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what was happening.”


Growing up on a farm in Min- nesota, “one of the things we learned was not to complain,” she said. “You don’t air your dirty laundry. You make the best of things. I got a lot of ‘every marriage has its hard times’ comments.”


Kerkes had met her husband in


seminary. His abusive tendencies weren’t apparent at first. By the time she realized what was happening, the two were working as pastors in different churches. For Kerkes, the abuse was hard to admit. “I had such a public position. It was my career,” she said. “[When he threw things at me] I’d gotten really good at duck- ing. But I didn’t label it as assault because abuse wasn’t supposed to happen to me as a professional woman.”


The abuse was draining. “I’d go home and it wasn’t a pleasant place,” Kerkes said. “There was lots of screaming and yelling. He’d wake me up at 3 a.m. to scream at me.” Just trying to survive and keep her family and career together was so consuming she felt she couldn’t think about leaving her abuser. Kerkes was, as she puts it, “over- functioning.” After a night of abuse, she added, “I would get up the next morning, get the kids ready, preach a sermon. It was exhausting.” Eventually she did leave her abu- sive husband. “God’s will for us is to have healthy relationships,” she said emphatically. “There’s always hope.”


Safe places


Congregations need to be safe places—something that requires more education about domestic abuse for both rostered leaders and members.


“[People] don’t have safe places to talk about many societal issues like domestic abuse …,” said Jim Honig, pastor of Faith Evangelical


MICHAEL D. WATSON


“All congregations need to talk with youth about domestic violence because that’s where it starts,” says Anthony Acompanado, youth and family director of Norway. As a former police officer and social worker, Acompanado understands the reality of domestic abuse. “As youth leaders, we need to be proactive and work to build trust,” he says. “Like Teri [Jendusa-Nicolai, also a member], they, too, need to see their congregation as a safe, confidential place for help.”


Lutheran, a Glen Ellyn, Ill., congre- gation that has prioritized the issue of domestic abuse. “These are all symp- toms of our brokenness and we have to make it OK to talk about these things in the church.”


At Faith “part of the message … is that domestic violence is something that’s a part of this congregation,” Honig said. “Statistically, we know it’s a part of this community.”


To help, congregational leaders can get training about the intricacies of abusive relationships, as well as ways they can offer assistance and connect people to resources. Who should be trained? The list goes far beyond pastors to youth directors, Stephen Ministers, parish nurses, wedding coordinators and other members who might serve as resources.


24 


May 2012 23


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