Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women, an initiative of the United Nations. Fr Ian writes on this issue:
One in four women in the UK will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. The Health Minister recently said that one million women each year experience at least one incident of violence, and the number is probably higher. These are alarming figures. So serious is the issue that Kofi Annan, former UN General Secretary has said: Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation. It knows no boundaries, geographical, cultural, or economic. While it continues, we cannot say that we have really progressed towards equality, development and peace.
I was asked recently when I had heard a sermon in a church denouncing violence against women, or domestic violence. I couldn’t remember. Can you? There are some things that the church is too silent about. (And some things it is too vocal about!) This issue is worldwide and it is on our doorsteps:
Last week I was approached to help a woman who lives near church. She and her children have suffered greatly, both physically and materially, at the hands of her former husband. We were able to offer food and some money.
Just yesterday I heard of a woman locally who has suffered sexual abuse.
Within our parish there is a refuge for women who have been abused.
This is a serious problem both in our world and close at hand. What can we do? I would like to receive suggestions about what can be done.
I firmly believe ‘every little helps’ and so here are a few suggestions: Firstly, be informed (look at, for example the End Violence against women website, and be prepared to discuss the issue. Secondly, let people know how help can be obtained – from today we are displaying a poster with a helpline number outside church. Thirdly, give practical help – this year our Christmas appeal through church will be for local food banks, and also to build up a small fund at church to help those in desperate need. And pray – articulate the issue in prayer, and offer prayer in solidarity with victims among us. Today at Mass at Church prayers were said for women the world over who suffer violence.
Small steps, I know, I hope they may encourage more.