotional and sexual abuse.”

The emotional trauma of seeing a parent hit can have the same impact on a child as when they are hit directly, according to Leonard.

“A child may go to hide in a room in a closet or under a bed,” Leonard says. “But not only is it terrifying to hear the horror of it, but seeing the after-effects of the stitches and broken items is traumatizing. The child basically learns that it is OK to be hurt by the one you love.”

Internalizing this dangerous message increases the risk that the child will become a victim or perpetrator of a similar scenario later in life, experts say.

The trauma children experience is manifested in a number of ways. “Women who have gone through domestic violence are more at risk to cope with this trauma by using drugs and alcohol, and the same trend applies to children who witness domestic violence,” says Christina Ryder, grants coordinator at Teen Challenge Southern California. “They are at higher risk for substance abuse and academic failure, and to perpetuate similar behavior patterns in dating and family relationships.”

Furthermore, the children live in a state of chaos in a highly unpredictable environment. “Witnessing domestic violence is in itself emotional abuse,” Ryder says. “These are also indirect and direct threats toward children, threats that they no doubt internalize.” Resulting symptoms can include bed-wetting, regression to infantlike behavior and difficulty concentrating.

When abuse occurs in a Christian home, it sends messages of hypocrisy and suffering in silence, experts say. When churches do not address domestic violence, the victimized child internalizes numerous negative messages. “They learn that what happens at home is not important at church and is not important to God,” Leonard says.

Leonard says many women will stay with an abusive husband past the point of safety because they have bought into the idea that children need their fathers. “Children benefit from hands-on involvement of a father unless he is abusive,” she says. “However, if the involvement is negative, then the children are actually living in a worse situation.”

At a district level, Teen Challenge started addressing domestic violence by initiating workshops and training sessions for staff members, helping them understand the dynamics and respond appropriately to victims. Family violence is addressed in the curriculum as well as in residential settings for women.

Mentoring relationships for children also are encouraged. “A big part of our approach has been teaching the dynamics of healthy and unhealthy relationships,” Ryder says. “For people who have witnessed or experienced domestic violence, destructive patterns are normal.”

Given the strong link between drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence, Los Angeles Teen Challenge’s Home of Hope helps residents address the effects of these experiences through its program.

The Southern California District Women’s Ministries raised the funds to purchase the home. “For years we had wanted to do something for this large population of hurt women, both inside and outside the church,” says Judy Rachels, director of Women’s Ministries for Southern California.

Janie Cookes, director of the center, sees links between childhood experiences of domestic violence and drug abuse. “There are girls in our program who have turned to drugs as a result of witnessing domestic violence or experiencing it,” Cookes says. “We teach them that they are not alone, that abuse is not normal and that even though we may not believe in divorce, a woman should not put up with violence.”

At times, Christians have been slow to respond to domestic violence. “We have been reluctant to become involved in issues of domestic violence because the issue is shrouded in secrecy, at least within the church,” says Rachels. “But the time has come for us to get involved as a church.”

Any response, according to Ryder, begins with admitting that domestic violence exists inside and outside the church and that there is no Scripture that condones the use of violence or abuse in a dating, marriage or parental relationship.

“The church has often responded inappropriately, telling women to go home and to be submissive, that if they are obedient, their husband won’t hit them,” she says. “There are values that the church embodies — such as caring for the oppressed and defending women and children — that can be very effective in ministering to victims of family violence.”



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