Assembly Standing Committee 

09 Domestic and Family Violence

That the Assembly resolve:

a) To adopt the Statement on Domestic and Family Violence.


Statement on Domestic and Family Violence

1. Introduction

1.1     Broad community concern has brought Domestic and Family Violence into sharp focus in recent years. It is a global issue affecting people in Australia and across the world. The Uniting Church acknowledges that we as a community are not immune to incidents of Domestic and Family Violence and their consequences. We further acknowledge that Christian teachings have been used inappropriately to justify unhealthy relationships that can lead to Domestic and Family Violence.

1.2     It is important for the Church at this time:

  • to be clear in repudiating all forms of Domestic and Family Violence;
  • to express God’s desire for life-giving mutually respectful relationships, homes and communities, where all people can flourish;
  • to educate our members about the reality of the situation and how they can respond to point people to support, resources and care;
  • to develop safe practices and safe spaces within all our congregations, agencies, schools, groups and communities consistent with the commitments made in the Uniting Church’s National Child Safe Policy Framework[1]; and
  • to acknowledge the work of
    • our agencies (within the UnitingCare network as it connects to UnitingCare Australia that includes all agencies and Uniting World) in addressing this issue[2];
    • congregations, ministry agents and members of the Uniting Church who are compassionately responding to people affected by Domestic and Family Violence; and
    • Uniting Church theological colleges in their formation of people for ministry which supports and encourages mutually respectful relationships between women and men.

1.3     For the purposes of this document, Domestic and Family Violence refers to a situation where someone who has a close personal relationship to another person physically injures them or makes them feel afraid, powerless or unsafe. Domestic and Family Violence can take the form of physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, social, financial or spiritual abuse[3].

2.  UCA Theology and Belief

2.1     In making this statement, the Uniting Church affirms the following biblical and theological understandings:

  • All people are created in the image of God and are known and loved by God.
  • Every person is of infinite worth and entitled to live with dignity and each person's life and humanity needs to be protected or the human community and its reflection of God are diminished.[4]
  • As Christians we base our values on Jesus, who in his life and ministry loved and respected women and men, girls and boys, and people of all ages.
  • We recognise Jesus’ specific care for people who were powerless and those who were vulnerable.
  • Our commitment to the equality of men and women and respect for all humans underlies our rejection of any form of violence.
  • People grow into their fullest humanity when they are nurtured in situations of love, trust and safety – people should not have to live in fear.
  • Liberation from oppression and injustice is central to the incarnation of God through Jesus Christ. God desires us to be free to make choices about our lives and to be responsible in that freedom to each other.
  • The Basis of Union (Par 11) calls us to engage with literary, historical and scientific enquiry and to stand in relationship with contemporary society in ways that will help us understand our own nature and mission. Therefore, we must listen to the voices that inform us about Domestic and Family Violence and be willing to join others working to overcome this violence.
  • The Basis of Union (Par 18) notes the Uniting Church prays that, through the gift of the Spirit, God will constantly correct that which is erroneous in our life.

2.2     We acknowledge that:

  • We live in a world where women are often treated as less than equal;
  • Some violent men who are members and adherents of Christian churches have used phrases in the Bible to reinforce their power in intimate relationships[5];
  • Theologies and teachings which support a power imbalance in family relationship can nurture an environment in which violence and other forms of abuse are present; and
  • The lifelong commitment of marriage does not mean that people should stay in violent relationships. There are times when “divorce may be the only creative and life-giving direction to take”[6].

2.3     We give thanks for:

  • The courage and witness of those who have come forward to share their stories of Domestic and Family Violence within the church and the wider community; and
  • The ways in which light has been shed on the serious issue of family violence including through the work of public figures, journalists and government commissions.

3.  The current context

3.1     Domestic and Family Violence is now recognised as a serious and widespread problem in Australia with huge impacts on individuals, families and communities.

3.2     The incidence of Domestic and Family Violence in Australia is not only restricted to women, but also includes abuse directed at men, children and increasingly towards older family members.

  • Approximately one in four women (23%) has experienced violence by an intimate partner[7].
  • On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner, according to the most recent analysis of homicide statistics in Australia.[8].
  • One in 5 women has experienced sexual violence5.
  • One in two women and one in four men have experienced sexual harassment5.
  • The majority of women (nine out of 10) did not contact police about the most recent incident of sexual assault by a male5.
  • Intimate partner violence contributes to more death, disability and illness in women aged 15 to 44 than any other preventable risk factor[9].
  • Domestic or family violence against women is the single largest driver of homelessness for women[10].
  • Rates of domestic and family violence are higher in regional, rural and remote areas[11].
  • People who, as children, witnessed partner violence against their parents were 2–4 times as likely to experience partner violence themselves (as adults)[12].
  • 55,600 children were placed in out-of-home care as a result of abuse (2015-16)12.
  • 1 in 16 (0.5 million) men have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a cohabiting partner since age 1512.

3.3     When children are exposed to violence in their homes it can cause profound harm to their social development.[13].

3.4     Domestic and Family Violence is a global issue. Global estimates published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicate that about 1 in 3 (35%) women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.[14] In some of our neighbouring countries research shows that more than 70% will experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetime[15].

