and putting an end to family violence are of key concern for Catholic
Social Services Victoria and the wider community.
this year, Catholic Social Services hosted the Review Reimage Renew
Conference which included a forum on family violence, ‘Family violence: a
challenge of the church to make a difference’.
forum brought together experts on the issue of family violence, with
panel members speaking from their experience of direct service
provision, advocacy and education. A clear conclusion from the
discussion was the gendered nature of family violence—that the
overwhelming impact of violence is on women and their children.
panel members stressed the importance of primary prevention—of
preventing violence before it happens, by tackling the underlying causes
of violence against women, and the attitudes that allow it to flourish.
Education, particularly of young men, was seen to be a priority.
panel members also spoke strongly about the potential role of the
church in seeking to make the changes that may one day reduce the
incidence of family violence.
Vincent Long addressed the forum on the Church’s response to family
violence. He talked about the church having the potential to be a
resource or a roadblock for women experiencing family violence. As a
resource, it can encourage women to resist mistreatment. As a roadblock,
its misinterpretation can contribute to a victim’s self-blame and
suffering, and to the abuser’s rationalisations. A correct reading of
Scripture leads people to understand the equal dignity of men and women,
and relationships based on mutuality and love, he said.
Long went on to say: ‘The root causes of violence against women have
often been found to be gender inequity and rigid gender stereotypes.
Furthermore, violent attitudes and behaviours have their root in the
same place—the abuse of power and control of one person over another.’
He called on the Church to be a model of inclusion, empowerment and
human flourishing, especially for those who are oppressed, asking can
Church leaders—who are mostly male—be champions of change on the issue
of family violence and its root causes of gender inequity and rigid
April 2016, the report of the Victorian Royal Commission into Family
Violence was released. The report affirmed the importance of faith
communities taking on a role in the community response to family
violence, through giving solace to those experiencing harm, educating
their communities and ensuring their message is one which unequivocally
condemns family violence and sends a message of gender equality. In
short, being a resource and not a roadblock.
the forum, developments have continued within the Catholic Church in
Australia. The Rewrite the Story initiative by the Catholic Archdiocese
of Brisbane www.RewriteTheStory.org.au has commenced.
Victoria, Catholic Social Services Victoria has been working with the
bishops and with parishes. Briefings for the bishops and resource
material for the Catholic community are close to completion, for
distribution in the coming months.
are very aware that change will require a sustained response. An
ongoing program is being planned to continue raising awareness and
developing skills within the Catholic Church community.
For further information, contact Helen.Burt@css.org.au.
1800RESPECT – 1800 737 732
is a 24-hour 7 day a week national telephone advice, referral and online counseling
line for women and children affected by family violence.
MENSLINE Australia – 1300 789 978 is a 24-hour 7 day a week national service supporting men and boys
dealing with family and relationship difficulties.
POLICE - If anyone is at
risk of immediate harm, call 000.