Teaching about Healthy Relationships during Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Oct 3, 2023 9:00:00 AM / by Rev. Carla Wilson

This month I invite youth and young adult leaders into a topic that can be challenging, and even triggering, to discuss with each other and with the beloved young people we accompany. October is a healthy and helpful time to address domestic violence, however, and I believe the topic is necessary. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which means many local centers and organizations will have resources and staff available to answer questions and share practical resources available in our communities. Additionally, according to the Resource Center on Domestic Violence: Child Protection and Custody, researchers have estimated that between 3.3 million and 10 million children are exposed to adult domestic violence each year. At least 10 to 20 percent of children are exposed to intimate partner violence annually, with as many as one-third exposed at some point during childhood or adolescence. Beyond ensuring we live into our commitment to safe communities or mandated reporter training and a knowledge of congregational or organizational procedures if we believe a child, teenager, or young adult is at risk, we can also use October as a time to proactively equip our young people in recognizing and engaging in safe and healthy relationships from a faithful perspective.

Biblically, there are few examples of consensual and equitable relationships that we read about in enough detail to offer helpful guidance our young people will find accessible. We do have more detailed description of the intentional community shepherded by Jesus in which characteristics of healthy relationship skills can be found. This is a vetted and helpful example of healthy relationship skills for teens.  Honesty, accountability, and sharing of resources between the disciples are wonderful examples. The call to be mutually supportive and build trust through frequent communication is beautifully demonstrated by the interaction of Jesus and the disciples as well. The example of non-threatening and compassionate behavior, the combination of relationship-building shared time and solitary time for prayer and reflection, and frequently expressed love and affirmation that are never withheld as punishment are also encountered in multiple stories of Jesus and his companions.

The emphasis on love and devotion to God, neighbor, and self is a frequent and familiar conversation between youth leaders and our young people. Discussing healthy and loving romantic or family relationships may feel less of a comfort zone. I encourage you to embrace the discussion as an expansion of the Golden Rule and the wide embrace of God’s love. We have excellent resources in our Bible and worship practices to uplift enriching practices that can support our youth in healthy choices that will support their safety and security as well as their life of faith. Domestic Violence Awareness Month can make an excellent start to an ongoing safer space for this accompaniment.

Topics: Youth Ministry, relationship

Rev. Carla Wilson

Written by Rev. Carla Wilson

Still a professional diversity trainer and cultural competency consultant, The Rev. Carla Christopher Wilson also serves as Assistant to the Bishop in Charge of Justice Ministries for Lower Susquehanna Synod of the ELCA. A former Poet Laureate of York, Pennsylvania and an adoring dog mom, Carla lives in Lancaster, PA with her family.


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