What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence (also known as Intimate Partner Violence or IPV) is a pattern of abuse where one person exerts power and control over another in an intimate relationship. The abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, verbal, financial or spiritual. 

Who does domestic violence affect?

Abuse can affect anyone regardless of age, race, class, ethnicity, country of origin, first language, sexual orientation, or degree of able-bodiness. Unfortunately, it affects people of every faith as well.


In fact, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence or stalking at the hands of an intimate partner.

What does faith have to do with it?

A study of older adults found that,
"respondents, especially minorities, often indicated that their ‘first stop’ would be a member of the clergy if they were to discuss their [abuse] with anyone." *

Clergy and lay leaders stand on the front lines of the domestic violence and elder abuse crisis. However, we do not always feel prepared to respond. To make matters worse, an abuser may have already used faith as a weapon against the victim. As a result, victims may believe that they should forgive, live with the abuse, or honor the covenant of marriage no matter what.


Faith leaders are uniquely placed to reach out to victims and help direct them to services and safety. Starting right in our own congregations, we can transform faith from a weapon to a resource and support victims with knowledge and compassion.

*Richard Beaulaurier, Laura Seff, and Frederick Newman, “Barriers to Help-Seeking for Older Women Who Experience Intimate Partner Violence: A Descriptive Model,” Journal of Women and Aging, Vol. 20(3/4) 2008, p. 240-241.