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5 Catholic resources to help survivors of domestic abuse

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Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 05/08/23

The Catholic Church has a number of documents and resources for survivors, but they aren’t well known.

It’s hard to talk about such a horrible topic, but domestic abuse is so widespread that it’s very important to share information about it. 

It’s much more common than we might realize: About “1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence,” according to the National Coalition against Domestic Violence

So if you’re reading this, you probably know someone currently affected, or you may have survived domestic violence yourself.

I turned to an expert, Jenny DuBay, to learn more about this topic. DuBay is the author of the forthcoming book Don’t Plant Your Seeds Among Thorns: A Catholic’s Guide to Domestic Abuse

A survivor of domestic abuse herself, duBay dedicates her career to advocating for other survivors and helping them find healing. She previously shared red flags to look for in relationships

The Catholic Church has a number of documents and resources for survivors, but they aren’t well-known. DuBay generously answered a few more questions about helpful resources for Catholics in particular. 

Jenny-DuBay
Jenny DuBay

How can a person in a troubled situation know when to stay and when to go? 

DuBay: There are now so many wonderful resources and help for those in desperate situations, yet there are two primary (secular) resources I highly recommend for physical safety. The first is the Domestic Violence Hotline at https://www.thehotline.org and 800.799.SAFE (7233). The second is DomesticShelters, where victims can find help in their local area (https://www.domesticshelters.org).

For spiritual help, I can’t recommend Hope’s Garden enough. The free community there is incredible (https://hopesgarden.com). This site is a sisterhood of Christ-centered healing and love. 

When a person is in an emotionally or physically dangerous marriage, the Church doesn’t insist a victim must stay. The Code of Canon Law states, “If either of the spouses causes grave mental or physical danger to the other spouse or to the offspring or otherwise renders common life too difficult, that spouse gives the other a legitimate cause for leaving, either by decree of the local ordinary or even on his or her own authority if there is danger in delay” (CIC, Code 1153). 

Whether to stay or go is an individual decision that must be discerned through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Much can be written on this topic — I dedicate an entire chapter to the topic in my upcoming book, as well as a chapter on the possibility of change and healing.

What resources does the Church have to help and to heal? 

DuBay: The Church has many resources to help and heal from domestic abuse, but unfortunately they’re hidden. This is actually why I began my ministry and website (https://www.createsoulspace.net). 

The best document for victims and survivors of domestic abuse to read is the USCCB article, “When I Call for Help,” as previously mentioned. There are also several valuable online resources such as Catholics for Family Peace (http://www.catholicsforfamilypeace.org), the Domestic Violence Outreach Program through the Archdiocese of Chicago (https://pvm.archchicago.org/human-dignity-solidarity/domestic-violence-outreach), and the free e-book by Dr. Christauria Welland, How Can We Help End Violence in Catholic Families? (https://paxinfamilia.org/educational- materials-for-free-download-or-in-print-for-purchase/).

Hope’s Garden (https://hopesgarden.com) is a complete and secure online community of prayer, support groups and healing for domestic abuse and betrayal trauma victims. My website provides further resources, as does my Substack newsletter (https://createsoulspace.substack.com).

Catholic victims need to know that they have rights in this severe issue. There is no excuse for abuse.

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