Three years ago after a hiatus of several years, the YWCA and the Women’s Healing and Empowerment Network (WHEN) revived a partnership that started 15 years ago to educate the faith community on domestic violence.
Mable Dunbar, Chris Chandler and Summer Chitwood
Faith Partners connects the YWCA Alternatives to Domestic Violence programs with nonprofits such as WHEN, Abuse Recovery Ministry Services (ARMS) and Create Your Statement in Spokane.
Mable Dunbar, director and founder of WHEN, said the program started with Sandi Thompson-Royer, a Presbyterian woman who formed Women Walking Together, and Patty Wheeler, director of Alternatives to Domestic Violence, to raise awareness of how faith groups can perpetuate domestic violence based on twisted use of Scriptures.
The goal of Faith Partners is to educate clergy and members of congregations about the dynamics of domestic violence so they can become more aware of resources available to support victims and perpetrators, and to help end the intergenerational cycle of abuse.
For the last three years, Summer Chitwood of the YWCA and Mable of WHEN, have been coordinating Faith Partners.
Mable, who attends the West Central Multicultural Seventh Day Adventist Church, pointed out that “because statistics indicate that there is just as much abuse in Christian homes as there is in non-Christian homes, it is imperative that the faith community become an integral part in ending the intergenerational cycle of abuse.”
She is a licensed professional counselor, cognitive behavioral therapist, certified domestic violence counselor and family mediator. She travels internationally to lead workshops and healing conferences to educate communities, church leaders and members on the dynamics of domestic violence and sexual abuse. She has also written three books and numerous articles on domestic violence and related abuse.
Summer served as a legal advocate for a domestic violence program in Anchorage, taught in special education and has been involved with international mission experiences in 2008 and 2010 to 2011. She has attended New Community church in Spokane, where she and her husband Joel, lived while he completed the Moody Bible Institute’s aviation program. They moved back to Alaska in August.
She started as a relief advocate on call at the YWCA shelter, a legal advocate and then became manager of advocates helping women with protective orders and criminal domestic violence cases.
“The YWCA believes that the faith community is important in helping address, prevent and advocate for victims of domestic violence,” said Summer.
Since Summer moved, Chris Chandler of the YWCA’s Women’s Opportunity Center agreed to coordinate Faith Partners with Mable.
“The YWCA is the largest and the only state recognized domestic violence program in Spokane,” said Summer.
It works in collaboration with the faith community to provide housing, counseling, protection orders, family law, TANF and job readiness to help women return to work.
“Domestic violence victims deserve resource, help, legal advice, safety and means to hold offenders accountable,” she said.
For the past two years, Faith Partners has offered four trainings—two a year—and provided presenters to hold workshops when faith communities request them.
A “Domestic Violence 101” training for pastors in August 2014 included input from law enforcement and pastors. There were six participants.
In February 2015, 25 attended a Domestic Violence 101 Forum, which included a panel consisting of a law enforcement officer, the prosecutor, a pastor and victim advocate. It included a case study.
In August this year, there was a Domestic Violence 101 pastor training, “Strategies for the Faith Community Response to Violence.” It included a presentation from Stacy Wenzl of the Public Health District with research on how violence affects the community and a survivor’s experience of how a church responded to her. Stuart Vogelman of a security company and former pastor of Valley Real Life Church gave ideas on how to create a safe church. Faith Partner agencies and Lutheran Community Services Northwest shared resources they have available. There were 29 participants.
The Being There Conference theme this year is “Bitter or Better? Empowered Through Loss, Grief, Trauma and Depression.”
WHEN sponsors this annual interdenominational conference and the YWCA helps promote it.
It will be held from 7 to 9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 30, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 1, at the Hillyard Baptist Church, 2121 E. Wabash.
The conference is a healing Christian Forum for women and men to engage in open discussion to help create an abuse-free community.
It is also designed to provide healing, education and information for people who have experienced abuse, perpetrated abuse or want to support victims of abuse.
The conference will include testimonies, workshops, informal discussions with professional presenters, including a grief recovery specialty and two physicians. There will also be healing activities. Information on the conference is at whenetwork.com.
Future trainings being planned by Faith Partners will be held February 6, 2017, at West Central Multicultural Seventh Day Adventist Church at 1201 W. Spofford, and July 10, 2017, at City Church, 1047 W. Garland.
The YWCA and its partners organize two trainings a year.
“It’s important for the community to hear about the realities of domestic violence and its effects on people in churches,” said Summer. “We assume that people in churches ‘have it together,’ but that is not always the case, given that one in three women and one in seven men experience domestic violence.”
“We look forward to continuing to bridge the gap between the faith community’s response and people experiencing domestic violence,” said Chris, who is the Women to Work/Basic Food, Employment and Training program coordinator and has worked at the YWCA Spokane for almost two years.