Anonymous for ABC News writes:
Thanks to the work of ABC journalists Julia Baird and Hayley Gleeson, a light was shone on the insidious problem of domestic violence in religious communities.
For the first time our stories as clergy wives were heard by a wide audience, and we felt hopeful that by speaking up, we could contribute to better outcomes for other women who were still suffering.
And yet so much has not changed.
We’re still struggling to survive. Many of us live in desperate poverty; housing insecurity and not knowing where our next meal will come from is our daily reality.
It can be difficult to access the specialised trauma counselling that we and our children need — few counsellors are trained to deal with domestic violence induced trauma, the cost can be prohibitive, and child minding can be almost impossible for those of us who have lost much of our support networks.
We struggle to find our way spiritually as we adjust to thinking for ourselves, after years or decades of being told what to believe and how to behave in order to please the God we had had presented to us through our husbands’ dictates.
And we still have no voice in the formal structures of the Sydney Anglican Church.
Over the past year there has been fierce pushback against the taskforce’s emphasis on the need to support victims seeking to leave abusive marriages.
In its report this week the taskforce noted it had received feedback from some who felt its domestic abuse policy had “inadvertently gone too far in undermining the intended permanence of the marriage covenant”.
The emphasis on the indissolubility of marriage in diocesan teaching has been a powerful factor in trapping women in violent marriages. Both victims and advocates have argued this must urgently be clarified, and the policy reflects as much.
But women are still reporting far too often being re-victimised by church workers and parish policies for leaving their abusive marriages.
Not long after I left my marriage, I was invited to meet with a group of other ex-clergy wives who had also recently left or were preparing to leave abusive marriages.
A woman with an influential leadership role in the diocese thanked us for coming and then said: “Now, I want us to think about how we can preserve our beautiful doctrine of submission in the face of these terrible experiences you have had”.
I listened in disbelief as she quite literally put the preservation of this doctrine, which is frequently interpreted as requiring wives to “submit” to their husbands, ahead of any acknowledgement of the horrific treatment we had endured, and were still suffering, at the hands of husbands who had used that very scripture to justify their violence.
Does the Bible really deserve more empathy than the human beings for whom it was written?