Last week, in my role as Pro-Chancellor of the University of Gloucestershire, I had the joy of presenting Nick Gazzard with an Honorary Fellowship. It has been a privilege to get to know Nick over the years, and many of you will be aware of his inspirational work with the Hollie Gazzard Trust.
This was established following the murder of Nick’s daughter, Hollie, by an ex-partner in Gloucester in 2014, and the charity aims to reduce domestic violence through a variety of programmes and work with schools, organisations, businesses and more.
It was poignant to be recognising Nick’s achievements just as we were about to begin the UN’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (25 November – 10 December) which is supported by the CofE and the wider Anglican Communion, and particularly championed by Mothers’ Union. During this time there is a significant focus on domestic abuse (which includes coercive control) recognising that it is often hidden, and something which usually goes on behind closed doors. It isn’t spoken about enough and sadly we seem to talk about domestic abuse even less in the Church, even though we are committed to the flourishing of all people. Indeed, in this diocese, in our LIFE Together spotlight on being ‘advocates for flourishing’, we have made a commitment to combat ‘injustice, exclusion and isolation’.
The Mothers’ Union (locally, nationally and internationally) has committed, as followers of Jesus Christ, to raise awareness of domestic abuse. Whilst it is very important to recognise that victims of domestic abuse include men as well as women, the Mothers’ Union has had a particular focus on women and girls with its annual No More 1 in 3 campaign. Shockingly, 1 in 3 women and girls will be affected by some form of violence throughout their lives, and on average two women are killed every week in England and Wales by a current or former partner.
This year, the Mothers’ Union is also using the 16 days to launch a year-round campaign called RISE UP against Domestic Abuse.
My prayer is that we will open our ears and eyes to the truth that within our worshipping communities and different contexts, young people and adults will be experiencing domestic abuse, and that our worshipping communities can also be part of the solution by attending training courses offered by the diocese, such as Raising awareness of domestic violence on 29 November.* As we move into the season of Advent and light candles and continually proclaim the truth that the darkness cannot overcome the light of Christ, may we go deeper in our desire to discover and share life in all its fullness as found in Jesus Christ, and make visible those destructive things which are hidden in darkness.
This comes with my thanks and prayers as ever.
* More training dates to follow for 2024 or access the Church of England’s Safeguarding Portal for online training.
If you have been affected by domestic abuse or any form of violence, or are concerned for someone else who has, please contact GDASS – Gloucester Domestic Abuse Advice Service, Monday to Friday, 9-5pm 01452 726 570, or the National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247 or visit Home | Refuge National Domestic Abuse Helpline (nationaldahelpline.org.uk)
For specific help for male victims, visit ManKind Initiative.