In an effort to inform all of us of the epidemic reality of Domestic Violence, I asked Michelle Schiller-Baker, a tireless leader in serving women who are victims of Domestic Violence, to share much needed information for all of us. I most admire Michelle for her steadfastness, fidelity and love with which she has served women who are victims of Domestic Violence.
The Annunciation Blog invites us to look at “the wonder, mystery, hassle, dynamics of relationships,” and I believe that is what our souls seek. Our relationship with each other, the earth, the universe, and our Creator are sacred. We prevail in recognizing this sacredness as often as we fail. The Good News is that we always have the opportunity to do better.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It was first declared in 1989 acknowledging that violence against women is a worldwide epidemic and the need to give voice to survivors and victims. Statistics bear out that we often fail in recognizing the worth and sacredness of many women.
- 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. (World Health Organization, 2017)
- 38% of murders of women are committed by a male intimate partner. (Ibid)
- 54% of mass shootings (2009-2018) started with a man targeting his girlfriend, wife or ex-wife. (Analysis of Recent Mass Shootings, Everytown for Gun Safety, December 2019, identifiable through FBI data)
- 31% of firearm homicides of children under the age of 13 years are related to domestic violence. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017)
- Missouri ranked 2nd in the highest rate of men murdering women (73 women). (When Men Murder Women: Analysis of 2018 Homicide Data, Violence Policy Center, September 2020)
- In 2019, 11,080 women and children received safety in domestic violence shelters in Missouri. (Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, 2019)
When we don’t feel safe we naturally seek the refuge of our home and family, as we have done during this COVID-19 pandemic. But for abused women and their children it is not a refuge. Their choice is between risking contraction of the virus to herself and children by reaching out for help or staying home and being abused.
I’ve been an advocate for abused women and their children for most of my adult life. I worked at St. Martha’s Hall, a domestic violence shelter, for 37 years. I witnessed the staff, volunteers and countless community members take on the dangerous risk of helping these women and children. Their devotion to ending this violence by helping survivors and remembering victims is done with compassion and perseverance. They see the face of God in each person and recognize this is sacred work. Indeed it has been a holy experience to witness them in action.
I am a Feminist and to many this is a dirty word. Often met with disdain and the judgment that you are a “man hater” or the vile label, “Feminazi”. But I embrace the label of Feminist and in so doing I am guided by Benedictine nun, Joan Chittister’s, definition of Feminism:
“…the commitment to the equality, dignity and full humanity of all persons; the recognition that women do not have equality, dignity and full humanity; and to work to bring about structural changes that make that possible. It insists on the importance of women’s lives—not that they are more important than men’s lives, but simply that they be foregrounded as the lives of men are, that the dishonor that has attached to them be redressed. It is to put oneself firmly, … on the side of justice. And if one is on the side of justice, one is on the side of the oppressed and marginalized. It is a call to action.”
Feminists are not just women. Many of the men I have known and worked with are Feminists and I have learned much from them. Indeed Jesus was a Feminist.
So what can we all do? Learn more about it so that you can be an agent of change. Don’t remain silent. Be a Feminist as Sr. Joan defines it. Contact the National Domestic Hotline, 1-800-799-7233, for local resources. You may also go to St. Martha’s Hall website: www.saintmarthas.org
Peace and Perseverance,
St. Louis, MO
The most reliable predictor of whether a country is violent within itself—or will use military violence against another country—is not poverty, natural resources, religion or even degree of democracy; it’s violence against females. It normalizes all other violence.
Sex and World Peace, Valerie Hudson, et. Al, Texas A&M University, 2012
I ask no favors for my sex… All I ask of our brethren is that they will take their feet from off our necks…
Spoken by two women, once in 1837 and again in 1973.