Posted in Faith Groups and VAWG, One Billion Rising, Raising Awareness of VAWG, Reclaiming Yourself from Domestic Abuse

Valentine’s Day, V-Day and One Billion Rising

14th February is associated with red roses, love hearts, and romance, together with the marketing of Valentine’s cards, and special romantic meals.  The myth of romantic love continues unabated in 2018, and young folk follow this tradition because that’s what we’ve always done.  Warm fuzzy feelings of romance and a perfect future abound; no-one enters into a long term intimate partnership expecting it to fail – but fail it frequently does.

1 in 4 women in the UK will experience intimate partner violence at some point in their lives, and, yes, some women are violent, but not to the extent male violence dominates our culture, and, clearly, not all men are violent toward their parners.

The subjugation of women has been a dominant cultural theme throughout the world for millenia.  In this month (February 2018) when we celebrate women over 30, and householders, winning their battle for the vote, we can see that women still have a long way to go to be treated as equals in our society.  From equal pay, to equal responsibility for caring duties in families, women still need to campaign to have our human rights upheld and applied.

One place where this inequality continues is within faith communities.  Yes, we now have female ministers, and rabbis, but the institutions continue to follow traditions, and teaching which often ignore women.  Religious institutions seem to find it difficult to acknowledge the issue of male violence against women, while continuing to promote the sanctity of marriage.

In 2011 I was on Scottish Women’s Aid’s Faith Group Forum with women and men from a variety of Christian traditions, together with Muslims, Sikh’s and a representative from the Jewish community.  We were all commited to tackling the issue of violence against women, and many of us were faced with our leadership not recognising it as a problem; many leaders were  shocked that such a problem could exist within a community of faith. The outcome of our time together with staff from Scottish Women’s Aid was a pocket sized leaflet with 10 Things Faith Communities Can Do to Overcome Violence Against Women which was made freely available to all faith communities.  They are no longer in print, so with permission from Scottish Women’s Aid, and with minor alterations I have reproduced it in A4 size.

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Since 2012, 14th of February has been given over to One Billion Rising, the number of women the UN estimates have experience Gender Based Violence .  Originally V-Day initiated in 1998 by Eve Ensler, the creator of The Vagina Monologues.  On each 14th February she offers performances of The Vagina Monologues royalty free to those raising awareness of violence against women and girls.  V-Day became absorbed into the international movement One Billion Rising in 2012, when women across the world were involved in performances of The Vagina Monologues together with Flash Mobs,  and panel discussions raising awareness of intimate partner violence, rape, female genital mutilation, and child sexual exploitation.

This 14th February enjoy celebrating with your romantic partner, but also  consider what you can do to erase violence against women and girls, and for those of us who belong to communities of faith, please bring 10 Things You Can Do To Stop Domestic Abuse to the attention of your community leaders, and consider following up some of the suggestions you can implement as an individual.  Many of us raised in a faith community have fallen away from the institution but still carry with us the traditions instilled in us as children, and in the whirl of a new relationship these values can become our default positions.  On 14th February give some time to examining these values, and consider if they match up to our Human Rights.

Posted in Faith Groups and VAWG, Feminist Theology, How Did I Get Here?, Meditations, Women Made of Fire

Healing Meditations (ii)

Many of us who have experience of Domestic Abuse are from Faith Communities, and this has a huge impact on the mechanisms that keep us stuck in abusive relationships, and is also important to our recovery as survivors.  Even when we no longer go to church, mosque, synagogue or temple, or continue to believe in a Higher Being, we have absorbed particular teachings about marriage and family responsibility as we grew up, leaving us with a lot of untangling to do.  This untangling is essential, because we need to recover ourselves, and our core beliefs must belong to ourselves.

In sharing the meditations from my book WITNESS *, the context of the meditations is Sarah’s experiences of domestic abuse at the hands of her husband, Jamie.  Today’s meditation follows the first violence she experienced.  As you will appreciate being punched and slapped for the first time in her life was a shocking experience, and resulted in Sarah leaving.  She took all her belongings, and stayed with her sister Anne.  Not knowing what she was walking into when she drove to get Sarah, Anne describes this a distressing place to be.  Later, they both found Jamie’s continual phone calls difficult to deal with; Sarah didn’t want to talk to him, and Anne wanted to protect her sister.  Eventually the calls wore Sarah down, and, like many women, she went back.

