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Advocating for Faith Communities to Help End Domestic Abuse

Mary Kay Independent Sales Director Valerie Yokie is actively involved in the effort to end domestic abuse. In her own words, she discusses her ongoing dedication to this mission.

I had my first personal encounter with the phenomenon of domestic violence more than 20 years ago when I received a call from an Independent Beauty Consultant in my unit. She told me her divorce was final. I was taken aback. I did not know her marriage was in trouble.

She and her husband, had been married many years, had 5 children and were pillars of their church. When I expressed my surprise, she told me that she and her children had been in homeless shelters for safety, and she had to break the cycle of abuse.

Since then, I have heard many other Independent Sales Directors, Independent Beauty Consultants and customers share their stories of abuse. Domestic violence affects so many families on so many different levels.

Mary Kay Ash became aware of this epidemic because she worked closely with many women. When The Mary Kay FoundationSM adopted ending violence against women as part of its mission, it ignited my resolve to help.

Because of The Mary Kay FoundationSM’s commitment to ending domestic abuse against women, I have become active in my church, advocating for the church to speak out against domestic violence. Faith communities can have a huge role in taking a stand against domestic abuse. For some women, the spiritual element is very important.

Four years ago, as a member of the Archdiocesan Women’s Committee in Chicago, I encouraged our Cardinal to take on this issue that deeply affects many of our families. Since women are usually the victims of domestic violence, and the church had been silent, I felt it was important for the church to address it.

At one of our committee meetings, I suggested the statistics would show that out of the 18 women attending, there would be some victims, or former victims, present. This being a fearful thing to address, I did not expect that anyone would identify herself as a “victim.”

With great courage, one woman said she had lived with her husband for 13 years, while he kept a gun under the pillow. He was very abusive and always said that if she told anyone, he would kill her and then immediately go kill her mother. Another woman told us that she stayed in an abusive marriage for the sake of her children, but in the end, she left for the well being of the children. And a third woman shared a similar story. Nearly everyone on the committee personally knew someone whose story she could share. The cardinal heard us.

The cardinal knew a priest who was actively working in his community with victims and their families. I met with him to hear more about his work and to see if there was a way I could help. I learned he had started working with other parishes, preaching and helping them begin ministries.

The church setting can communicate the message so well. It is the one place for all individuals and families to hear that domestic abuse of any kind is not acceptable. Since it is in church that so many have heard, “Marriage is for life, for better and for worse,” it is important that a priest says in church, “Abuse is not acceptable. You do not have to stay.” And it is in the pew that the abused, the abuser, and the witnesses—children—can hear this message.

I asked my pastor and our Parish Council to invite the Father to speak once at all of our weekend masses. At the end of his homily, he invited those interested in helping with this critical mission to join him at a meeting the following week. Thirty-two people signed up to form a ministry to reach out to domestic abuse victims in our area.

The Father continued visiting parishes throughout the city, giving his homily and inviting the community to form outreach ministries. And the Archdiocese Women’s Committee kept the issue in front of the cardinal.

The Cardinal then appointed the Father to be the Director of the Archdiocese of Chicago Domestic Violence Outreach. To coordinate his efforts, he formed the Domestic Violence Steering Committee and asked me to be one of its five members.

The Steering Committee meets regularly to coordinate efforts to serve parishes and parishioners regarding issues related to domestic violence. So far, this committee has assisted 35 parishes in the Archdiocese.

Central to the committee’s work is raising awareness for everyone and educating the clergy, staff and volunteers on how to help. Understanding domestic violence is important, for well meaning but untrained people can cause great harm. Safety for women and children needs to be our first goal. There are “Do’s and Don’ts” that must be learned. Training and education are essential. It is important to know that it is not the victim’s fault. She, the children or the home situation did not cause it. The abuser’s need for power and control is the issue. This can and does cross all age, ethnic, socioeconomic, religious and educational boundaries.

Currently, we are working on the area of prevention. In conjunction with educators, counselors and medical personnel, a school curriculum for pre-kindergarten through grade 12 is being developed. Our goal is for youth to develop an understanding of what healthy relationships look like and how to form them.

Additionally, we’ve published a Domestic Violence Resource Manual containing comprehensive information from a variety of sources.

Thirteen/WNET New York, a public media provider, recently produced a program for its Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly television series, Churches and Domestic Violence, which highlights the work we are doing in Chicago.

Personally, I’m grateful to Mary Kay. Since becoming a Mary Kay Independent Sales Director almost 30 years ago, I've had the fortunate opportunity to assist many women through my Mary Kay business. It’s been gratifying to see how running a Mary Kay businesses gives women hope and helps them gain self esteem and financial success—enriching their lives in so many ways.

The Archdiocese of Chicago Domestic Violence Outreach
The mission of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Domestic Violence Outreach is to raise awareness of domestic violence throughout the Archdiocese and to promote the development and delivery of services, such as counseling and group support to women and children victims of domestic violence as well as to perpetrators at local parishes and through archdiocesan institutions and agencies.
For more information, as well as a link to the Domestic Violence Resource manual, go to: https://www.familyministries.org/resources/index.asp?c_id=147&t_id=114

Thirteen/WNET New York Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly To view the Churches and Domestic Violence episode from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, go to: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/espisodes/april-12-2013/churches-and-domestic-violence/15846/

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