ELCA/ELCC leaders release video promoting awareness of domestic violence

Susan Johnson, national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and Elizabeth Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America promotes awareness of domestic violence. Photo: ELCA

Both women serve as ambassadors for the Thursdays in Black Campaign for a world free from rape and violence. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month in the United States, and Canada observes this special month in November.

“Domestic violence is a pattern of violent behaviors someone uses to control an intimate partner or family member,” explains Johnson. “It may be physical, but it may also take on more subtle forms such as emotional, verbal, or financial intimidation and control.”

Women are not the only victims or survivors of domestic violence, adds Eaton. “Women and men, boys and girls, including people who are transgender, and people who are gender non-conforming are all targets,” she says. “Women of color who are transgender are at particular risk for gender-based violence, including domestic violence.”

The video also laments a legacy of violence of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada and the US.

"Churches and other faith communities have an important role in raising awareness about domestic violence, and all forms of gender-based violence,” says Eaton. “We are called to care for those who are affected, and to work to end this scourge.”

Christian leaders have a special responsibility to teach, preach, and lead in ways that do not promote or cover up domestic violence, Johnson points out. “As we tell the truth – and model and demand accountability – we create safe spaces for people who have their own truths to tell,” she says.

And this isn’t just a role for church leaders, Eaton adds. “All of us are all called, through our baptismal vocation, to this work,” she says. "All of us can encourage greater awareness, support the work of organizations that provide safe spaces, and advocate for preventative policies at all levels of government.”

In 2020, domestic violence awareness month is especially important, the video notes, because during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a spike in domestic violence and other gender-based violence.

“Reported incidents are much higher this year, beginning in March when most communities in North America went into lockdown,” says Johnson. “There are also all of the incidents that were not reported.”

This is happening in every country around the world, says Eaton. “If you or anyone you know are victimized by domestic violence, please trust your instincts,” she urges. “Seek help.”

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