Domestic abuse is a huge problem in the U.S. About four million women a year are physically abused by their husbands or boyfriends. What can churches do to bring hope and help to those suffering from domestic abuse? To address this serious issue, Caring Churches interviewed Lynette J. Hoy, NCC, LCPC. Lynette is Director of LifeCARE Ministries at Calvary Memorial Church. She is also a licensed, clinical, professional counselor. This interview is reprinted on Crosswalk, with permission:

Caring Churches: Lynette, what are your qualifications for addressing domestic abuse?

Lynette Hoy: I have been a marriage and family counselor in private practice since 1990 providing counseling to individuals and couples for various problems including issues of control and abuse. Last year I completed the 40-hour domestic violence training program required by the State of Illinois to provide services for people in domestic violence situations. I have a great deal of experience assisting individuals and couples in abusive situations both in my practice, with Rapha Treatment Centers, and in my church position. Prior to 1990, I practiced as a registered nurse for over 20 years in various settings where I dealt with patients and clients in abusive situations. In addition, I am an Anger Management Specialist, having co-authored both editions of the book: What's Good About Anger?

CC: How big of an issue is domestic abuse in our society?

LH: Domestic violence is the number one public health issue facing women and children in the U.S. today. Seventy-five percent of calls to 911 are related to domestic violence. The following statistics demonstrate the pervasiveness of this crime:

  • Battering is the greatest single cause of injury to women in the U.S.-more than muggings, rapes and auto accidents combined.
  • Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44.
  • One out of every four women in this country will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.
  • Women are more often the victims of domestic violence than victims of burglary, muggings, or other physical crimes combined.
  • Forty-two percent of murdered women are killed by their intimate male partners.
  • It is estimated that 503,485 women are stalked by an intimate partner each year in the United States. (National Institute of Justice, July 2000)

CC: How can church leaders spot domestic abuse?

LH: Pastors, church leaders, professionals, coworkers, and friends need to become educated about domestic violence symptoms so they can identify potential victims. A victim may complain about an injury and provide a suspicious explanation for its cause. The victim may show or complain about symptoms of fearfulness, anxiety, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), depression, headaches, passivity, withdrawal, nightmares, or insomnia resulting from unhappiness or abuse in her marriage/relationship. Couples may exhibit signs of power and control, serious conflicts, outbursts of anger, or arguments.

Often the signs are not obvious to an outsider. Offering a church program to raise awareness of abusive relationships or presenting a sermon on domestic violence may motivate victims to come forward and verbalize their situations.

CC: How involved should churches become in addressing domestic abuse?

LH: Churches have an opportunity to be at the forefront of intervention and prevention of abuse! Pastors and church leaders may be the first to hear about abuse or identify a victim. Not only can they help the victim access help, safety, and resources, but leaders can hold men accountable for changing abusive and controlling types of behavior.