Recently I was blessed to be part of a Webinar on a topic that isn’t easily approached not only in the church but in our communities in general.
I was given the opportunity to join UCA President Dr. Deidre Palmer, Rev. Dr. Matangi Vilitama, Alison Overeem and Pastor Levon Kardashian for this month’s Church and COVID-19 Webinar that focused on examining the increasing risk of Domestic and Family Violence through the pandemic.
With this opportunity presented, at first I hesitated to accept the invitation to be part of this panel as I recognised that I am fortunate enough to never have experienced domestic or family violence. How could I speak on a topic that I had no experience with? While reflecting on this, I came an important realisation. Just because I don’t have lived experience, it doesn’t mean I can’t be aware, and it doesn’t mean that I don’t have a role in my community when seeing signs of domestic violence. So I speak as a young, 2nd Gen, Pasifika woman.
The reality is that there are families in our churches, in our communities, in society that experience domestic violence. As the pandemic emerged and people were restricted to stay home, there was a major rise in reported DV cases, to the point where it was coined to be the “shadow pandemic”.
So what can we do?
It depends on the role that you are in. If you are a victim of domestic or family violence know that you will be heard, believed and supported if you reach out and report your situation.
If you are not a victim you can still be aware of the different types of DV and signs that show if someone is experiencing DV.
Domestic violence and abuse includes:
- physical abuse
- sexual abuse
- psychological or emotional abuse
- social isolation
- financial abuse
- spiritual abuse
- child abuse
- elder abuse
Signs of domestic violence to be aware of include:
- they have lost their confidence or are unusually quiet
- they seem afraid of their partner
- they have stopped seeing their friends or family
- their partner often criticises them, humiliates them, orders them about or makes all the decisions
- their partner controls how the other person spends money, what they wear or what they do
- they often talk about their partner’s bad temper or jealousy (they might regularly accuse the other of flirting or being unfaithful)
- they say their partner pressures or forces them into sexual activity
- they have physical injuries, like bruises, broken bones, sprains or cuts
- the children seem afraid of the person or are very withdrawn or anxious
Know that you can help both adults and kids who are victims of domestic violence in various ways. The National Health Direct website offers more detailed information and more resources on this here.
In Western Sydney, the Restore Project – Pacific Communities is doing great work engaging with young Pacific Islanders who are at risk or transitioning out of incarceration. This work includes networking and collecting resources on issues like domestic violence and mental health, especially when it comes to scoping out services in particular areas or regions, looking for DV information that is translated for Pacific Communities, looking for Pacific Islander workers and their contacts in DV and Mental Health spaces, as well as looking to have educational sessions with groups and communities. Candy-Lee, the Restore Project Coordinator, is a great person to get in contact with for the PI community if looking to have further conversations in this area, especially with young Pacific Islanders.
We have a responsibility, as active members of our communities and even more so as community leaders, to have these conversations, to help out where we see it’s needed, and to be aware of these issues. No matter if we are young or old, we all have a part to play. This is how we love our neighbours, as we were commanded by Jesus. Don’t hide behind old excuses of “that’s not my business, that’s a family matter” and break old perceptions that speaking out about DV brought shame to the victim and family. These issues should no longer be taboo, even with the understanding that there may need to be sensitivity with DV relative to cultural beliefs, spiritual beliefs, family systems. We need to do better, move the conversation forward and change the culture around DV.
Ofa Foiakau is the Field Officer (Central/West), and responsible for youth/high school ministry as a part of the PULSE team.