Mysterious bruises. Unexplained injuries. Social withdrawal
and depression. These are some of the domestic violence
warning signs listed in
"Women Healing the Wounds," the National Council of
Catholic Women's new 52-page resource guide on intimate
partner abuse released in honor of Domestic Violence
"In the Catholic Church, we celebrate Respect Life in the
month of October, and (domestic violence) is a respect life
issue as well," said Sheila Hopkins, NCCW president and
retired director of Social Concerns/Respect Life, Florida
Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a press release.
"Women Healing the Wounds," which is available in English and
Spanish as a downloadable PDF, presents domestic violence
information specific to Catholic women, including practical
tips, prayer guidance, reference to Catholic social teachings
and a customizable safety flyer.
Hopkins, who is based in Tallahassee, Fla., believes the teen
dating section in the expanded resource guide sets it apart
from its previous incarnation, "which was really more of a
pamphlet," she said. According to "Women Healing the Wounds,"
victimhood and abusive behaviors are beginning earlier and
"Many parents don't talk to their kids about (domestic
violence) and what it means to be in a healthy relationship,"
she said. "Girls will start dating these guys who will
dictate what they can and can't do. We want to reach down
before people get stuck in those kinds of relationships
long-term, before they marry them."
Domestic violence is a national concern as much as it is a
Brad Womble, program director at Bethany House, a Christian
women's shelter in Fairfax County, said that his organization
turns away victims every day due to insufficient resources.
"We don't keep a waitlist because it would get so long," he
Womble said that according to statistics reported to his
organization by Fairfax County Police, domestic violence
causes more than 33 percent of the county's homelessness and
more than 50 percent of its homicides.
"I've never introduced myself at events without at least one
person coming up to me and asking for a (business) card
because they needed to make a call for themselves or someone
they know," said Womble.
Bethany House is one of two women's shelters in Fairfax
County. The other is Artemis House, which reserves rooms
specifically for Fairfax County residents in imminent danger.
Between the two shelters, there are 75 beds available to
victims, and they are full every night of the year.
"The children affect me most," said Womble. "They're so
scared. When they come in, they curl up into a little ball.
They've seen things children should never see."
"To be able to assure them that there is a safe place in
Christ is an amazing thing," he added.
At Bethany House, children immediately are put into
counseling to prevent the cycle from repeating.
"Otherwise the little girls will end up in abusive
relationships and the little boys will end up becoming
abusers," he said.
The lack of domestic violence awareness remains a challenge
in many communities, hence the need for resource guides like
"Women Healing the Wounds."
"For many years, NCCW has been active in the issue of
domestic violence," said Hopkins. "We are hopeful this new
resource will give courage to victims to leave their abuser
as well as educate others on the signs exhibited by persons
experiencing domestic violence."
Stoddard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.