Scan the pews on a typical Sunday morning, and it’s likely that several women within eyeshot have been hit, verbally abused, stalked, or raped by the men in their lives. In the United States and worldwide, gender-based violence affects one in three women, regardless of how much money she makes, her level of education, or where she lives. The abuse taxes a woman in every way—emotionally, physically, mentally, and economically—as well as our society as a whole.
Clergy and other religious figures are often the initial point of contact for women seeking help, and while some congregations can offer counseling or other resources, most often women need a more extensive network—emergency shelter, financial help, or medical care, for example. These kinds of services depend on strong community support—and that requires funding.
But women seeking a way out of abusive situations may face a dwindling number of options. In January, President Bush proposed a budget that cuts $120 million from the 14-year-old Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a federal law that supports programs including transitional housing, domestic violence hotlines, the enforcement of protection orders, and anti-violence education and training on campuses. That’s 30 percent of its funding. So in addition to the difficult, and often dangerous, task of leaving her abuser, a woman faces the equally Herculean task of trying to heal and rebuild her and her children’s lives with diminishing support from her local community.