by Sister Margie Hosch, OSF
GREENVILLE — We are confronted by the statistics which place South Carolina among the top five states with the most reported cases of domestic violence and deaths resulting from that violence. The people of our state are suffering the ravages of domestic violence on a daily basis.
Last month, women — who are part of this statistic — knocked on the doors of Catholic Charities in the Piedmont seeking someone who would validate them as persons and help them begin the journey to wholeness. The women come with the reality of abuse often couched in present self-destructive behavior and eroded self-esteem. Their stories depicted abuse in many forms:
“I have been sexually abused by five different men in my family and neighborhood since age 5. My ‘no’ means nothing. When will someone take me seriously when I say no?”
“I am 17 years old, seven months pregnant, and no job. My boyfriend (the father of my unborn baby) got angry and hit me in the stomach. I don’t know if the baby is hurt.”
“My father told me to never tell anyone about his coming to my bedroom and doing things to me. People who love me hurt me.”
“My husband puts me down, screams at me, and then he beats me. He is always sorry afterwards. He makes it sound like this time will be the last time. But he always comes back and does it again and again. If I only knew what I did to cause him to be so violent.”
Statistics show that one out of 20 women are being abused and violated sexually, physically, emotionally or economically. If this is so, look over your parish community and estimate how many women are gathered to hear the Word of God proclaimed to them while suffering from violence at the hands of others who also may be present in the congregation.
Realizing that violence thrives in silence, we looked to the National Council of Cath-olic Bishops’ publications for assistance. The bishops have not remained silent. Their pastoral “When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women” is addressed to:
Women who are victims of violence who may need the church’s help to break out of their pain and isolation;
Pastors, parish personnel, educators and counselors who often are a first line of defense for women who are suffering abuse;
Men, especially those men who as abusers may not know how to break out of the cycle of violence;
Society, which slowly is recognizing the extent of domestic violence against women.
The bishop’s conference has also published a video for homilists titled “When You Preach, Remember Me.” The pastoral and video will be reviewed and discussed with each deanery along with suggested scriptural readings of each cycle related to domestic violence. Clergy will be asked to assist in appointing two women from each parish who will be trained to be “first responders” for victims who call upon the parish for help.
Catholic Charities will supply the parishes and the first responders with a list of shelters, counselors, and helpful resources to keep up their skills in listening and praying with victims. Helpful written aids to be given to the women who come seeking guidance from their parish community will also be provided.
It is our goal to complete the training by October 2005. Since October is the month designated for Domestic Violence Awareness, our Catholic clergy and laity will be prepared to hold a public awareness activity.
We reach into 2005 with hope in our hearts as we partner with our bishop, pastors, staffs, and lay leaders to break the silent barrier of violence in any of its ugly forms. Where there is violence, let us sow peace … out loud!
Franciscan Sister Margie Hosch is regional coordinator for Catholic Charities in the Piedmont Deanery.