Sutherland Shire Domestic Violence Committee

Faith Leaders come together to deepen their understanding of how shame is enmeshed in domestic violence.

The Sutherland Shire Domestic Violence Committee (SSDVC) yesterday hosted their annual education forum, where this year’s guest speaker, Greg Yee, a renowned domestic violence counsellor, therapist, trainer and practitioner presented to the audience of around 50 local faith leaders on "Understanding & addressing shame in the context of domestic violence".

Identifying and respecting the role that local faith leaders play in responding to domestic violence disclosures, the Committee has continued their focus on ensuring these frontline responders have an understanding of the complexities of violence, and an awareness of trauma informed practices, knowledge of support services, and responses to disclosures that address the safety needs of all family members. The training yesterday for faith leaders has been developed to provide education to create awareness, improve domestic violence understanding and to develop pathways that will help provide victims of domestic and family violence with positive and supportive responses.

Looking at the pervasive issues of how shame prevents women from disclosing domestic violence, Yee’s presentation also highlighted how perpetrators brainwash their partners to be responsible for managing their own shame to avoid pain, using control tactics, and how the shame of violence affects victim’s relationships with themselves, their children, and their family and friends. The presentation was an enlightening reminder for many faith leaders, whose victims often grapple with the shame their family breakdown brings in religious circles as well.

Dr. Brené Brown an American research professor, who has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy, defines “shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” (2016)

The Committee, a collective of local professionals from both government and non-government service providers, aims to raise awareness of domestic and family violence, and to reinforce messages about positive behaviours and social norms rejecting violence against women and children. They are also committed to increasing awareness about local support and services available to women and children in order to increase their safety.

Funded by a local community grant from Sutherland Shire Council, and co-ordinated by the Sutherland Shire Domestic Violence Committee, lead by Committee Chair, Belinda Harrison from The Family Co., the event brought together representatives from various religious organisations to share strategies and tap into community resources to address domestic violence within the community.

“Faith leaders are in a unique position to identify domestic violence and offer a safe and supported pathway for families to access assistance. Faith leaders who identify controlling behaviours, including coercive control, and can see beyond the layers of shame that hides the abuse, provide women and children with safe options for ongoing support whilst allowing them to safely practice their faith without fear or shame.” Belinda Harrison, Committee Chair, said.

Dr Brene Brown, explains in her Shame Resilience Theory (2006), that to overcome feelings of shame, it is important to reach out to support networks to tell your story, as shame’s survival depends on secrecy and silence.

Harrison said. “The training day also provided the opportunity for deepening relationships between faith communities and agencies working with Domestic and Family Violence so that they work together in supporting a safer community.”