SAN ANTONIO - – In a crisis, many domestic violence victims seek help from their faith leaders, and during the coronavirus pandemic, that need has grown even more.
Religious leaders are proud of their members for bravely coming forward, but many groups admit they need more tools and networking to help survivors properly.
Beverly Chavez was married for 10 years in an abusive relationship. She says she had to find her own resources.
“I didn’t want to leave because of some of my beliefs, and when I reached out to my church, they weren’t equipped to tell me how to leave,” Chavez said. “They wanted to help, but they didn’t know how to. I had to research my own resources.”
The need for more resources has become clear to faith leaders like Associate Pastor Mitchell Moore from the First Presbyterian Church. He says the pandemic has furthered a domestic violence crisis.
“The truth is that we’re far under-resourced and underequipped to deal with the severity of domestic violence issues,” Moore said. “We have a huge need for tools, connections, and networking.”
Moore said he is dedicated to the issue and has already hosted a forum involving leaders from six sectors around the city.
“SAPD, the Mayor’s Office, health professionals, education, nonprofits, churches,” Moore said. “We have to have expertise in regards to mental health, in regards to cycles that are deep in family issues that are contributing to the cycle of domestic violence. There are socioeconomic issues, education issues. There are neighborhood crime issues. There’s a whole spectrum of variables.”
Moore said forging these valuable connections is one piece of the puzzle. The other issue lies within him as a pastor.
“I believe the church has a role that we cannot outsource that involves preaching the gospel with direct application for those that are in the cycle of domestic violence,” Moore said. “The gospel speaks to anger management issues, processing emotions, and the anxiety of the uncertainty of our season.”
Moore’s church is one of many taking action.
First Baptist Church San Antonio Associate Pastor Danny Panter said he is helping create a Domestic Abuse Response Team within the church.
“People that can understand the nature of abuse as well as developing the skills to listen, walk alongside, and help them to move with all the resources we’re aware of when they’re ready to act,” Panter said.
He said the idea came to him while working in marriage ministry, realizing certain flaws in the church’s counseling system.
“Treating these issues as marriage issues when they’re abuse issues, that’s not healthy,” Panter said.
Panter and Moore plan to evolve in a way that will inevitably save lives.
The two are participating in a free seminar this Thursday that’s giving faith-based communities tips and training on domestic violence. They’re praying others will join.
“When we get together as a congregation, good things happen. Instead of having a lot more victims, we’re going to have more survivors,” Chavez said.
“Take the leap of faith and hope to look for a way out,” she tells other survivors. “I lost my self-worth, and I gained it back now, and I’m glad.”
The Faith-based Response to Domestic Violence Virtual Seminar is from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 3.