A landmark study by NCLS Research has revealed that 67% of Australian clergy have experience in supporting people in Domestic and Family Violence (DFV) situations.
The study was the first national, cross-denominational analysis of Australian clergy responses to domestic abuse, based on data from church leaders and churchgoers in the 2016 National Church Life Survey.
Findings also showed the clear majority of clergy had responded to victims rather than perpetrators. It was most common for leaders to take a number of actions with 77% referring victims to a support service and 70% providing direct counselling.
“This is Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month and it is important to note that around six in 10 (64%) Australian churchgoers feel they can approach their church for help with domestic and family violence situations,” co-author of this research NCLS Director Dr Ruth Powell said.
While around three-quarters of senior local church leaders considered themselves to be familiar with local DFV support services at least to some degree (somewhat or very familiar), just one in six considered themselves to be very familiar.
“There is room for growth in the way local church leaders, such as clergy, respond to this problem given the majority of churchgoers feel confident about seeking help from someone at church,” Dr Powell said.
“Better bridges could be formed between churches and specialist DFV support services.”
Results also revealed The Salvation Army was the Christian denomination most likely to have helped victims of domestic abuse.
In fact, 88% of local church leaders in The Salvation Army had dealt with DFV situations, compared with 67% of leaders in all-denominations nationally. In addition, nearly all (93%) had referred a victim of DFV to support service agencies. They were also the most likely to have undertaken a safety risk assessment.
For more detailed results, a full report is available online: Pepper, Miriam, and Ruth Powell. (2022). “Domestic and Family Violence: Responses and Approaches across the Australian Churches” Religions 13, no. 3: 270. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13030270
With thanks to NCLS Research.