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Responding to domestic violence

Dr. Sharon O’Brien, director of Catholics For Family Peace at the  Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., makes a point during a domestic violence workshop in Essex Junction. (Vermont Catholic/Cori Fugere Urban) Dr. Sharon O’Brien, director of Catholics For Family Peace at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., makes a point during a domestic violence workshop in Essex Junction.
Abuse and violence have no place in marriage. Period.
 
That was the message of a presenter at the “Responding to Domestic Violence” workshop, Feb. 22, sponsored by the Diocese of Burlington and Vermont Catholic Charities Inc.
 
“There is no way you can justify abuse and violence in a Catholic marriage,” emphasized Dr. Sharon O’Brien, director of Catholics For Family Peace at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. “We are called to honor ourselves and protect our children.”
 
In “When I Call for Help,” a pastoral response to domestic violence against women, the United States bishops condemned the use of the Bible to support abusive behavior in any form. “A correct reading of Scripture leads people to an understanding of the equal dignity of men and women and to relationships based on mutuality and love,” they wrote.
 
O’Brien emphasized the hope, help and healing the Church offers to victims of domestic violence.
 
That was illustrated by “Nicole,” a survivor of domestic violence who told the gathering of about 50 people, including priests and deacons, at Holy Family parish center in Essex Junction that she “never would have made it through” without the strength she found in her faith and the compassion of a priest.
 
Pregnant, unmarried, underemployed, physically and emotionally abused, “scared beyond anybody’s ability to understand” and often locked in a room, she ran when she had the opportunity.
 
When the priest saw her crying at the back of the church one day, he spoke with her and suggested she contact Vermont Catholic Charities for help. “If he had not done that, I would still be in an abusive relationship and my child would be abused,” she said.
 
At Catholic Charities, she learned of services and resources available to her.
 
During her presentation, O’Brien explained that domestic violence is behavior that is used to control an intimate partner through fear and intimidation. It can include emotional, physical, sexual, psychological, financial and spiritual abuse as well as stalking.
 
She encouraged her listeners to “recognize, respond and refer” when they encounter abuse, but she stressed the importance of the abused person having a plan for what she/he will do later, before leaving. She suggested faith communities pray for both the abused and abusers, support local resource providers and showcase local resources and programs (by, for example, posting helpful information in rest rooms).
 
O’Brien noted that both men and women are abused. Signs of abuse include name calling, insults, constant criticism, humiliation; forced isolation from family and friends; monitoring of how time is spent; control of finances and refusal to share money; threats of deportation or of reporting to a welfare agency; death threats; destruction of property, such as household furnishings; and forced sex.
 
“The Church is crystal clear: There is no place for abuse and violence in marriage,” O’Brien reiterated.
 
Tom Mott, director of counseling services for Vermont Catholic Charities, addressed the gathering on “Catholic Charities Counseling Services for Victims and Perpetrators of Domestic Violence.”
 
Information about Vermont Catholic Charities, or call (Burlington) 877-250-4099 or (Rutland) 800-851-8379.

 
Last modified onThursday, 23 February 2017 09:23
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