Catholics must help stem scourge of domestic violence

Dr Patricia Madigan OP

Australian Catholic leaders are backing Pope Francis’ firm condemnation of domestic violence and encouraging Catholics to help eradicate violence against women – which has claimed dozens of lives this year.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women will be marked on Sunday, November 25, and the Catholic Church is joining other parts of the community to highlight the need for action.“I am appalled by the impact of domestic violence on so many women’s lives and on the lives of their families,” said Dr Patricia Madigan OP, chair of the Council for Australian Catholic Women (CACW).

“I grieve the loss of life and call on all Australians, especially Catholic men to take the lead in creating a culture of nonviolence.”

Australian statistics show that, on average, at least one woman dies a violent death at the hands of a current or former partner each week.

Geraldton Bishop Michael Morrissey attended a recent meeting of the Council of Australian Catholic Women and added his voice to those sickened by the epidemic of violence against women.

“Domestic violence is a blight on our society and there are signs it’s getting worse,” Bishop Morrissey lamented.

“Police respond to approximately 5000 domestic violence matters every week. Everyone needs to stand up and hold disrespect, abuse and violence against women and children in all its forms to account, without exception.”

The Council for Australian Catholic Women has been sharing the words of Pope Francis to underline the Church’s strong stance.

The Holy Father has said: “Violence against women cannot be treated as ‘normal’. It is not right for us to look the other way and let the dignity of so many women, especially young women, be trampled upon.”

While dozens of women have tragically died in Australia this year as a result of domestic violence, women who have been exposed to violence have a greater risk of developing a range of health problems. They experience poorer overall physical health overall and are more likely to engage in practices that are harmful to their health and experience difficulties in accessing health services.

Homelessness is another major issue, with women and children escaping domestic violence often needed housing support and related services. Social and family connections, children’s education and employment can all suffer accordingly.

The CACW pointed to a number of resources that have been created by Catholic agencies related to domestic violence, including A Catholic Response to Domestic Violence from the Diocese of Broken Bay and the resources developed by Catholic Social Service Victoria.

There has also been an increase in the number of Catholic parishes collaborating with civic organisations and other Churches to raise awareness of the issue of domestic violence and to provide support for victims.

Dr Madigan said that whole-of-community response is necessary, but the Church can play a leading role.

“Australians, and especially the Catholic community, are challenged to respond to domestic violence by reporting violence and not being a bystander, communicating zero tolerance for violence and full support for victims, promoting healthy relationships, developing the capacity to respond appropriately to individual disclosures and praying together for peace, justice, and true reconciliation,” she said.

For further information, contact Andrea Dean on 0487 388 873.