October 11 – 28th Sunday
First Reading Wisdom 7:7-11 Second Reading Hebrews 4:12-13
Gospel Mark 10:17-30
If the opening of this Gospel sounded more familiar than usual – it’s not just you – Luke’s version was read on Monday. I’m sure you are aware that October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Well, October 11th is National Shout Out Sunday – an effort sponsored by “We Will Speak Out” coalition. For both these reasons, I’ve chosen to focus our attention on the theme of domestic violence. It may be a stretch but I believe it fits in with the portion of the Gospel where Jesus calls our attention to the commandments forbidding violence and abuse:: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud.
Churches are an integral part of communities worldwide, with a mandate to care and stand with people who are marginalized and vulnerable. Shame and fear often lead to sexual violence, including trafficking violence, being hidden in both churches and the wider community.
The “We Will Speak Out” coalition works together with partners to harness efforts to prevent and eliminate trafficking and all forms of sexual violence by supporting faith groups to speak out against sexual violence, show strong and positive leadership and become a ‘safe’ place for people who rightfully expect protection.
The incidents of domestic violence, even with all the anti-bullying education provided in our schools and through the media, is a sobering statistic: 20 persons PER MINUTE are the victims of physical violence by an intimate partner – and that is only in the U.S.
Improved methods of treatment of military personnel suffering from PSTD are being extended to all victims of trauma. Such intervention techniques include
ART: Accelerated Resolution Therapy – imaging the incident but identifying and sharing only the feelings.
- Giving victims two sleep cycles before doing in-depth interviews because of how the brain processes trauma.
- Realizing the role that exercise plays in the healing process – getting the adrenaline flowing to the brain so trauma can be processed and released.
- And, the importance of brain stimulation, especially over the age of 50, when the effects of remembering early trauma can come back to haunt the victim. So keep doing Find-a-Word and crossword puzzles, keep reading and watching movies and TV documentaries AND then test your memory by relating what you’ve read and viewed (makes for more interesting and engaging conversation than the “navel gazing” chitchat of my health, my problems, my aches and pains; what I think about the menu served and how I would have prepared it.
Experts in the field are paying more attention to, and realizing that the role faith-communities play is essential. Says one therapist: “the connection with religious and faith-based spaces is absolutely critical. We cannot provide comprehensive care to survivors without our religious communities and institutions. Some seminaries are now stressing the intersection of theology and trauma, about the effects of trauma on the brain and reinforcing the notion that faith communities should be safe places for reporting and healing.
There is data that indicates the shared social interaction of religious communities can actually serve to mitigate the loss of trust experienced by survivors – helping them to cope and overcome the emotional damage of being attacked – physically abuse, sexual, verbal and emotional maltreatment. Brain research, with the help of CT scans, reveals that children witnessing abuse – without being personally attacked – being an innocent bystander to adult abuse – causes as much brain damage as a blow to the head or being sexually attacked. This is the trauma that often comes back many years later to disrupt and impede the ability to form intimate adult relationships. Unaddressed trauma can have life-long repercussions like a pattern of eruptive anger and fits of rage, an ever-growing list of physical complaints and manifestations of mental illness and personality disorders. People who cannot develop healthy relationships often resort to power and control instead. The movie “Mighty Joe Young” depicts a female trainer who returns to the zoo after a long absence expecting a happy reunion with the animal she considered “friend.” The gorilla threatens, growls and tosses her about until she says, “Stop! That’s it; there is no more.” The victim’s change of mind set regarding who is in control, begins to direct a different outcome. Depending on the severity and the duration of the trauma, therapy to take control can be a frightening experience, painful and a long commitment. But at the end of the tunnel the survivor realizes a new lease on a life of happiness, vitality and excitement.
Speaking about faith communities, it is not just about church attendance but about being embedded in a religious social network and about that being a part of the persons’ identity. This identity piece is essential for survivors. One of the first things an advocate will ask is “what is your support system?”
So, what does all this say to us? We may not be aware of who is victim in our midst. Creating space for people to gather where and with whom they feel secure is a healing experience. Remember what we say in our Mission Statement…We envision a community secure in God’s love as we create sacred, safe spaces of help, hope, and prayer.
If ever there is a place for survivors of violence to know they are not on their journey alone, it should be within faith communities. Hand in hand with our role in the healing process comes the responsibility to become educated on our role – equipping ourselves with advocacy tools like being aware of the services, and how to access what is provided for prevention, protection, and reporting …places like SUNRISE and the DAWN CENTER. There is no shortage of material to appropriately address advocacy issues, how to report, where to direct those in need of protection.
Our participation in events like the Candlelight Vigil and the Peace Breakfast give witness of our support and gratitude to the staff. Our monetary donations help, true, but, even more, our presence reminds the world that we believe we are all embraced by the love of a merciful God who has walked the road of a victim of violence before all of us. And, our interest tells victims that they do not have to walk alone. As Pope Francis reminded us in the table reading the other evening: in quoting the great commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself for love is the fulfillment of the law.” Reflection of S. Roberta Bailey, OSB