This week is a guest blog from my friend Peter Grant who is one of the c0-Directors of a great movement called Restored. I really recommend them. I have committed to First Man Standing because I want to take action to see sexual and domestic violence ended. It will take a huge movement and immense work but it starts with lots of individuals deciding to make their stand. Will you join me?
There is an increasing international focus on addressing violence against women (VAW). Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General has launched a campaign called “UNite” to end VAW, and this will be the theme of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in 2013. The World Bank’s annual World Development Report for 2012 is focused on gender, and as part of this there is an extensive treatment of VAW. Baroness Scotland has launched a Global Foundation for Eliminating Domestic Violence and the international day of peace this year (on 21 September 2012) will have a theme of ending domestic violence. There are many other examples of how this issue is, rightly, getting increasing international attention.
Despite all this focus, however, there is little sign of the levels of violence being reduced. It is estimated globally that one in three women will be affected by domestic or sexual violence during their lives. Levels of sexual violence in conflict are appalling. The British Crime survey shows a large increase in incidents of domestic violence in the UK in 2011. Two women a week in the UK are killed by their partner or former partner, and 750,000 children live in homes affected by domestic violence.
So how can this epidemic be stopped? The reason that large scale initiatives can only have limited impact is that VAW is about choices being made by individual men in families and communities based on their attitudes and beliefs. These are hard to change. Two of the biggest gaps in addressing the root causes of violence are working with faith groups and working with men. This is strange when people’s faith so often shapes their views of what behaviour is acceptable, and when it is the attitudes and actions of men that have to change if VAW is to be reduced.
Restored is an international Christian alliance working to transform relationships and end violence against women (see www.restoredrelationships.org). We are focussing on working with churches and mobilising men to end this violence. Churches need to recognise that domestic violence is a reality within the church as well as the wider community and to raise awareness of the issues. Sometimes this means challenging the teachings and beliefs within the church that can make VAW seem acceptable. We are also asking men to do three things through our campaign called “First Man Standing”:
– To respect all women;
– To challenge the behaviour of other men; and
– To sign up to a pledge never to commit, condone or remain silent about VAW.
You can sign up at www.restoredrelationships.org/firstmanstanding and reflect on how your own attitudes and actions can help to build respect and positive relationships.
Practical action is also needed. The World Bank is addressing the issue of domestic violence closer to home. All the toilets in the main World Bank building have leaflets produced by the staff association giving advice and sources of help for people affected by domestic violence. Is this something we can do in our churches? Local refuges for women affected by violence are struggling for resources. Is this a way in which your church could provide practical support to your community?