16 February 2021

As pandemic lockdowns have continued, domestic abuse numbers have risen - and Dr Ava Kanyeredzi is meeting the issue head on. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics indicate domestic abuse related incidents rose by 9% during the first lockdown - a trend which, sadly, has been on an upward trajectory over recent years. 

For Dr Ava Kanyeredzi, senior lecturer from the School of Psychology, University of East London, something had to change, and she is at the forefront of calls for greater education about domestic abuse among black majority churches. 

Many initiatives are thus being developed by communities and churches and one of these initiatives, led by Dr Ava Kanyeredzi, was a recently launched research and evaluation project on domestic abuse that offers a toolkit for leaders in black majority churches.  This initiative, called 'Walk in the way of Love' is the work of the forum, the Black Church Domestic Abuse Forum (BCDAF), that formed 5 years ago.

Dr Kanyeredzi, said, "The Black Church Domestic Abuse Forum (BCDAF) is a group of black Christians who work across the spectrum of professions relevant to address domestic abuse.  BCDAF are concerned about the 'elephant' in our congregations - that being domestic abuse and violence.

Silence and tacit acceptance of domestic abuse undermines our teachings of love and corrupts the emblem of the church as a place of safety and deliverance.   Addressing this scourge in our churches and communities is a challenge, but one that we can no longer turn a blind eye to."

Dr Kanyeredzi was interviewed on Sunday 14 February on BBC Radio 4 on her current work involving the BCDAF project and the toolkit they have created for churches.  The toolkit offers practical support on what is considered a very difficult topic and how the church communities can learn to better respond to domestic abuse within their congregation and communities.

Domestic abuse survivor and member of the BCDAF forum, Rev Kim Bacchus, provides training to churches and said, "When I was a victim of domestic abuse, I saw the church as my safe house.  Yet I knew they were aware that I was being abused but there was no follow up on how I was - I so badly wanted them to just ask me if I was ok."

Dr Kanyeredzi said, "The issue often is not knowing what to do or not knowing how to respond.  Some of the responses are to go home and work on your relationship. Churches need to be educated and there needs to be an awareness raised as to why abuse happens and the impact it can have on lives and theology. 

"This needs to be tackled in sermons and conversations need to be had because there is this idea that one cannot go against the ideals of the church and marriage.  But the reality is that sometimes couples will need to separate if they cannot work things out."

For more information on the current project and the toolkit, go to Dr Kanyeredzi will continue her research to gain a better understanding of how black majority churches are addressing domestic abuse. Experiences of reporting and supporting churchgoers, a survey and interviews with churchgoers and focus groups with church leaders will be launched in April 2021.

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