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No justification for domestic violence

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There is no excuse for domestic violence of any kind and Church teachings and the Scriptures do not justify it, the Anglican Archbishop of Adelaide Geoffrey Smith said last month in response to reports by the national broadcaster that churches are not doing enough to prevent it.

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Archbishop Smith said a natural reaction to the criticism may be defensive but it was better to be active in making clear that domestic violence must stop and providing assistance to that end for victims and perpetrators.

An ABC website report on the issue prompted an official complaint from the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane following claims it did not respond to inquiries from ABC reporters. The report was also raised on ABC TV’s Media Watch which concluded that the domestic violence story “misrepresented” research.

“Domestic violence and abuse are completely opposite to the Christian faith and its practice,” Archbishop Smith said.

“I think it is true we have a role to play given we are part of the wider community and include in our congregations people who may be perpetrators or victims of the awful activity.”

Archbishop Smith, who replaced Archbishop Geoffrey Driver as Anglican Archbishop of Adelaide in April, outlined ways Christian churches had responded to the problem, including the launch in 2010 of a booklet called Domestic Violence Handbook for clergy and church workers.

Published by the then Heads of Christian Churches of South Australia, the booklet provides relevant information on forms of domestic violence, patterns and impacts of domestic violence, how to respond when it is disclosed by a victim, a perpetrator, or the child of a victim, plus contact details for helplines and further assistance.

The Archbishop said churches could also respond through preaching and teaching.

He encouraged pastors to make it very clear that abuse of any kind, including domestic and family violence, was wrong in all circumstances.

“It is also very important that we don’t in our preaching and teaching give the impression that a victim of this sin should put up with it or endure it,” he said.

Teresa Lynch, director of Ministry and Leadership in the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide, said the handbook referred to by Archbishop Smith was developed by the Joint Churches Domestic Violence Prevention Program when Archbishop Wilson was chair of the Heads of Christian Churches of SA.

She said some clergy and religious and lay people had attended training directly related to the handbook.

In addition, the Archdiocese’s Safe Environments for All Program provided a policy framework to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children and young people in the Church community. This program established standards for child protection inclusive of requirements to identify and respond to all forms of child abuse, including indicators of family violence.

“Where there are concerns for abuse and neglect as a result of domestic violence/family violence, our responding procedure and flowchart provides a process to ensure children are safeguarded and supported either by a notification to statutory services, Department for Child Protection or referred to community services,” she said.

The domestic violence handbook is available through the SA Council of Churches http://www.sacc.asn.au/_data/DV_Handbook.pdf

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