Pentecostal clergy response to domestic and family violence

Domestic and Family Violence (DFV) is a serious and widespread problem in Australia.  It occurs in all communities, including communities of faith.  Victims are predominantly women and children. 

Churches can provide trusted relationships and various forms of support – pastoral, material, spiritual – to those who are experiencing violence, or who have previously experienced it.  Clergy, leaders and friends at church may be called on by attenders for help.

Most clergy have experience with domestic and family violence situations.  Results from the 2016 National Church Life Survey show how they have responded. 

 

Most Pentecostal clergy have dealt with DFV situations

 

Almost all Pentecostal clergy have responded to victims of abuse, with half responding to perpetrators.

 

 

Some 96% of clergy dealt with victims of abuse – by referring them to specialist services (74%), counselling them (72%), and/or much less commonly conducting a safety risk assessment (28%).  About half of clergy (52%) either counselled perpetrators or referred perpetrators or did both (40% counselled, 33% referred).

Around half (52%) provided marriage or couples counselling in relation to DFV situations.  Couples counselling is problematic.  Victims of domestic violence, and services that support them, maintain that couples counselling is ineffective and unsafe as it fails to address the unequal power in an abusive relationship and can place the victim at increased risk. 

Referring the victim to a service agency was the response that was most often reported in isolation; 47% of Pentecostal clergy who reported only one type of response had done so.  Some 64% of clergy who reported one or two types of responses referred victims and 44% counselled them. 

Responses that were focused on the perpetrator – namely counselling the perpetrator and referring the perpetrator to a service agency – tended not to be reported in isolation, but rather as part of a set of responses.  Very small numbers of clergy who reported one or two responses focused on perpetrators.  In contrast, among those who reported three or more types of responses 64% had counselled perpetrators while 51% had referred perpetrators to a service agency. 

 

 

Pentecostal clergy aged under 40 were significantly less likely than those aged 40 and over to have dealt with DFV situations (46% vs 76%).  Among those who had dealt with DFV situations, those aged under 40 were significantly less likely to have counselled couples than those aged 40 and over.  Differences in responses by gender were not statistically significant.

 

 

A fifth of Pentecostal clergy considered themselves to be very familiar with DFV support services 

 

 

Forming bridges between churches and specialist DFV support services is an important way to equip clergy to better respond to DFV.  While seven in 10 clergy considered themselves to be familiar with local DFV support services at least to some degree (somewhat or very familiar), just 20% considered themselves to be very familiar.  Familiarity did not differ significantly by age or gender.

 

Note: Results are based on n=149 Pentecostal clergy who participated in the 2016 NCLS.  Data are unweighted. 
Mean age = 48 years, 60% male, 83% Australian-born, 10% with a postgraduate degree.  Staff role:

  • The minister/pastor/priest of the congregation/parish: 30%
  • The senior minister/pastor/priest of ministry team: 17%
  • Minister, pastor or priest in a ministry team (not the senior minister): 45%
  • Minister/pastor/priest of equal standing in ministry team: 7%

 

See full paper:

Pepper, Miriam, and Ruth Powell. 2022. "Domestic and Family Violence: Responses and Approaches across the Australian Churches" Religions 13, no. 3: 270. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13030270

 

Denominational Responses

Authors:
Miriam Pepper
Data Sources:

Leader Surveys, 2016 National Church Life Survey, NCLS Research.

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Domestic and Family Violence (DFV) is a serious and widespread problem in Australia. It occurs in all communities, including communities of faith. Victims are predominantly women and children.