On Sunday, January 9, an extraordinary interfaith documentary that explores faith groups’ efforts to support the victims of domestic violence begins airing on ABC-affiliated stations. The documentary, I Believe You: Faiths’ Response to Intimate Partner Violence, was made possible with the support of an interfaith group that includes Presbyterian Women, the New York Board of Rabbis, the Presbyterians Against Domestic Violence Network, United Methodist Women, the Evangelical Church in America, the National Council of Churches and a consortium of Muslim organizations.

This one-hour program, featuring the music of Janis Ian, airs as part of the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission’s Visions and Values Series. It highlights the many ways faith groups are supporting, advocating for and helping aid the healing of those who have experienced domestic abuse. It was created by Diva Communications, a New York company with a passion for raising awareness of the compelling issues of our time.

Faith-based programs featured in the documentary range from rural programs such as the Susanna Wesley Family Learning Center in Missouri to urban programs such as First Step in Michigan; from prevention programs such as Healthy Relationships held at Camp Herzl in Wisconsin to recognition programs like the Mikveh Attendants program in New Jersey; and from support group programs such as Emma’s Place in Minnesota to healing programs such as Mayyim Hayyim in Massachusetts.

Those interviewed include Diane Smalley, survivor and current chair of the Domestic Violence Work Group, Presbytery of Detroit, who also moderates the Presbyterians Against Domestic Violence Network.

Debra Gonsher Vinik, writer and director, says, “I am very excited about Presbyterian Women being involved in this documentary. I am aware of PW’s long tradition of advocacy in the area of women in a multitude of arenas—from domestic violence to economic sustainability.”

Linda Bales Todd, director of the Louise & Hugh Moore Population Project for the United Methodist Church, and an active supporter of the film project, says, “If we, as people of faith, do not advocate for justice, we are complicit in the perpetuation of this crisis.”

See a preview of the program online. For a complete listing of stations carrying the program, check the Interfaith Broadcasting webpage, and check listings of your local ABC affiliate for the date and time in your area.

Ann Tiemeyer, program director for women’s ministry at the National Council of Churches, says, “Several of our member communions have supported the development of this important project. Now let’s promote its viewing, and continue our work to bring an end to this violence and healing to survivors.”

This one-hour documentary is part of the ongoing television programming of the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission (IBC). The Interfaith Broadcasting Commission exists to provide the three major television networks with quality religious content in order to create an awareness of and appreciation for our nation’s spiritual heritage and its importance in American life. In existence since 1980, the IBC represents mainstream religion in our society, affirms the integrity of each other's faith perspective, and helps television to exercise its societal and public service responsibilities.

Debra Gonsher Vinik cites the following statistics:

  • One in five tweens—age 11 to 14—say their friends are victims of dating violence.
  • 62 percent of abused women surveyed practice their religion strictly or moderately, yet only 7 percent would confide in their clergy if they felt unsafe.
  • Of female murder victims in 2007, 33 percent were killed by their husbands or boyfriends.
  • Clergy say they condemn domestic violence but only 10 percent of congregants have heard any mention of such condemnation in a sermon.

She adds, “Women and girls who experience intimate partner violence (IPV) have not always found compassion and help in their houses of worship. In fact, women who have been in this most dangerous of situations have been compelled to choose between a social service agency and perhaps contrary guidance from their clergy. Now, a growing number of faith groups are trying to make sure those days are over. They are learning that being believed is one of the keys to recovery for victims of intimate partner violence.”

She explains, “Faith groups have stepped into the breach. Paradoxically, in the past, when women turned to their religious community, they were often met with conflicting messages. They may have heard interpretations of biblical Scripture that reinforced staying in the relationship. They may have been told that divorce is a sin and represents giving up on one’s faith. Jewish teachings honor peace and tranquility, yet that tranquility leads women to keep serious problems inside the walls of the home, conflicts invisible to an outsider.”

Other program leaders whose work is featured in the documentary include:

  • Salma Abugideiri, codirector, Peaceful Families Project
  • Willard W. C. Ashley, Sr., director of field education, New Brunswick Theological Seminary
  • Barbara Certa-Werner, executive director, Harbor House Crisis Shelter
  • Antonia Clemente, cofounder and executive director, The Healing Center, Bethel Lutheran Church
  • Mark Dratch, founder, JSAFE (Jewish Institute Supporting an Abuse-Free Environment)
  • Marie M. Fortune, founder, FaithTrust Institute
  • Diana Gerson, executive director, Dayenu, Enough Silence!, New York Board of Rabbis
  • Lisa Gelber, associate dean, The Rabbinical School, Jewish Theological Seminary
  • Marsha Hutchason, director, Domestic Violence Victims’ Services, Susanna Wesley Family Learning Center
  • Aliza Kline, founding executive director, Mayyim Chayyim
  • Khalid Latif, executive director, The Islamic Center, New York University
  • Mohamed Magid, president, Islamic Society of North America
  • Nancy Nason-Clark, founder and director, The RAVE Project (Religion and Violence E-Learning Project)
  • Robina Niaz, founder and executive director, Turning Point: Services for Women and Families
  • Harriett Jane Olson, chief executive officer, United Methodist Women
  • Carly Stein, Healthy Youth–Healthy Communities, Jewish Family and Children’s Service, Minneapolis
  • Ann Tiemeyer, program director, Women’s Ministry, National Council of Churches
  • Traci C. West, professor of ethics and African American studies, Drew University Theological Seminary

For more information about Presbyterian Women and its advocacy work, visit their website.

For more information about Diva Communications, visit their website.