The abuser demands that their victim adopts his belief system, and Sarah, like many of us, found herself on constantly shifting ground: on one occasion Jamie would want an honest discussion about Sarah’s views on a given topic; on another he would become angry because she didn’t agree with him.  Her worst nightmare was when, as a couple, they got into discussion with family or friends, and Sarah disagreed with Jamie; sometimes he was reasonable, others he would be enraged when he left the others.  For Sarah, this meant her own beliefs went underground, and became impossible to examine.

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Mother, I place myself in the warmth of your loving arms.  I place my feet on the earth, which is my home. I allow my roots to sink into the earth and allow you to stabilise me.

I hear you tell me that I am your beloved child;  you take delight in me.  As a parent you enter into my suffering.  You were there when the first blow was struck.  You wanted to shelter me from harm.  You found me a place of safety.  You were with me in my heartbreak.
You were with me when I gave in and returned.  You traveled with me respecting my choice;  aware of my hopes and desires.  You knew better than me, and you knew I did not understand.  I needed to learn, and you stayed with me throughout, calling me back to myself, a patient, loving parent, always.

Image & text © Kitty Nolan 2016

*WITNESS is also available at:

Barnes & Noble

Posted in Faith Groups and VAWG, Feminist Theology, How Did I Get Here?, Meditations, Women Made of Fire

Healing Meditations (i)

For many women, and men, trying to recover from domestic abuse, faith communities are important, even though many teachings handed down to us kept us stuck in the violence:

‘Marriage is for life; if you divorce you cannot remarry.’

‘Women are subject to their husbands.’

‘The man is the head of the woman.”

These teachings were part of my upbringing as a Catholic in Scotland, but there are similar teachings in all faith communities.  When I began reclaiming my life after my husband and I separated, dealing with these unhelpful rules was important to me; challenging them took a lot of courage and strength.  Over time the word ‘God’ became too loaded for me, and I preferred the Hebrew word ‘Yahweh’ – I am that I am.  ‘Yahweh’ became a clear space for me, allowing me to honour my own experience, insights and understanding.  All relationships require the participation of all concerned; my relationship with ‘Yahweh’ required me.  Over time I came to address Yahweh as Mother, expanding my understanding of Yahweh, and including the nurturing energy of The Mother.

I thought for the next set of blogs I would share with you the meditations and images from my book WITNESS *.  I’ve mentioned my book in previous blogs, but just to recap:  WITNESS relates Sarah’s account of her experience of Domestic Abuse at the hands of her partner, Jamie.  They lived in a rural setting in Scotland, they were drawn together due to a mutual commitment as Christians, despite which Sarah dealt with most manifestations of domestic abuse, and their children, Erin and David, frequently witnessed this abuse.  At the end of each chapter of WITNESS I included a healing meditation accompanied by a supporting image.

In chapter one Sarah and Jamie’s relationship begins with hope.  They come from different backgrounds, meeting through college and friends.  Shortly after beginning to live together Jamie becomes nasty and undermining for a short time, which Sarah put down to academic pressure.  She met his family over Christmas but who behaved in a way she was not used to, vying for their mother’s attention, and talking over one another. Jamie had an outburst at one of his sisters, and then his father, upsetting the whole household. Gradually things settle when they return home, but it is also clear that Jamie no longer believed in God, and belittled Sarah for continuing in her belief.  This part of herself went underground because she felt shamed.

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Mother, I place myself in the warmth of your loving arms.

I place my feet on Your Earth and allow myself to be rooted in the Earth, my home.

You see me as good. I accept the goodness in myself.

You see me as worthy. I accept the worth in myself.

You see me as beautiful. I accept the beauty in myself.

You see me as desirable. I accept myself as desired.


Text & image © Kitty Nolan 2016


*WITNESS is also available from :

Barnes & Noble


Posted in Faith Groups and VAWG

Domestic Abuse and the Churches

I’m sharing this piece from Little Bird because I believe it is important to raise this issue of Faith Groups focusing on keeping marriages together at the expense of listening to the abused.  In 2011, I was involved in Scottish Women’s Aid‘s Faith Groups Forum.  We met regularly over the space of 2 years to discuss our churches response to Domestic Abuse –  if, indeed. they had one.  Apart from a few notable exceptions, we all found it extremely difficult to engage hierarchies on this subject; a typical response would be,’Oh, we don’t have that problem here!”.  The main exception to this was The Seventh Day Adventists who addressed Domestic Abuse as a worldwide body, and shared their high quality resources with the forum.  Since then the Church of Scotland has appointed a Violence Against Women worker and a team to produce a policy framework, and liturgical and practical resources, reporting to the General Assembly this year, 2017.

