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Church Increasingly Responsive to Domestic Violence, Says Survey

  2008 SEP 15 - ( -- Catholic dioceses are increasingly responsive to the reality of domestic violence, according to survey results released in time for the annual observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.

  The survey, Diocesan Responses to Domestic Violence, was conducted last spring. It was sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.

  Thirty-five dioceses and archdioceses described initiatives implemented to assist victims of domestic violence. Many dioceses reported collaboration with community agencies to offer assistance and resources. Thirty-one dioceses said they provide links to community resources such as safe houses and counseling services. A majority also offer clergy education and advocacy for victims and their children.

  Diocesan programs have grown steadily over the past 16 years following publication of the bishops' document, "When I Call for Help" (, that outlined the church's position and responsibilities toward those affected by domestic violence.

  "Many abused women seek help first from the Church because they see it as a safe place," the bishops said in the document.

  The bishops noted that nearly all dioceses said this document influenced them in their own efforts. Most expressed a desire for additional resources to enable them to respond as Catholics to domestic violence situations.

  Barbara Budde, director of social concerns and parish social ministry in the Diocese of Austin, Texas, reported that her diocese works with the Texas Council on Family Violence, police departments, and local battered women's shelters. A parish-based initiative called Hope Ministry trains volunteers to refer domestic violence victims to appropriate community resources.

  In the Diocese of Grand Island, Nebraska, a grant from Interchurch Ministries of Nebraska, an ecumenical coalition, has enabled the diocese to purchase materials for their schools on violence prevention. According to Elizabeth Heidt Kozisek, director of the diocesan child protection office, the diocese has also sponsored deanery meetings to inform clergy about resources available in the community. Priests have the opportunity to meet staff from local domestic violence programs and to learn what churches can do to support victims.

  Some dioceses, including the Dioceses of Cleveland and Sacramento, have compiled comprehensive resource binders with information on community resources that are available in various areas of the dioceses. The resource helps pastors and parish staff who need to refer people affected by domestic violence to immediate and long term assistance.

  Sheila Garcia, associate director of the USCCB's Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, who led the Conference's survey efforts explained the need for the survey.

  "Domestic violence prevention remains a high priority for the Church. We did the survey with the hope that dioceses could benefit from each other about what's working," Ms. Garcia said.

  Survey results are available at

  Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

  This article was prepared by VerticalNews editors from staff and other reports. Copyright 2008, VerticalNews via


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