To explore how congregations can play a part in preventing domestic violence and in providing support to people experiencing it, three Grand Rapids, Mich., churches arranged a day of training by Safe Haven Ministries, one of very few faith-based organizations in the United States addressing domestic violence.
On February 27, about 35 key volunteers and staff from LaGrave Christian Reformed Church, Sherman Street CRC and a local Lutheran congregation met at Shawnee Park Christian Reformed Church. These congregations were inspired to request this training because of the presentation “#MeToo, MyChurch, OurClassis” by Safe Haven at the January meeting of Classis Grand Rapids East.
Opening the session, Megan Hopkins noted that one of every four women and one of every seven men in the United States will experience domestic violence. The prevalence of violence in our homes underscores the need for organizations like Safe Haven, which Hopkins directs. Its stated goal is clear: “Motivated by Christ’s love, our mission is to end domestic abuse.”
Tara Aday, a trainer in prevention and education, recognized the church’s opportunity to respond to domestic violence but noted that there are many barriers or challenges. Since people often disclose abuse to their faith community first, it is critical that churches help people feel comfortable and safe, she said. That includes creating a culture of prevention and one that listens, avoiding causing more hurt to a person experiencing domestic violence. Aday said that domestic violence can take many forms including, physical, psychological, spiritual, and sexual abuse.
Participants were given the opportunity to work with others from their congregation to develop a response plan for various forms of abuse that may come to light within their faith community. At the conclusion of the training, each participating congregation received Safe Haven Ministries’ church training certification.
Hopkins, a member at Shawnee Park CRC, expressed gratitude for the beginnings of Safe Haven Ministries. It was established in 1990 as a collaboration of six Christian Reformed congregations—Shawnee Park, Plymouth Heights, Seymour, Calvin, Alger Park, and Millbrook CRC—after a community survey to determine unmet social justice needs revealed that abuse was an area of concern. The ministry is now building a new facility that will house its continued services, including secure temporary emergency housing.