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67% of Australian religious ministers deal with domestic violence issues

A study shows that 93% of clergy refer victims of abuse to support agencies. The majority of churchgoers are confident to seek hep for these issues in the congregation.

Evangelical Focus

Protestante Digital · SIDNEY · 09 JUNE 2022 · 15:00 CET

A Presbyterian church in New South Wales, Australia. / Photo: <a target="_blank" href="https://unsplash.com/@bree_eva">Bree Evans</a>, Unsplash, CC0,
A Presbyterian church in New South Wales, Australia. / Photo: Bree Evans, Unsplash, CC0

A study by NCSL Research in Australia shows that 67% of religious ministers in the country have dealt with domestic violence.

It is the first national, cross-denominational analysis on the response of clergy to domestic abuse to be published in Australia, based on data from church leaders and members collected in the 2016 National Church Life Survey (NCS).

The group with the highest percentage of leaders with experience on this type of situation is the Salvation Army, with 88%.

According to the co-author of the research and director of NCSL Research, Ruth Powell, this is due to the connection between this organisation and public community service programmes, which makes them more visible than local churches.

“The husband-wife team approach can help to prevent those scenarios. Our research confirms with broader findings that violence is a gender issue. If women are more likely to be victims, having a female leader in your local church can help”, stresses Powell.


Contact with specific support agencies

According to the research, 93% of religious ministers refer cases to support agencies for specific help. This large majority, say the authors of the research, are also the most likely to undertake a safe risk assessment.

Although the study finds that the majority of the churchgoers trust their congregations to talk about these issues, “the proportion of clergy who have offered counselling to couples is worrying. Those with experience of supporting survivors do not recommend this approach. Instead, they consider it best to contact specialist services”, say the authors of the research.


64% trust their congregations

The study shows that up to 64% of church and community members feel confident in their congregations to seek help in domestic violence issues.

There is room for growth in the way local church leaders respond to this problem, as the majority of their members feel safe to seek help from someone in the congregation”, point out the researchers

On the other hand, 29% of community members say they do not feel safe to bring such cases to churches, and  7% reject it.

You can read th full study here.

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