Summit next month aims to put trained responder in more congregations
Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders are hosting a four-day summit next month to continue the denomination’s promotion of abuse awareness, this time focusing on the need for a trained first-responder in local congregations worldwide.
The EndItNow Summit on Abuse will be held at the church’s world headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States, from May 1 to 4. The summit will include first-responder training that was developed by Southern Adventist University in the U.S. state of Tennessee.
“It’s disturbing how much abuse goes on that we don’t know about within Christian homes,” said Heather-Dawn Small, director of the world church’s Women’s Ministries department. “We want attendees of this summit to go back to their churches and train others to be first responders so we can help people who are being abused.”
Her department is co-sponsoring the summit along with the denomination’s North American Division Women’s Ministries department. Additional supporting church departments include Health Ministries, Family Ministries, Youth Ministries, Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries and the Ministerial Association.
Since 2001, the denomination has sponsored a worldwide “abuse prevention emphasis Sabbath” on the fourth Saturday of August. Small said the initiative continues as the “EndItNow” Sabbath. Many administrative units in the denomination still heavily promote the issue.
Small said the Adventist Church is ahead of other religious organizations in admitting and promoting awareness of the issue in order to bring healing and hope for those being abused. Previous annual campaigns have focused on abuse of children, violence toward women and emotional abuse.
“People need to be aware that abuse happens and what to do about it,” Small said. “A lot of times people just say, take it to the pastor. But pastors need first-responder training, too.”
Small said people need to be aware about what to say and not to say to a person who reveals that they are being abused. Listening is key, she said. Also, a first-responder needs to see if the person wants to file a police report or see a doctor. Often, a social worker should be brought in to assess the situation, she said.
Small said people also need to be aware of signs that a person could be an abuser. One red flag, she said, is control. “He’s telling you what to wear, how to have your hair, where to go—he’s not respecting you and letting you make your own decisions.” A sign of a potential emotional abuser, Small said, is that he gets angry when his partner disagrees with him.
Small said many people would be surprised how often physical abuse begins while the couple is only dating, yet they still get married, with one person hoping the other person will change. “What we are finding out is that many of our young girls are already in abusive relationships—physically or emotionally—and they feel powerless to get out of the dating relationship.
Willie Oliver, co-director of the denomination’s Family Ministries department confirmed that abuse is happening in Christian homes.
“It is our responsibility as the people of God to help people in need,” Oliver said. “We want everyone to be well—those being abused and those doing the abusing. But that’s not going to happen until we acknowledge the fact that abuse is taking place in many of our homes. We must be intentional about helping those being abused to find safety and emotional assistance. We must also be concerned about getting help for abusers who are willing to change.”
To register for the summit or to see resources on abuse prevention, visit adventistwomensministries.org or enditnow.org.