Coalition partners with churches

GREENFIELD — Domestic abuse is not something any woman should have to endure; Missy Tennant said she learned that lesson after too many punches and emotional jabs were thrown at her by a man she dated. A man from her church. A man she thought had morals.

Drawing on that experience, Tennant is laying the groundwork for a new initiative within the Hancock County Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence that would place victim aides within area churches. These volunteers would receive special training in domestic violence prevention, and they would serve as links between the coalition and battered women in Hancock County.

When Tennant finally decided to leave her abuser, she sought out people who would encourage her. Whether they sent her a Bible verse about bravery, promised to pray or reminded her that everyone wanted her to be happy, they kept her from returning to the man who had hurt her so many times.

The coalition is looking for members of local churches who would be willing to step up to offer the guidance and support that local victims need. They’d serve as a friend to the victim and a liaison to further resources, organizers said.

Already, eight volunteers from seven local churches have stepped up to help launch the partnership, organizers said. The coalition is hopeful a member of each congregation in Hancock County will participate in the training, which will be provided by Alternatives Inc., an Anderson-based domestic violence advocacy center and shelter that serves the county.

Kelly Buzan, an Alternatives employee and victim advocate with a Hancock County office, said she knows many victims seek counsel from their church families when faced with hard times. Having a coalition-trained liaison in the church ensures victims have someone nearby who will be supportive of their journey toward a better, safer life while respecting and understanding their faith, she said.

The program will also help expand the coalition’s reach into the community, organizers said.

When the coalition was started a year ago, its founding members made it their mission to bring awareness to domestic violence issues in Hancock County while also establishing safe havens for victims within the community, coalition leader Sarah Wilson said.

The group’s members created a list of areas where they said they believed improvements to domestic violence response needed to be made. As the coalition marks its first anniversary, Wilson is proud of the progress the group has made. Adding coalition-trained liaison to area churches only furthers their mission, she said.

Tennant believes some peoples’ interpretations of the Bible can make it difficult for victims to feel they can stand up to their abusers while still following a religion. She wants to empower people to debunk those notions.

“God’s word is specific: he doesn’t want women to be abused,” Tennant said.

Want to help?

Liaisons will be subject to an application process. Anyone interested in joining should contact Missy Tennant at 317-502-2214.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.