New handbook to help women's refuges support Christian domestic abuse survivors

A new handbook has been created to help women's refuges understand the faith needs of Christian domestic survivors.

The handbook has been created by Christian charity Restored, which said that women's shelters "are not often equipped to support women" for whom faith is an important part of their identity. 

Issues unique to female Christian survivors of domestic abuse can include the mistaken belief that they should remain with abusive spouse because of their faith, Restored director Bekah Legg explained. 

"Christians who have been subjected to abuse within marriage often face additional complications because of unhelpful teaching in parts of the church," she said. 

"There are some amazing churches providing holistic support to survivors, but that's not always the case.

"The Bible has too often been misused and abused to keep women with abusers. Women are left believing that they have to choose between their freedom and their faith. We want them to know they can have both." 

The handbook covers three themes - leaving an abuser, healing and recovery - while exploring some of the theological issues relating to domestic abuse.

It is being released at a time when Restored warns that the number of people in the charity's online Survivor's Network has grown by over 60 per cent since the start of the pandemic. 

With lockdown ending, it is expecting another surge in people reaching out as the loosening of restrictions makes it easier for women to seek help and leave their abusers.  

"We believe our book is a vital resource for Christian women as they navigate their way to freedom," said Legg.

"Faith is a deeply important part of any person's identity and staff in refuges and women's centres are not often equipped to support women through that part of their life.

"Our book is a critical tool for refuges as they provide holistic support to the women in their care."

The handbook has been produced in partnership with the Mothers' Union.

Mothers' Union CEO Bev Julien said: "Mothers' Union is delighted to be partnering with Restored in this very important programme.

"Across Britain and Ireland, our members work to support refuges and the families within them, by providing much needed supplies of toiletries, clothing and food.

"It is just not right that one in three women will suffer some form of physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime, and this manual offers a precious resource to them, to help to rebuild their lives." 

The handbook is being distributed to women free of charge through the Women's Aid Federation of England but Restored is seeking £5 donations to help cover the cost.  Copies can also be ordered through the Restored website.