If you or someone you know is impacted by family violence or sexual assault, you can call:
1800 Respect National Helpline: 1800 737 732
Women’s Crisis Line: 1800 811 811
Men’s Referral Service: 1300 766 491
Lifeline: 13 11 14
The Reverend Elizabeth Murray, a former student minister at St Michael’s North Carlton and now Priest in Charge of Holy Trinity Williamstown, made these comments after the recent meeting of synod…
I am most grateful to Robyn Andreo-Boosey for all she did for establishing the [PVAW] program in the Diocese, and personally grateful for her role as a coach.
I have benefitted from the training and coaching initiatives, especially around how to think about practical steps that challenge what research identifies as the root causes of domestic and gender-based violence. One of the core lessons of the Prevention of Violence Against Women movement is this: “Not all disrespect leads to violence, but all violence begins with disrespect.”
Our institutional responses and policies on gender equity matter, and what we do at the local level matters too. My reason for asking Parishes and Authorised Anglican Congregations to keep this topic at front of mind is because silence does not make the problem go away. In fact, our silence on PVAW has caused harm and results in victims feeling unable to come forward and seek help.
Unless we actively call out abuse and say, “Disrespectful and abusive behaviour is never OK,” those who abuse will take our silence as acceptance.
Unless we say out loud, “If you are afraid, you can talk to us, we will listen, we will believe you,” those who live in fear every single day are not going to feel safe sharing their story, even with their fellow Christians.
Love does no harm. We are seeking to overturn generations of pervasive disrespect, fear and deafening silence. So, my exhortation to the Synod was to do the training on offer to us and encourage others to do so, and invite our leadership teams to prayerfully and regularly consider what actions our faith communities can take to continue the excellent work started by our Diocesan program.
I was thrilled with the overwhelming support from the Synod, and I hope this will translate into tangible steps across the Diocese.
Questions to consider from Luke 8:
- In this passage, we see Jesus creates space for the woman’s voice and story to be heard. How might we be able to do this in our own lives and group settings? Whose voices are not being heard because they’re being interrupted or ignored?
- Jesus treated the woman with respect and he honoured her publicly. Where can you see God’s intention for equality not being fulfilled in our own communities? How do you respond when you see this? What could you do differently next time you see this happen?
- In what ways have we all unintentionally absorbed messaging about men being superior to women? How can we learn to recognise these messages? How can we work to change these beliefs in ourselves?
- Who do you identify with in this passage? Why might that be? Perhaps spend some time considering the other characters in the story and see what God might be teaching you.
- We all have power and influence to varying degrees, even if we don’t feel that we do. Are we willing to partner with Jesus to shift the culture, including our own attitudes and behaviours, so that everyone can fulfil their potential and might have life in abundance?
At the last synod session of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne Ms Robyn Boosey told the Synod:
“All forms of abuse and violence go against the gospel’s core teachings of love and respect for human dignity… Our attitudes and behaviours are significant when it comes to violence against women.”
Robyn heads up an initiative of the Diocese of Melbourne to support and equip church leaders and communities to respond to and help to prevent violence against women. The Program for the prevention of violence against women (PVAW) is run in partnership with Anglicare Victoria, the Brotherhood of St Laurence, and Lifeworks. The chair of the program’s committee of management is Bishop Genieve Blackwell.
The foundations of the PVAW program:
- All people are created in the image of God,
- All are precious, equally loved, and
- All should have the opportunity to thrive according to their God-given potential.
Yet too many people – especially women and their children – are denied this opportunity because of the impact of violence.
Violence against women is a widespread and serious issue in Australia. The statistics are staggeringly high:
- 1 in 5 women have experienced at least one incident of sexual violence.
- 1 in 3 women has experienced physical and/or sexual violence perpetrated by a man they know.
- 1 in 4 women has experienced emotional abuse by a partner.
This violence has deep and long-lasting impacts for those who experience it. Such violence is in stark contrast to the abundant life that God intends for us in Christ. As Christians, and together as the Church, we are compelled by Christ’s love to challenge the attitudes, behaviours and structures that underpin violence and to work towards a future in which women and girls can live lives free from violence – and the fear of violence.
The activities of PVAW program reflect a whole-of-Church approach to preventing violence against women. They include:
- Providing training and mentoring for church leaders,
- Developing resources and tools for church communities,
- Developing best practice policy and governance procedures, and
- Connecting churches with specialist and local service providers.