Twelve Ways to Increase Awareness of Abuse and Bring About Change

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by Elizabeth S. Bowman, M.D., S.T.M.
Psychiatrist and medical school professor in Indianapolis, IN

Abuse - Fist Image

  1. Encourage clergy to mention from the pulpit such issues as abuse, domestic
    violence, and rape. (When a pastor says the word incest, for example, incest becomes real in that church.)
  2. Volunteer to teach topical Sunday school studies or lead church discussion groups that will provide a theological perspective on domestic violence and rape.
  3. Encourage pastors and other leaders to mention in public prayer “those who suffer violence in the home,” just as prayer is offered for “those who are suffering from [named disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, bombings, shootings, and other tragedies].”
  4. Send flowers and visit people who are in psychiatric institutions or the psychiatric wards of hospitals.
  5. Name sexual violence as sin. Get it out in the open for what it is.
  6. If you are an EEWC member working in a mental health field, seek opportunities to educate church members about post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and other conditions that may flow from abuse. Let people know that some emotional disturbances and illnesses occur because of such experiences.
  7. Emphasize the importance of using inclusive, egalitarian language.
  8. Express disapproval of the use of dominant military images in hymns and sermons, respectfully pointing out that such images contribute to the idea of a God of violence and justify interpersonal domination.
  9. Express praise to pastors for specific ways they have been supportive of women.
  10. Express disappointment/criticism to pastors when something nonsupportive toward women is said or done (which is more likely to be received and acted upon if Number 9 has been followed).
  11. Encourage pastors to name mental illness among other illnesses that are mentioned in prayers and sermons. This destigmatizes it and gets out the message that mental illness is just another illness.
  12. Lead a study of Paul Tillich’s book Dynamics of Faith and spend a session on the exclusive use of male images of God as a form of idolatry (substituting worship of something finite [maleness] for the worship of the Ultimate Reality of God). Explore the implications of worshipping maleness for the subjugation and abuse of females.

© 1999  Evangelical and Ecumenical Women’s Caucus voume 23 number 2 Summer July-September 1999

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Elizabeth Bowman, M.D.
Elizabeth Bowman, M.D. is a board-certified psychiatrist who specializes in treatment of trauma, including childhood and adult sexual assault. She is a Clinical Professor in the Indiana University School of Medicine Department of Neurology in Indianapolis, Indiana. Dr. Bowman also received a Master of Sacred Theology degree from Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis and has extensive experience teaching and writing on spirituality in mental health, on dissociative disorders, and on psychosomatic types of seizures. She has served as Co-Editor in Chief of the Journal of Trauma and Dissociation. She is actively involved in a mainline Protestant congregation and has been an EEWC-Christian Feminism Today member so long that she can't remember when she joined!

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