A research project into the nature and prevalence of family violence in faith communities
Resource Type: Article
Topics: News Apr 2019 anglican family violence intimate partner violence research projects research
Background Three studies Project scope Literature
Following significant church and media attention to abuses of Anglican women in Australia, the Anglican General Synod Standing Committee has formed a working group to address matters related to intimate partner violence and the Anglican Church. The working group has commissioned NCLS Research to undertake the National Anglican Family Violence Project (NAFVP) to help the General Synod to understand the nature and prevalence of intimate partner violence (which the General Synod is calling ‘family violence’) among those with a connection to the Anglican Church, and to equip the General Synod to respond through policy and practice in ways that foster safer environments for Anglican women and families.
In this project, family violence/intimate partner violence is defined as violence between those who are or were in a married or de facto relationship or a dating relationship. Violence may be of various kinds – including physical, sexual, psychological, spiritual, emotional. It is not only individual violent acts, but also patterns of sustained violence wherein a person tries to intimidate and control their partner or former partner.
See the Anglican General Synod website for more information
An overview report can be downloaded here:
The target outcome for this study is to understand what roles Anglican churches have had in people’s experiences of family violence (experiences of violence, responses to violence, the meanings associated with these experiences). It will help to inform the Anglican Church about what aspects of church life have contributed to these experiences, and in what ways, and thereby help to guide church policy and practice in relation to family violence.
Mixed methods - Semi-structured interviews, preceded by online anonymous survey. The online scoping survey is a scoping and recruitment tool for the interviews. The survey will be widely distributed through Anglican networks and will collect preliminary information about church history and connection with the Anglican church and experiences of family violence. Respondents will be asked if they are willing to take part in an in-depth interview.
The target outcome for this study is to understand how Anglican clergy and local church leaders currently engage with issues of family violence in the context of their local church, and thereby help to guide church policy and practice in relation to equipping clergy and lay leaders to respond to these issues.
Mixed methods - Online survey of random sample of clergy and other leaders, preceded by focus groups. A small number of discussion groups will be held with groups of clergy across a range of dioceses, focusing on ministry practices and approaches. The purpose is to assist with framing and design of an online survey of clergy to examine attitudes, beliefs, knowledge and practices regarding family violence.
The target outcome for this study are to achieve an estimate of the prevalence of instances of family violence among Australians who identify as Anglican and for those who attend Anglican churches, in comparison with the general Australian population.
Online surveys of the Australian population, and Australians who identify as Anglican.
There is no agreed definition for family violence. Definitions are shaped by the context of inquiry and informed by the perspective and understandings of researchers or organisations (ABS, 2013, p.6). This project focuses on forms of violence towards women from an intimate partner (present and former). In the literature, the term ‘intimate partner violence’ or ‘domestic violence’ is often used.
In recognition of the breadth and complexity of the acts involved in abuse and the contexts in which they occur (e.g. Christian women have experienced emotional abuse and threats (Wang, Levitt and Klesges 2009) and financial deprivation (Baird, 2018), as well as physical and sexual abuse), we take a broad perspective. Following the framework provided by the ABS (2013), we see family violence as comprising physical violence, sexual abuse, psychological abuse (including spiritual abuse), emotional abuse, verbal abuse and intimidation, economic and social deprivation, damage of personal property, harassment and stalking. Family violence is not only about individual violent acts, but also patterns of sustained violence wherein a person tries to intimidate and control their partner or former partner.
ABS (2013) 4529.0 – Defining the Data Challenge for Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence, Australia.
Baird, Julia (2018) Domestic violence in the church: When women are believed, change will happen. ABC news analysis, 23 May 2018. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-05-23/when-women-are-believed-the-church-will-change/9782184
Wang, Mei-Chuan, Horne, Sharon G., Levitt, Heidi M. & Klesges (2009) ‘Christian Women in IPV Relationships: An Exploratory Study of Religious Factors’, Journal of Psychology and Christianity 28(3): 224-235
The project concerns family violence in relation to the Anglican Church in Australia. Here, the Anglican Church is understood institutionally, as the gatherings of people who meet for worship services across the country (Anglican churches), the structures that support these gatherings, and the practices that occur in these gatherings and structures. While individual faith of violence survivors is a part of this study, in and of itself it is not the focus. Rather, we are concerned with matters of faith in connection with the Anglican Church/Anglican churches, including relationships survivors may have or have had with church members and leaders, how survivors’ attitudes are shaped by church teachings, survivors’ experiences of practices of various church actors in response to violence etc.
Anglican Church of Australia statement on the National Anglican Family Violence Study
Literature reviews are being undertaken to inform the project at large and the individual studies. The reviews include:
In addition, the project team is consulting with experts in related fields in order to enhance the design of the studies.
The project will seek ethics approval from the Human Research Ethics Committee of Charles Sturt University.
Confident and gifted young women willing yet under-involved in Catholic parishes
The gender imbalance among church attenders is a long-standing issue.