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Advice for female Christian survivors of domestic abuse released

by Cara Bentley

'Restored, a Handbook for Female Christian Survivors of Domestic Abuse' is the first of it's kind to directly address the questions and struggles Christian women often face when in an abusive relationship - such as whether it is Biblical to get a divorce and how a partner may misuse scripture to justify their actions.

The charity Restored, who support Christian women rebuild their lives after abuse, is giving the book away for free to any woman who has suffered abuse.

Edited by Christian and counsellor Esther Sweetman, it's a compliation of chapters written by different Christian authors, some of whom have survived domestic abuse themselves, others who are life coaches on career and others who are counsellors on topics such as confidence and money.

The Rt Rev Rachel Treweek, Bishop of Gloucester and ambassador for Restored, spoke at the launch of the guidebook in the House of Lords.

Bishop Rachel spoke to Premier Christian Radio afterwards, saying the guidebook has: "grown out of a network of female Christian survivors who've really been saying 'We need more practical stuff' - ranging from debt, to addressing the needs of our children, through to housing issues and the great things is it's also got a wonderful section of the theology behind lots of things."

When asked how she processed her own thinking about domestic abuse when women spoke to her as a clergy member she said: "I think one of the really deep issues with domestic abuse is that women are often not believed and there's all sorts of complexities that go on that [mean] women - because of the abuse - will often think it's their fault, that it's because of them, and I will always say it's absolutely not your fault - there is no excuse for someone abusing you.

"I can think of one situation where the partner actually was eventually imprisoned but only after many, many times of this woman going back and being with him and thinking it was her fault."

Bishop Rachel added: "A lot of people in churches don't believe that it happens to Christians, they don't believe that domestic abuse goes on in their churches and certainly I can say since I've been a bishop, and when I was an archdeacon before, people would say 'Well we don't need to be addressing this, you know, we're Christians', 'We don't need posters up that tell us about there work of Restored'.

"Actually this does go on in churches, it does goes on between Christians and I think this handbook should not only be for the women themselves but I would like to see everyone who's a pastor, an ordained member of the clergy, people who are involved in pastoral work and actually youth workers actually having a copy of this book".

Editor, Esther Sweetman, said at the launch: "The need to publish a handbook, such as this, became clear, after seeing that these women were faced with very similar challenges, in a variety of areas, and there were very few resources to point them to."

She ended by saying: "From my work, I have observed that the healing process requires many events of grace that occur in God's time and through supportive community. It is through loving relationships that transformation can occur and bring healing to hearts, souls and minds.

"With 1 in 4 women experiencing abuse at some point in their lives, chances are you will at some point meet a survivor. I would like to encourage you, at that moment, to choose to be an 'event of grace' in their life - because your care and concrete support will be appreciated more than you can ever know". 

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