Almost six in 10 Lutheran pastors in Australia have dealt with domestic and family violence (DFV) situations, and almost all LCA clergy have responded to victims of abuse, national survey findings suggest.
The recently published findings were collated from responses to the National Church Life Survey (NCLS) Leader Survey 2016. Domestic and family violence is a serious and widespread problem in Australia, and the full survey findings support the belief that it occurs in all communities, including communities of faith.
Ninety-three per cent of Lutheran pastors who responded to the survey reported having dealt with victims of abuse, by counselling them (82 per cent), referring them to specialist services (68 per cent), and/or conducting a safety risk assessment with the victim (18 per cent). More than half of Lutheran respondents (54 per cent) either had counselled perpetrators, referred perpetrators to a service agency or did both (46 per cent counselled, 25 per cent referred).
Around half (54 per cent) provided marriage or couples counselling in relation to DFV situations. However, NCLS Research suggests couples counselling in such situations is problematic. Victims of domestic violence and support services maintain that couples counselling is ineffective and unsafe, as it fails to address the unequal power in an abusive relationship and can place the victim at increased risk.
Overall, two thirds (67 per cent) of senior local Australian church leaders from 14 denominations and movements who participated in the 2016 NCLS reported dealing with DFV situations.
The full domestic and family violence survey results have been published in a peer-reviewed paper in the academic journal ‘Religions’. The paper, ‘Domestic and Family Violence: Responses and Approaches across the Australian Churches’, reports on actions that church leaders have taken when responding to DFV situations and on views about the approachability of Australian churches for those experiencing DFV. The first Australia-wide, cross-denominational survey study to do so, it is available here.
In 2017, the LCA launched its Campaign for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence under the tagline Hidden Hurts Healing Hearts. Visit the campaign website for more information and resources.
You can visit the National Council of Churches’ listing of domestic and family violence resources here.
If you or someone you know is affected by domestic and family violence, visit www.anrows.org.au/get-support or call 1800 RESPECT (24-hour National Sexual Assault Family Domestic Violence Counselling Service), or Lifeline Counselling (24 hours) 131 114. In an emergency, call 000.