When I became a Christian, I was still with my abusive partner.
The man who I loved more than anybody on earth held a knife to my throat and threatened to kill me more times than I can even remember.
Within a few years, I'd left my church, because I did not feel supported. Even though it was evident that I was not in a good way, physically and emotionally (I often had bruises and looked distressed) I didn't receive the help I needed. Not because my church didn't want to help me. Looking back, I believe they did not know how to help me.
That was ten years ago.
Today, I'm delighted to be involved in the launch of the Black Church Domestic Abuse Forum (BCDAF) – a coalition of black church leaders, professionals, academics and interested parties committed to eliminating domestic abuse and providing training to enable churches to provide practical support to victims of domestic abuse.
It’s a fact that domestic abuse is prevalent in all communities - including church communities. In fact women in faith communities tend to stay longer in abusive relationships (sometimes because they don't want to go against their church's teaching). This is sometimes encouraged by leaders who add to the pain and hopelessness that victims feel by using Bible verses out of context.
The BCDAF is focused on addressing domestic abuse specifically within Black majority churches because it is often insufficiently addressed within these spaces.
Rev David Shosanya and myself now train church leaders on the practical steps that churches can take to address this issue. These workshops have been transformational and edifying for many church leaders.
When the BCDAF held its official online launch, there were 170 people in attendance, including Nicole Jacobs, the UK’s first and designate Domestic Abuse Commissioner, who has pledged her support to us.
The BCDAF has created a free resource, the Walk in the Way of Love toolkit, which puts forward a persuasive theological argument on why churches need to combat domestic abuse. It also includes stories of Christians sharing their experience of domestic abuse and the support, or lack of it, they received from their church.
I know from personal experience that God can be a great comforter to victims of domestic abuse. My faith, even as a new believer helped me in my darkest moment. One Bible verse that stood out to me was Hebrew 13:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you".
The Christian faith calls us to walk in love, especially within our intimate relationships. When the Church holds up a mirror to the world and demonstrates what a truly loving relationship looks like, people will see that the evil of domestic abuse has no place in our society.
Rev Kim Bacchus is a lead member of the Black Church Domestic Abuse Forum bcdaf.org.uk. She is also an author, a strategic development coach for women and a female empowerment activist.