Churches best positioned to halt cycle of abuse; October National Domestic Violence Awareness Month
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — A former domestic abuser turned non-profit leader has launched a new national campaign challenging churches across America to help “halt the epidemic of domestic violence.”
Michael Clark — an ex-abuser jailed twice for domestic violence — is calling on America’s churches to tackle the nation’s domestic abuse crisis head-on during October, which is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Experts believe the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown caused a spike in domestic abuse.
“There’s likely someone in every church — perhaps in nearly every row or pew — who’s a physical or emotional abuser,” said Clark, founder of the Ananias Foundation, a faith-based organization that takes a different approach to stopping partner-to-partner violence.
While most domestic violence groups focus on helping the victim, Clark’s organization is unusual because it focuses on reforming the “villain,” with the goal of ending the cycle of violence.
20 Victims Every Minute
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, every minute nearly 20 people in the U.S. — 10 million per year — are physically abused by an intimate partner. One in every three women — and one in four men — will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.
“Our goal at the Ananias Foundation is to show people who harm others that they can change — that there’s a way out of their destructive behavior,” Clark said. “We introduce those looking for help to a relationship with Christ and counseling concepts, and couple those with peer support and education to bring about a genuine, permanent change.”
During October’s National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the organization is offering free resources to churches, including a guide to “31 Things A Church Can Do” and a “Pastor’s Guide to Domestic Violence.”
Churches can help abusers turn their lives around, where court-ordered batterers’ intervention programs fail to make a difference, said Clark, who credits his own transformation 15 years ago to the ministry of his local church.
Heart of the Problem
“God does what batterers’ intervention programs cannot do,” said Clark, who spent 36 weeks in a state-run batterers’ program. “The state program simply told me I had a male superiority complex. But God gets to the heart of the problem — often rooted in past trauma and emotional wounds that spiral into abusive patterns later in life.
“This is why the church is best positioned to transform the lives of people who do harm to others, and stop domestic violence at the source.”
Church-centered pastoral counseling and peer support have key advantages over state-run programs, says Clark. “The criminal justice system enforces restrictions on the offender from the outside,” he said. “It cannot change a person on the inside. Only God can do that.”
Church support groups provide accountability and display positive ways to handle relationship differences without fists and fury.
“Local churches are absolutely pivotal to stopping domestic violence at the source,” Clark said, “and I am living proof of the power of God to completely transform an abuser.”
Michael Clark is the founder of the Ananias Foundation and author of From Villain to Hero. Out of respect for the privacy of his family and the stigma associated with domestic violence, Michael Clark is a pseudonym. The Ananias Foundation’s mission is to restore individuals who have harmed their partners, because they were created for something better.