General Conference Women’s Ministries (GCWM) began addressing the issue of domestic violence and abuse in 2001 when delegates at Annual Council, one of two yearly business meetings of the Executive Committee of the General Conference, voted to add Abuse Prevention Day (renamed enditnow®) to the Church calendar of important events. Since 2002, the GCWM department has been creating resource packets on abuse prevention for churches.
In 2009, GCWM partnered with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) to bring intentional emphasis to abuse against women and girls. That same year the United Nations voted that the issue of abuse against women and girls was a pandemic. ADRA received a donation to focus specifically on gender based abuse and approached the GCWM department to partner with them.
With a motto of “Adventists say ‘no’ to violence,” enditnow®, the global initiative they launched, aims to equip Adventist members and other community groups with tools to effectively start conversations about and create solutions for some of the most sensitive and stigmatizing issues in society.
“enditnow® builds on the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s long tradition of responding to the needs of all human beings, namely, to stand up in favor of human rights, tolerance, the well-being of children, freedom of expression and conscience, and the protection and integrity of families…”[i]
While these issues are vitally important for year-round focus, the Adventist Church has set aside the fourth Sabbath in August every year to emphasize the enditnow® campaign on a global level. This year, dual concerns of pornography and youth violence are stressed.
PORNOGRAPHY: A PRIVATE ISSUE?
Many will say that pornography is a private matter, a guilty pleasure hidden in darkness that doesn’t really hurt anyone. This is absolutely false. Drs. Claudio and Pamela Consuegra, Family Ministries directors for the North American region of the World Church, prepared a seminar on the dangers of pornography and how it affects the user and potential victims. The following information is from the Consuegra’s research[ii]:
“Pornography sets expectations of violence and abuse. In a deranged way, pornography acts as a form of sexual education, teaching children, young men, and adult males the lesson that female sexual partners should enjoy physical acts such as hitting, gagging, slapping, or non-consensual sex.”
“Pornography use by domestic abusers can increase the odds of sexual assault. Janet Hinson Shope conducted a study of 271 battered women, in which 30 percent stated their abusers reportedly used pornography… According to the findings, men who use pornography and go to strip clubs were found to engage in higher rates of sexual abuse, stalking, and marital rape.”
Erica Jones, one of the authors of the enditnow® materials this year and assistant director for Women’s Ministries in the North American Division, says this issue “doesn’t stop at the church doors, and it doesn’t stop at the doors of the family home. Pornography use has become rampant across nearly all demographics… Silence and shame only perpetuate the cycle; we cannot be silent about it.”
THE SECOND ISSUE: YOUTH VIOLENCE
Youth violence can be defined as “an extreme form of aggression with the goal of physical harm, injury, or death. Examples of youth violence also include date rape, homicides, and gang violence.”[iii]
What are some contributing factors to youth violence? Media influence, dynamics in their community, domestic violence and child abuse, peer pressure, drug and alcohol use, traumatic events leading to post traumatic stress disorder, and mental illness are all causes of violence among teens.[iv]
Sarah McDugal, an abuse recovery coach based in the United States, shares that one of the major contributors that is often overloooked is cultural norms that exist inside our homes. She says, “It may be uncomfortable to recognize that far too often we treat our family at home with more hostility, quarreling, jealousy, angry outbursts, envy, and other forms of emotional and physical aggression than we may exhibit anywhere else. Our spouses and children become easy targets for our frustration, exhaustion, or irritability. Then they grow up believing these patterns of behavior are normal, and they treat siblings, peers, romantic partners, and their future families in the same generational pattern.”
WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
What can members do to stop the cycle, educate and bring awareness to these important issues? The Women’s Ministries Department at the General Conference offers the following suggestions:
- Get relevant resources – The enditnow® material from the General Conference Women’s Ministries department is a good place to start. Other resources are readily available from your local Conference/ Union Family Ministries, Health Ministries, and Women’s Ministries departments.
- Create a safe haven – Make your church a secure place where victims of abuse and violence can come to seek help and healing without condemnation. Use existing material or prepare relevant re- sources that include information about how/where these individuals can get help. Make these materials visible and easily available in the church at all times.
- Educate your congregation – Present programs, run seminars, and provide material on the various forms of abuse to help educate church members.
- Speak out – Utilize church and community programs as a platform to inform and to speak out against abuse.
- Lead by example – Always present a non-violent attitude and grace- filled attitude even when dealing with perpetrators of abuse. Use your influence as a leader to positively impact people’s attitudes. Seek opportunities to educate others.
- Informed intervention and referral – If you suspect that abuse is happening, do not attempt to deal with the situation on your own. Be informed about local abuse reporting procedures and references to external agencies specializing in this area. Seek professional advice and help. Pray for the family involved and maintain absolute confidentiality.
Women’s Ministries groups around the world are doing amazing things to advocate for victims of abuse. In Italy, Adventist women contributed to a national resource drawing attention to and denouncing violence against women.
Despite COVID lockdown restrictions, Women’s Ministries leaders in Malaysia conducted a virtual abuse prevention awareness campaign for an entire month, reaching over 1,800 participants.
In the East-Central Africa region of the World Church, Women’s Ministries groups presented seminars and community dialogue sessions in churches, schools, and universities. They shared testimonies of the danger of gender-based violence (GBV) and prepared television and radio spots in national and local languages all over the division.
These are just a few examples of what others are doing. So, what can you do? How can you help? Take a stand. Break the silence…and together, we can enditnow®.
For more information and resources, visit women.adventist.org or enditnow
[i] Retrieved from https://www.enditnow.org/about/.
[ii]Retrieved from https://women.adventist.org/enditnow-day.
[iii] Retrieved from https://www.verywellfamily.com/causes-of-youth-violence-2611437.