3.5     Risk factors identified by WHO that increase the likelihood of a person to perpetrate intimate partner or sexual violence include, a history of child maltreatment, witnessing family violence, unequal gender norms including attitudes accepting of violence, and a sense of entitlement over women.

4. Commitment

4.1     In the light of our Theology and Beliefs and in the Current Context, the Uniting Church commits itself to:

  • Speak out strongly against Domestic and Family Violence of all types;
  • Acknowledge this is an issue in all cultural, economic and social contexts including among our own church members and leaders;
  • Reject any abuse of theology to legitimate Domestic and Family Violence, recognising that theologies which affirm gender equality and human dignity play an essential role in bringing to light and preventing Domestic and Family Violence;
  • Develop sound policies and practices that:
    • Promote the equality of men and women, girls and boys and people of all ages;
    • Create safe and inclusive communities, where people experience mutually respectful relationships and all can flourish;
    • Listen to the voices of children, young people and vulnerable people; and
    • Receive and take seriously reports or complaints of Domestic and Family Violence;
    • Provide support and referral to appropriate support services;
  • Educate ministry agents, lay leaders and church members on Domestic and Family Violence and how to respond appropriately;
  • Resource the church in how to respond to this issue, recognising and engaging with the diversity of cultures and languages that make up our communities; and
  • Work constructively with people of other Christian denominations and other faiths, and with other organisations and groups across Australia in order to achieve these commitments.

b) To acknowledge and lament the presence of Domestic and Family Violence within the church including in the Uniting Church; the role some theologies have played in its legitimation and that Christian communities have sometimes failed to acknowledge the presence of such violence in their midst and respond appropriately.

c) To affirm the work being done by

  1. Agencies of the Uniting Church in addressing Domestic and Family Violence;
  2. Congregations, ministry agents and members of the Uniting Church who are compassionately responding to people affected by Domestic and Family Violence; and

Uniting Church theological colleges in their formation of people for ministry which supports and encourages mutually respectful relationships between women and men.

d) To request the Assembly Standing Committee, liaising with other parts of the Church, to

  1. create educational and theological materials for distribution to the wider church within the current triennium to resource the Church to meet these commitments; and
  2. encourage Uniting Church members, synods, presbyteries, congregations, agencies, theological colleges and schools to carry out the commitments found in the Statement.

Proposer: Bethany Broadstock
Seconder: Rob Floyd


Rationale:

Broad community concern has brought Domestic and Family Violence into sharp focus in recent years. It is a global issue affecting people in Australia and across the world. The Uniting Church acknowledges that we as a community are not immune to incidents of Domestic and Family Violence and their consequences. We further acknowledge that Christian teachings have been used inappropriately to justify unhealthy relationships that can lead to Domestic and Family Violence and that our own Uniting Church has not always acknowledged the presence of such violence in our midst and responded appropriately.

These resolutions and the Statement on Domestic and Family Violence included within, outline the Uniting Church’s theological understandings of all people being created in the image of God, of infinite worth and entitled to live with dignity, free from all forms of violence. We acknowledge the reality of Domestic and Family Violence in our world and in our Australian community and commit ourselves to work in all areas of our Church to address this issue.



If Domestic and Family Violence is having an impact on you or someone you know please consider referring to these resources across Australia that can help. Please use them and pass them on to others.

 


[1]      Uniting Church in Australia National Child Safety Policy Framework
[2]      The Uniting Church, through its agency UnitingWorld, is working with our Church Partners to address Domestic and Family Violence and gender inequality. They do this through projects that challenge theological understandings, empower women and encourage male advocates.
[3]      Based on the definition used by Lifeline
[4]      Dignity in Humanity, A UCA Statement on Human Rights (2006)
[5]      Dr Lynne Baker's 2010 book, “Counselling Christian Women on How to Deal with Domestic Violence” and  Julia Baird with Hayley Gleeson, “’Submit to your husbands': Women told to endure domestic violence in the name of God”, ABC News, last updated 23 January 2018
[6]      Statement on Marriage, Eighth Assembly 1997, Resolution 97.31.12, Uniting Church in Australia
[7]      Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) 2016 Personal Safety Survey (PSS)
[8]      Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) 2017. The 2017 National Homicide Monitoring Program report
[9]      VicHealth (2004) The health costs of violence: Measuring the burden of disease caused by intimate partner violence, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation
[10]     Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2012) Specialist homeless services data collection 2011-12, Cat. No. HOU 267, https://www.ourwatch.org.au/Understanding-Violence/Facts-and-figures
[11]     Monica Campo and Sarah Tayton, Domestic and family violence in regional, rural and remote communities, CFCA Practitioner Resource— December 2015
[12]     Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2018) Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence in Australia, 2018
[13]     Our Watch, Facts and Figures https://www.ourwatch.org.au/Understanding-Violence/Facts-and-figures
[14]     World Health Organisation, Violence Against Women, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en/
[15]     Pacific Women, Shaping Pacific Development, Ending Violence Against Women, https://pacificwomen.org/our-work/focus-areas/ending-violence-against-women/