Since the Royal Commission on Family Violence delivered its lengthy report at the end of March, the community has been slowly coming to terms with what is involved in implementation of the more than 200 recommendations, including measures to enable victims to remain safely in the family home. Part of the report that hasn’t had much publicity so far relates to the role of the religious organisations a number of which have had long involvement with NCW Victoria.
Yet as the report says “Faith leaders and organisations have direct and influential contact with many members of the Victorian community, and their guidance and intervention are often sought when family violence is being experienced” As a body that brings together women of diverse backgrounds, NCW Victoria needs to be attentive to the RCFV recommendations specific to faith communities. We have been following with interest for some years now the Think Act program initiated by Dr Ree Bodde of Anglicans Helping to Prevent Violence against Women. This program has been acknowledged as an excellent model of the way that building a culture of equal and respectful relationships can work in organisations and local churches, signalling the way primary prevention can reduce the prevalence of violence.
Now the RCFV having met with leaders from faith groups - including Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, and Christian groups such as Anglican, Catholic, UCA and some Orthodox communities - has recommended that the OMAC (Office of Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship) Multifaith Advisory Group and the Victorian Multicultural Commission, to develop training packages on family violence and sexual assault for faith leaders and communities within three years; That the Department of Health and Human Services consult with the OMAC Multifaith Advisory Group, the VMC and women from faith communities as part of its review of standards for specialist family violence service providers (including men’s behaviour change programs), to ensure that these standards take account of the needs of people in faith communities who experience FV within two years; and that faith leaders and communities establish processes for examining the ways in which they currently respond to family violence in their communities and whether any of their practices operate as deterrents to the prevention or reporting of, or recovery from, family violence or are used by perpetrators to excuse or condone abusive behaviour.
There seems to be limited data on the prevalence of family violence in particular faith communities; however it is agreed that such violence is causing concern among those communities and their leaders… As the RCFV report noted “Spiritual abuse and the use of faith to support or condone violence are concerns in some communities”.
(We acknowledge the report on this topic prepared by Mark Brolly for The Melbourne Anglican http://tma.melbourneanglican.org.au/news/family-violence-report-100516)