I love Catholicism. I've studied it since I was five. It has grown with me. The longer I write here, the more people I meet and the smaller this Catho world feels.
I still have no real explanation for what kept me searching for answers and finding them in the church. I still have no explanation for how I stumbled across the want ad in the paper that lead me to domestic and sexual violence survivor advocacy. Yet here I am, passionately entangled in both.
A few weeks ago, I surveyed you glorious readers in an attempt to figure out who you are and why you read these posts. I am a small time writer, and inconsistent at that, but I have a goal. I want to help facilitate improvements to the Catholic response to SA/DV survivors. I want our parishes and dioceses to care for and support survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. I want my church to be a support and comfort for all. In April, I set out to find out what the church's standard operating procedures were, or if we had them in place. I asked you if you knew your local resources. Do you?
I would guess that not one of us is without a loved one that has experienced sexual or domestic violence. The stories are heartbreaking, and we are left wringing our hands in angst or explaining it away. Maybe we prefer not to talk about it. Maybe we are wrought with grief because the perpetrator is also a loved one. Maybe we just don't know what to do, so we "give it to God."
Maybe God is throwing it back at us because we can help.
We can talk to our children about healthy relationships.
We can encourage and foster a healthy view of our sexuality.
We can use our positions in ministry (youth, choir, marriage or sacrament prep, and other ministry).
We can improve our pregnancy help center's resources to advocate for survivors of sexual and domestic violence.
We can use our abilities as writers, bloggers, editors, radio personalities, volunteers to support survivors.
We can believe our loved ones when they say they have been hurt.
We can support survivors when conversations and gossip goes sour.
We can speak up when others scoff at current events involving assault or abuse.
We can be a voice.
It is not easy to go through an assault or an abusive marriage. When you are Catholic or religious, there are the added hurdles. Sometimes modesty is twisted and contorted to become a way to explain away assault. Sometimes our vows to love and honor our spouses in good times and bad forever can be misunderstood. Sometimes we get caught up and compare our obligations in a healthy, balanced relationship or situation to the tangled and complicated circumstances that surround abuse and assault.
We should do better. We can do better.
Churches (and parishes and dioceses) can gain knowledge of local resources. They can partner with advocacy programs in a faithful way. They can be trained to be an advocate for those that come to their faith community for help.
We can form a compassionate response to abuse and assault. We must.