By Cathy Jarboe
Domestic violence is largely a women’s issue – 85% of domestic violence victims are women. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women – more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined. In fact, every nine seconds a woman is beaten in the US. Thus, since you began reading this, another two or three women have been assaulted by their intimate partners. Every day, two women miscarry because of their beatings and four are murdered by their partners. Today, seven children will die because of violence in the home; tomorrow, seven more; the next day seven more; and on and on and on.
For 91 years, the National Council of Catholic Women (NCCW) has put faith into action under the umbrella of NCCW’s Campaign for Human Dignity. On a national level, NCCW was pleased to work with the National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers, representatives from the USCCB, Archdiocese of Washington DC, House of Ruth, Society of St. Vincent De Paul, and others on the newly formed Catholic Working Group on Domestic Violence. Through that work, the Catholic Coalition for Peace in the Family has been born, with a goal to continue these efforts. NCCW is also a member of the Interfaith Coalition on Domestic Violence, whose present goal is to engage the Administration in fruitful discussion about effective policies to end domestic and teen violence. NCCW also plans a 2011 webinar on Domestic Violence and our Catholic Response.
The destitute and the forgotten do not have powerful lobbyists – often they’re not even on the radar of the powerful and affluent. However, they do have us – the, vibrant, effective voice of tens of thousands of Catholic women.
At the heart of our Campaign for Human Dignity is the belief in the sanctity of the family, the home as the first place of catechesis built on the virtues of love and faith. Sadly, domestic violence, once it begins its insipid entrenchment, diminishes every gift born of the family. Even more sadly, in homes of spirituality, even those of Catholic faith, God is the reason why many victims stay and, research tells us, is sometimes the manner in which the abuser ensures compliance. One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. That means these women sit in your pews – mine and yours.
NCCW has resolved to end domestic violence, through education and advocacy. NCCW was founded under the auspices of U.S. Catholic bishops in recognition of the influence and importance of American Catholic women in furthering the mission of the Church in the United States. While its programs change to meet the shifting needs in society, NCCW continues to adhere to its original mission: providing a foundation for women to serve those in need, the poor, elderly, and forgotten. Today, eradication of domestic violence is a touchstone issue in our work.
In the pastoral letter, When I Cry for Help, the Catholic bishops state unequivocally that violence is never tolerated – even in sacramental marriage – and yet mountains of anecdotal research show a distinct disconnect between Catholic teachings and understanding from those in the pew. NCCW is working to change that. In Councils across the country, NCCW members work with other parish and community leaders to educate our Catholic sisters and brothers about our Church’s teaching. A helpful tool is our National Council of Catholic Women Domestic Violence Resource Packet, updated in November 2010 with the latest resources and statistics, the packet is a great tool for anyone who’d like to become educated on the issue, and then share their knowledge with others in their parish or community.
The Domestic Violence Resource Packet contains:
• The latest statistics on domestic abuse and its affect on poverty and homelessness, teen
violence, injury, abuse in later life, economic impacts, and shelters and services.
• Background on Catholic teachings
• State-by-state domestic violence organization lists
• Complete PowerPoint presentation with notes to share with others
• Leave-behind contact card with national hotlines lists
• Assorted prayers for spiritual reflection
• “Women Healing the Wounds,” an educational brochure in Spanish and English.
The packet is available on “Resources” section of the National Council of Catholic Women
website at www.nccw.org.