by Monte Sahlin
From ANN, April 17, 2014
The End It Now campaign to stop violence against women and girls seeks to train enough first responders to deal with domestic violence in each Adventist congregation around the world. An event to start training both volunteers and church employees is scheduled for May 1-4 at the offices of the denomination's General Conference (GC) in Silver Spring, Maryland. The first-responder training curriculum that will be introduced was developed by Southern Adventist University near Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The "Summit on Abuse" is being organized by the GC Women's Ministries Department. Ironically, some of the same church members who opposed the formation of this department in the 1980s are now involved in opposition to extending clergy ordination to women who work for the denomination as pastors.
“It’s disturbing how much abuse goes on that we don’t know about within Christian homes,” said Heather-Dawn Small, GC director of women’s ministries. “We want attendees of this summit to go back to their churches and train others to be first responders so we can help people who are being abused.” Her department is co-sponsoring the summit along with the denomination’s North American Division and departments of health, family life, youth, chaplaincy and the Ministerial Association.
Since 2001, the denomination has asked all of its local congregations to engage in an “abuse prevention emphasis Sabbath” on the fourth Saturday of August. Small said the initiative will continues newly renamed the End It Now Sabbath. Many conferences and union conferences in the denomination heavily promote education about the issue.
Small said the Adventist Church is ahead of other religious organizations in admitting that there is a widespread problem, promoting awareness of domestic violence and efforts to bring healing and hope for those being abused. Previous annual campaigns have focused on abuse of children, violence toward women and emotional abuse.
“People need to be aware that abuse happens and what to do about it,” Small said. “A lot of times people just say, take it to the pastor. But pastors need first-responder training, too.” She said people need to be aware about what to say and not to say to a person who reveals that they are being abused. Listening is key, she said. Also, a first-responder needs to see if the person wants to file a police report or see a doctor. Often, a social worker should be brought in to assess the situation, she said.
Small said people also need to be aware of signs that a person could be an abuser. One red flag, she said, is control. “He’s telling you what to wear, how to have your hair, where to go—he’s not respecting you and letting you make your own decisions.” A sign of a potential emotional abuser, Small said, is that he gets angry when his partner disagrees with him.
Small said many people would be surprised how often physical abuse begins while the couple is only dating, yet they still get married, with one person hoping the other person will change. “What we are finding out is that many of our young girls are already in abusive relationships—physically or emotionally—and they feel powerless to get out of the dating relationship.
Dr. Willie Oliver, co-director of the denomination’s Family Ministries department confirmed that abuse is happening in Adventist homes. “It is our responsibility as the people of God to help people in need,” Oliver said. “We want everyone to be well—those being abused and those doing the abusing. But that’s not going to happen until we acknowledge the fact that abuse is taking place in many of our homes. We must be intentional about helping those being abused to find safety and emotional assistance. We must also be concerned about getting help for abusers who are willing to change.”
To register for the summit or to see resources on abuse prevention, use a search engine on the Web to find www.enditnow.org. Adventist Today will cover the event with daily bulletins from an editor on site as well as a major feature story and other materials.
The Adventist News Network (ANN) is the official news service of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. Adventist Today edits ANN bulletins and supplements the releases with additional reporting.