Church Responses to Domestic Abuse
Allen Lane Foundation, Andrews Charitable Trust, Matthew 25:35 Trust
Total value of project
Professor Kristin Aune, Dr Alison Halford, Dr Rebecca Barnes (University of Leicester)
University of Leicester, Restored, Churches Together in Cumbria
Duration of project
01/11/2016 - 31/08/2018
A study of the nature and extent of domestic abuse in UK churches to support churches in challenging domestic abuse and reducing its incidence. The research focused on the county of Cumbria in north-west England. 438 churchgoers took part in the survey, which showed that 1 in 4 of churchgoers had been subjected to some form of domestic abuse in their current relationship. Only 2 in 7 who responded felt that the church was well equipped to deal with the issue.
The research aimed to identify:
- The rates of domestic abuse victimisation amongst male/female churchgoers;
- The nature, dynamics and impacts of domestic abuse for churchgoers;
- The levels of awareness of, and attitudes held by, church members and church leaders, relating to the occurrence of domestic abuse in their congregations;
- How churches currently respond to domestic abuse; and
- Churchgoers’ experiences of seeking support and guidance in relation to domestic abuse.
Overall, the project contributed to:
- Greater understanding of the nature and extent of domestic abuse within churches and their role in responding to it;
- Raised awareness amongst church leaders and wider society, at both local and national level, of domestic violence as an issue in churches;
- Improved guidelines for church policy and practice on domestic abuse;
- Shaping and enhancing current church training programmes on domestic abuse run by survey partners Restored and Churches Together in Cumbria in theological colleges and amongst church and lay leaders;
- Development of longer term strategies and plans (by partner Restored) to deliver more widely against training needs shaped by the report;
- An evidence base to inform and justify further, national studies to monitor changes in attitudes, behaviours and church practices over time.
Specifically, the Church Responses to Domestic Abuse project findings shaped Anglican policy in the UK Diocese of Carlisle and in the Anglican Church of Australia. The Diocese of Carlisle committed to including domestic abuse in its safeguarding policies. Aune advised the Anglican Church of Australia’s Family Violence Working Group, presenting to c. 25 diocesan leads on domestic abuse. As a result, the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne established a lay Family Safety Champion to support clergy in embedding action to address family violence in the church. The Melbourne policy was recommended for adoption by all 23 Anglican dioceses in Australia.
Additionally, the research influenced Christian charity Press Red to start the GRID network of domestic-abuse aware churches in northern England and to produce a play about domestic abuse which has been shown widely, including at the Home Office and the Metropolitan Police Domestic Abuse Conference. The research also led Churches Together in Cumbria to reaffirm that it would provide domestic abuse training to churches. In Canada, a new training segment on why churches need to train a domestic abuse ‘champion’ in each congregation alongside a leader was added to the RAVE Project’s online training module based on the research.
The report In Churches Too: Church Responses to Domestic Abuse – a case study of Cumbria was published in 2018. 700 copies of the report were distributed to churches, church leaders, practitioners, academics and media contacts.
A Launch Event in Cumbria marked the report’s publication and attracted TV, radio and press coverage (including ABC News in Australia, BBC local radio, ITV Borders TV and the Church Times).
An infographic sheet featuring key findings was distributed to over 1,000 people.
Presentations on the research were given at many Christian events, churches and academic conferences, in the UK and internationally.
A journal article ‘Gender and domestic abuse victimisation amongst churchgoers in north west England: Breaking the church’s gendered silence’, by Rebecca Barnes and Kristin Aune (2021), was published in the Journal of Gender-Based Violence.
A blog post summarising the article, Domestic Abuse and the Power of Silence, was published by Restored.