At a routine doctor’s appointment recently, my physician asked me questions about medical history, eating habits, and sleep routines. She then looked directly at me and asked if anyone ever hit me, or if I ever felt unsafe at home.
The questions felt a little strange, but I was filled with hope as I realized that every single patient she saw was presented with an opportunity to seek help — whether she “looked” like she needed it or not.
We need to be providing these opportunities in every place we can. In the United States, more than 1 in 3 women (and 1 in 4 men) havereportedly experienced sexual assault, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime.
These are not numbers that disappears when you walk in to a church. Christian women are subject to sexual and gender-based violence, too – but when is the last time you heard about this issue in a church?
Talking about the pain and fear of intimate partner abuse can seem daunting, but there are resources to help faith communities get started. On Sunday, Nov. 24, faith communities have an opportunity to speak out against sexual and gender-based violence in the aptly named Speak Out Sunday.
Using the resources available online, pastors and other faith leaders can spark much-needed conversations about gender-based violence using the resources available online. From sermon ideas to study guides on rape in the Bible, there are ways to incorporate awareness of gender-based violence into the normal routine of church community life.
People of faith who wish to participate in Speak Out Sunday (or Speak Out Sabbath, or Speak Out Service) can sign a pledge recognizing that rape, abuse and other forms of gender-based violence are happening in our communities, schools, and churches and committing to take action to end it.
There are more ideas than just preaching and teaching on this issue. What if churches could be a place where women were connected with the help they needed to get out of abusive situations? What if those who helped with children’s programs were trained to recognize and act on warning signs? What if every member of your church was encouraged to volunteer with a domestic violence shelter?
These simple choices can fit naturally into the rhythm of a faith community’s life together. They are practices that may feel new, but can make all the difference for women (and men) who need help. Our churches can be places where we don’t just check up on people’s spiritual lives and prayer habits, but on their well-being and support structure.
What can faith communities do to help stop sexual and gender-based violence? Visit We Will Speak Out.US to learn more about Speak Out Sunday and get involved.
Janelle Tupper is campaigns assistant for Sojourners.
Photo: Artem Furman/Shutterstock