Study highlights number of Christians in abusive relationships

A new study has found one in four Cumbria churchgoers have experienced abuse in their current relationship.

The "In Churches Too" report was made after 438 Christians from a range of churches completed the survey.

Reacting to the findings, Dr Kristin Aune of Coventry University, who led the research, said: "Domestic abuse happens in churches too.


"A quarter of the people we heard from told us they had, for example, been physically hurt by their partners, sexually assaulted, emotionally manipulated, or had money withheld from them.

"This includes twelve women who have experienced between ten and twenty abusive behaviours and six women who are currently in relationships where they fear for their lives."

People aged over 60 were less likely to say they had experienced domestic abuse than younger adults were, and women more likely to say they had experienced serious forms of abuse than men.

U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Eli Chevalier


The report also found only two in seven churchgoers felt their church was adequately equipped to deal with a disclosure of abuse.

Bishop of Carlisle, Rt Rev James Newcome said churches have to do more to discourage domestic violence.

"Churches in Cumbria have been taking this very seriously for many years, which is why we wanted to take part in the research," he said.

"Many churches have taken part in training, promote helplines and liaise with local support services and we have come a long way in understanding that this is a vital part of our ministry to the community. It's time to recognise that we must also examine ourselves."

Some clergy in Cumbria have also opened up about being survivors of domestic abuse.

Before meeting the man who is now her husband, Rev Eleanor Hancock was in an abusive relationship for ten years.
"We lived on a farm, so I blamed my bruises and injuries on slipping in the yard or being kicked by a sheep," she said.

"He was emotionally abusive too, calling me fat and ugly and blaming me for everything. I kept making excuses for him because I loved him, but eventually I knew I had to leave."

After being ordained, she found her experience in her failed relationship helped her listen to and advise people who were being manipulated and abused.

Mandy Marshall, Co-Director of Restored - an organisation founded to help churches around the world to tackle violence against women, said the Church needs to encourage people to talk about domestic abuse.

"The Church is a vital resource for any community and, at its best, is both a refuge and a place where deep transformation happens," she said.
"Talking in church about domestic abuse is the most important first step, whether that's mentioning it in sermons or being open in pastoral conversations to respond to disclosures. This vital research is the wake-up call we need to help us understand that this happens in churches too."

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