Methodist clergy members learn how help domestic violence victims

Methodist clergy members learn how help domestic violence victims
Experts say abusers often resort to spiritual abuse to keep victims from leaving. (Photo source: WLOX News)

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Although domestic violence is considered by many to be a major problem, victims are often afraid to report abuse.

Instead, they turn to the church for help. Clergy members gathered together on Thursday to learn how to help.

Heritage United Methodist's Rev. Steve Casteel from Hattiesburg is glad to learn new tools to help people dealing with a domestic abuse situation.

"Most don't know what the next best step is. It's so uncomfortable, so messy, beyond most people's capacities to deal with," said Casteel. "Most say 'We'll pray and hope it gets better,' now we have names, hotlines, places, to send them to professionals."

Casteel is one of about two dozen Methodist clergy who met in Biloxi for the conference. Leaders say sometimes abusers use "spiritual abuse" as a tool to make their victim stay.

"People use scriptures, talk about a woman's role, they say marriage should not be broken, divorce is wrong," Casteel noted.

Wendy Mahoney with the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence says the education she provides to clergy members is invaluable.

"Dealing with domestic violence, we refer victims to local shelter programs, here in Biloxi we have the Gulf Coast Women's Center for Nonviolence, we direct people to the shelter for services," said Mahoney.

Mahoney says her coalition is providing three regional training sessions; Oxford, Biloxi, and Jackson.  Rev. Michelle Bailey of the Beauvoir United Methodist Church in Biloxi says it was a privilege to be able to attend.

Bailey says, "This is a wonderful opportunity, to broaden understanding, deepen insight, make us more effective, and educate folks in the congregation," said Bailey.

For resources to help with domestic violence issues, contact the Gulf Coast Women's Center for Nonviolence at (228) 435-1968.

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