My book WITNESS describes Sarah’s experience of Domestic Abuse, and how Church kept her stuck. WITNESS is available from my website and from Amazon

I leave with you the article from Little Bird

The number of American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 was 6,488. The number of American women who were murdered by current or ex male partners during that time was 11,766. That’s nearly double the amount of casualties lost during war. Where is the Church? The link between mass murders in […]

via Domestic Abuse…Where is the Church? — LittleBird…… Helping Abuse Victims Fly Through The Chaos

Posted in Faith Groups and VAWG

Church and Intimate Partner Violence

I’ve been mulling over the contents of a talk I’m giving next week to launch my book WITNESS   –  there is so much to say but need to focus myself.  I’ve started by making a plan, but keep getting distracted by my frustration at constantly feeling I’m bothering folk by bringing attention to this issue. I’m happy in the knowledge that those attending the launch will be interested in the issues raised in my book: Gender Based Violence and the things that keep women stuck in these relationships, including beliefs learned at home and in Church.

2001 – 2010 was designated The Decade to Overcome Violence by the World Council of Churches.  A great deal of work was done across the Christian traditions to raise awareness of Gender Based Violence throughout the decade.  In 2006 when I spoke to the women in my faith tradition  (Roman Catholic) who had been involved in raising awareness, one shared with me the difficulty of engaging parish priests.  They spoke to many priests who responded by saying ‘we don’t have that kind of problem in here.’  Given the UK figures we had then, 1 in 6 women experienced intimate partner violence at some point in their life, making the response of these priest clearly uninformed. (The current figure is 1 in 4 women experience Gender Based Violence at some point in their lives). Scottish Women’s Aid had a Faith Groups Forum which came together to try and collate the work across the Faith groups and to create suitable resources to make available to religious institutions. FAITH COMMUNITIES: 10 things you can do to stop domestic abuse is the resource we created, copied in this page from the Church of Scotland’s website.

As the decade rolled on, limited resources put Domestic Abuse on the back burner for the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland due to statutory requirements to put safeguarding practice in place for children and vulnerable adults. In 2010, with the help of Fr Chris Boles, Superior at the Lauriston Jesuit Centre in Edinburgh,  I organised an awareness raising event during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence inviting speakers from Scottish Women’s Aid , Fife Forum on Domestic Violence, and Feminist Theologian and Activist Dr Lesley Orr.  Due to the 16 Days of Activism coinciding with Advent in the Christian Church, and with Christmas shopping for non church folk, it meant, despite good publicity, only 50 people, mainly women, attended.  It was a very informative and engaging day, and enlightening speaking to women who suffered intimate partner violence, especially their feelings and concerns about their church’s teaching on marriage.

It seems to me that Advent and the 16 Days of Activism can go very well together.  Advent is about preparing for the birth of Jesus, with a focus on Mary and Joseph and the trials they endured – especially Mary, an unwed pregnant woman in a traditional society.  There is so much scope to reflect on women’s experience of GBV, particularly given the escalation in violence and control when women are pregnant.  Mary’s must have felt insecure in her situation, given Joseph could back out of their marriage;  folk probably shunned her and pointed fingers at her leaving her feeling isolated and unsure of how she would take care of her baby without a community of support.  There is no indication that Mary was abused; Joseph chose to look after her, but her feelings echo some of the feelings of abused women:  confusion, insecurity, isolation.  Advent and Christmas focus on this little family in dire need and fearful for their lives.  We also give our attention to our own family lives, so, when better can we discuss violence in our homes?  Pregnancy is a flashpoint for increase in violence against women, as is Christmas.

Our traditions and myths encourage feelings of cosiness, anticipation and warmth, while the lived reality for so many women and children is one of fear and crisis.  We anticipate the cosy Christmas card scene; we put so much energy into achieving it, and for some Christmas is a great time for families, but many more experience walking on egg shells and praying the day goes by without incident, hoping THIS year will be a good year.

People of all faiths celebrate festivals that focus on the family.  I believe it is time to take a long hard look at how life is lived by so many of us, and discuss within our traditions how we can be faithful to our beliefs, as children of God.

The week of Valentine’s Day may seem an odd time to discuss this, but Valentine’s Day is also the One Billion Rising Day, so it’s timely to reflect on GBV and our Faith Communities response, and gives us time to make plans for 16 Days of Activism 2017.

Kitty Nolan