On Sunday, Jan. 9, an interfaith documentary that explores faith groups’ efforts to support the victims of domestic violence begins airing on ABC-affiliated stations around the country.

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 of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 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, created by Diva Communications of New York and 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.

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 of the Presbytery of Detroit, who also moderates the Presbyterians Against Domestic Violence Network, part of the Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association (PHEWA).

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.”

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 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.”

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.”

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.”

For a complete listing of stations carrying the program, check the Interfaith Broadcasting webpage (www.interfaithbroadcasting.com), and check listings of your local ABC affiliate for the date and time in your area.

The Interfaith Broadcasting Commission exists to provide the three major television networks with quality religious programs 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.

Information for this story furnished by Presbyterian Women.