In a prelude to the introduction of a motion concerning violence against women, the Revd Scott Holmes spoke and showed a video of a woman who had experienced both physical and psychological violence.

Mr Holmes is Co-ordinator of the Northern Interfaith Respectful Relationships Project and has written a discussion paper on the role of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne in the primary prevention of violence against women.

Sahar, the woman in the film, said she felt paralysed by the violence in her marriage. Her three children were depressed and damaged – one was suicidal. She felt she had to endure violence to shield them, hoping that if her husband harmed her, he might leave them alone. She felt faith leaders played a vital role in helping women in violent relationships; that was how she had found the strength to move out of her own situation.

Mr Holmes said that one in three women in Australia have experienced violence from a current or ex-partner; that an estimated one in four children and young people had witnessed violence against their mother or step-mother, and that violence against women and their children cost Australia $13.6 billion in 2009. There is a culture of violence in our society which occurs across all social sectors including faith communities.

Primary prevention seeks to identify the determinants of violence and to find ways to influence them. VicHealth research has found that key determinants are the unequal distribution of power and resources between men and women and adherence to rigid or narrow gender stereotypes.

An Anglican Strategic Policy to influence determinants will encourage action at four levels: education about the issue and its effects; investigation of existing policies and practices in all sectors of the Diocese; participation in community initiatives such as White Ribbon Day, and the development of an Ecumenical/Interfaith task Force for Prevention of Violence Against Women.

A report on the development of this policy – involving Archbishop in Council, the Regional Bishops and the Social Responsibilties Committee – would be brought to the 2012 Synod.

The Revd Carmel Hunter proposed the motion that the Synod, recognising the prevalence of violence and the importance of primary prevention, acknowledged the Diocese had a role to play; endorsed the Strategic Policy and urged the Archbishop to implement it, and acknowledged with gratitude Anglicare’s financial contribution to the first year of implementation.

As a part-time school chaplain she had seen the effects on children from violent homes: “Often meals are missed, homework cannot be completed, friends can’t come to play and learning at school is the last thing these children want to worry about.”

Ms Hunter quoted a violence survivor who said: “You are isolated from your friends, totally disempowered and seeking permission to speak for fear of the reprisals afterwards.”

Ms Hunter said awareness could be promoted by putting up posters with contact numbers for agencies which can provide expert help, such as Anglicare and the Brotherhood of St Laurence; holding film and discussion nights and having guest speakers.

Seconding the motion, Bishop Philip Huggins said this issue crossed all boundaries including religious ones. This would be the first time a faith community had had an intentional policy on the issue.
There were no speakers against the motion, which was carried unanimously.

 

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