The Spokane Metro area has had some violent deaths this week due to Domestic Violence. We spoke with Ginger Johnson, Associate Director of Abuse Recovery Ministry and Services (E. WA and N. ID). ARMS is a 16 year old faith based non-profit with services for the family around the issue of domestic abuse.
Q: Ginger, in the past few days, we’ve seen 4 deaths attributable to domestic violence in the Spokane/CDA region. Is this coincidence or is it really a bigger problem here than we realize?
A. Yes, Anthony. I am so grieved by these recent deaths. Unfortunately, this is not coincidence. Those who work in the domestic violence field have been concerned for quite some time. Spokane County and North Idaho have shocking domestic violence statistics. Spokane County had 5 domestic violence deaths in 2013. We are close to that number already this year.
Q: We should back up and ask, what is the definition of domestic violence?
A. The state of WA has a broad definition of domestic violence, which includes anyone who has shared a domestic relationship. This includes intimate partners, parents and children, room mates, and siblings. The reason for this broad definition is that while the police make arrests for the physical violence being perpetrated, which is against the law, domestic abuse is about power and control. One person controlling another person. So when a wife is being forced to move across the country and not allowed to speak to her family, a teen is hitting his parent, a woman is screaming and calling names to her invalid mother – these are forms of domestic abuse. Most resources in the community specialize to deal with different types of abuse: child abuse, elder abuse, domestic violence, and so forth.
Q. Who does it affect?
A. Domestic abuse is primarily perpetrated by men on women and children. But it dramatically affects the whole family. Domestic abuse is prevalent in every socio-economic group, every age group, and within secular and faith communities. That is why it is so critical that the faith community discuss the issue, receive training, and prepare to offer help and resources to individuals involved in these situations. 1 in 4 women will be physically assaulted by their partner during their life. Actually, the latest reports are saying 1 in 3. How many women do you know? It affects us all. Our family, our friends, our work place, and our churches.
Q: Where does this kind of violence come from?
A. When someone wants to control another person, often they resort to violence out of an anger or frustration. A victim can never be good enough, submit enough, or respond enough to satisfy the abuser. We must remember that domestic violence is against the law of the United States of America. To clarify, while screaming at his wife, calling her nasty names, blocking her access to friends and family may all be abuse, these are not against the law. But they are several examples of domestic abuse. Individuals who are well liked in the community, on the school board, working in your organization, or teaching in your Sunday School, can be very different in their treatment of their spouse behind closed doors at home.
Q: OK, let’s say we have a situation where a person is currently getting abused right now, today. Is there immediate/emergency help for a victim?
A. First of all, YES there is immediate and emergency help for victims. Here in our community, we have emergency shelter at the Union Gospel Mission Crisis Shelter 24 hours a day, and they ALWAYS have a room. We also have a 24 hour Crisis Line through the YWCA.
Q. Where do they go, what do they do? Can someone pick the victim up and get them to safety in a moments notice?
A. I recommend that all pastors, counselors, Sunday School teachers, and small group leaders have ARMS cards to hand out, the UGM Crisis Shelter phone number, and the Crisis Line number handy. If safety is the IMMEDIATE need, then call the CRISIS Shelter and tell them you have someone you want to bring there asap. They will give detailed instructions. If safety is NOT the immediate need, or fleeing is not a safe option (and often it is NOT), we suggest that individuals call Abuse Recovery Ministry and Services and discuss safety planning, support for victims, groups, and prayer. We at ARMS have hundreds of hours of training and experience in dealing with victims, perpetrators, and families affected by domestic abuse, from a faith-based perspective. We realize that the first place that a victim will go to find help for her situation is to her pastor or clergy. ARMS provides pastors and leaders with training on how to help a domestic violence victim and/or perpetrator. We offer comprehensive programs for the men, women and teens who are affected by these issues.
Q: Our victim is scared. Are these places safe, or will the abuser find them there?
A. Shelters are locked up tight, and many are ‘hidden’ or undisclosed. The UGM Crisis Shelter has great security, and clients may bring children and stay as long as it is necessary to deal with their concerns (within reason). They may also leave each day to go to work or school if they feel safe to do so.
Q: What kind of help is available after the abusive relationship is over, and once the victim is in a safe place?
A. Whether or not a victim is out of the relationship or staying in the relationship, our Her Journey classes offer Biblical insight, prayer, and the support of others who have been in similar situations. We offer education about resources, boundaries, parenting, anger, depression and other issues that victims are dealing with.
Our Mankind program is for men who are court mandated, or who voluntarily want to deal with their abusive and controlling behaviors. We approach it from a Biblical perspective, offering Christ-like attitudes and actions as the appropriate responses to relationship issues. We offer a similar program called Virtue for women with abuse issues. These are WA state certified programs that receive referrals from Probation, courts, and CPS as well as individual counselors and pastors.
ARMS offers parenting classes for anyone who is raising children who have been in domestic violence homes. Foster parents, adoptive parents, grandparents, biological or step parents. This is also a faith based program.
ARMS is passionate about Prevention of Domestic Violence in the first place, and we are offering our Teen Programs, encouraging how to have healthy relationships. We have leader training for these programs in a few weeks, and you can find them on the GSAE event site.
ARMS is also the contracted DV Advocate for the Cheney Municipal Court, and has a consistent presence in the community at the Spokane DV Task Force, area DV training, church training, and state wide respect.
There are several other programs in the region doing shelter work, legal assistance, CPS help, and so forth. The YWCA is a great place to start for legal and housing concerns. Emotional and spiritual healing from domestic abuse is what the non-profit ministry of ARMS is all about.
Let me add this: Domestic Violence is NOT the same as normal marriage conflict. But often it is hard to distinguish the difference at a counseling/pastoral session. That is why training is key. Knowing which questions to ask, what to listen for, and how to advise a victim or perpetrator is critical.
Please be in prayer for the families in your flock that are affected by this tool of Satan. It is bringing death to individuals in our communities, and crushing the spirits of some of the most vulnerable. God sent His Son Jesus, to bring hope for the hopeless, comfort for the hurting, and healing for the wounded. It can be messy, but crisis is often the catalyst that God allows to bring people to a point of salvation and growth toward holiness.
Find them at http://www.armsonline.org/