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New survey highlights churches' stance on domestic violence

Many Colorado residents may believe that a church could be a safe place to turn to when there are problems within the family. However, a recent survey reveals that some of these institutions may not be the best refuge for those who have suffered from domestic violence. In fact, in certain circumstances, the response of those in charge could make the situation worse.

According to the study, slightly more than half of the churches responded that they would believe that domestic violence had occurred in the home if a member stated it had happened and that was the reason he or she was seeking a divorce. Of that number, more than half stated they would conduct their own investigation into the claims. While only an estimated 1 percent of church leaders claimed they would doubt abuse had taken place, approximately 43 percent would not answer the question.

A possible outcome of a church investigating a claim of abuse is that an abuser would deny the allegations and later cause further physical harm to the person who reported the violence. Furthermore, many church leaders are not properly trained in providing help for victims and instead focus on possible reconciliation. It is much safer for the victims if these institutions provide referrals to agencies better equipped to handle their physical and emotional needs.

In addition to many church leaders not being trained to handle these situations, many pastors do not address the issue of violence within the home. If the topic is not openly discussed, it may be even harder for victims to seek help when they need it most. Churches do provide many important social services, and many have certainly helped victims of domestic violence. Other times, victims may find that they are better served by seeking assistance from those who are specially trained in providing help and guidance in these dangerous situations. Colorado families who are suffering from abuse by a spouse may seek assistance from a family law attorney for help in the process of obtaining protection from an abuser and ensuring their safety going forward.

Source:, "Church response to domestic violence focus of study", Bob Smietana, Feb. 20, 2017

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