Study shows only half of churches have a plan to help abuse victims in crisis
DALLAS, Oct. 2, 2017 — Autumn Miles, a Christian author, speaker and survivor of spousal abuse, is calling on churches to prepare to help victims of domestic violence and to speak out during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, observed during October. Through a partnership with LifeWay Research, Miles’ commissioned a study of 1,000 pastors, which revealed half of churches have no plan in place to help victims.
According to the study, 87 percent of pastors agree with the statement “a person experiencing domestic violence would find our church to be a safe haven.” However, only 50 percent actually have resources in place for abuse victims.
“As a survivor of domestic violence, I know that it is vital to act swiftly and efficiently when aiding victims,” said Miles. “When churches are unprepared, situations can be mishandled, much like mine was.”
Miles married her high school sweetheart at a young age, but the marriage soon turned physically, emotionally and mentally abusive. After years of keeping quiet about the abuse, Miles finally gained the courage to speak up and file for divorce. However, when she shared about the abuse with her local church, many of its leaders did not believe her story.
“I was called before church discipline for filing for divorce from the man who was abusing me every day,” said Miles. “Because the elders did not have a process for dealing with claims of abuse, I had to remove my membership from the church in which I was raised.”
With Domestic Violence Awareness Month putting a spotlight on the issue which affects one in four women, Miles is challenging leaders to take a stand from the pulpit in October.
“The first thing any pastor should do is state clearly that domestic violence will not be tolerated in his church. Not only does this send a clear warning to the abuser, it also tells the victim they have an ally in their church leadership,” said Miles. “But you can’t stop there. You have to be ready to swiftly help victims when they come forward.”
Miles hopes the results of the study will show pastors the weak spots in their own church’s preparedness for instances of domestic violence. She is also providing resources to help leaders develop a plan.
“Church leaders should invest time in developing relationships with shelters, counselors and law enforcement before a victim of domestic violence comes forward,” said Miles. “That investment could save lives in an instance of severe abuse. Also, when victims see that you are prepared to help them, they are more likely to come forward.”
The full study and church resources are available at http://www.autumnmiles.com/lifeway-study/.
Autumn Miles is author of “Appointed: Your Future Starts Now,” the founder and CEO of Autumn Miles Ministries and host of “The Autumn Miles Show” on Salem Radio Network in Dallas. Miles is an accomplished speaker and has been featured in news outlets such as “The 700 Club,” The Washington Post, Fox News and The Dallas Morning News. For more information, visit AutumnMiles.com.
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Katie Martin, 972.267.1111, Katie@alarryross.com