‘God loves you and wants you to be safe’: A Catholic perspective on domestic abuse

Nikki Dhillon-Keane writes on the recent passing of the Domestic Abuse Act and how churches can and should help victims and survivors.

For most people, 29 April 2021 was probably a rather unremarkable Thursday. For domestic abuse survivors and activists, however, it was a day of great significance. After years of campaigning, the Domestic Abuse Act was finally passed into law in England and Wales. In creating the Bill, survivors and specialist organisations were consulted, and many survivors have told me what it has meant to them to have had their voices heard in this way. The most powerful words anyone can say to a survivor are ‘I believe you.’ It still shocks me how often I am the first person who has ever said that to them.

The Domestic Abuse Act brings some important changes. It recognises, for the first time, that when domestic abuse is perpetrated in front of children, they are not merely witnesses but victims in their own right. These early experiences can create lifelong scars. I work with adults still affected by the abuse that happened in their childhood home. The actor and campaigner Sir Patrick Stewart recently spoke out about the fact that, at the age of 80, he is still in therapy dealing with the effects of seeing his father abuse his mother when he was a child.

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