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10 June 2016

Domestic violence to rise during the Euros, and the Church must not stay silent

Domestic violence to rise during the Euros, and the Church must not stay silent

Chine McDonald is director of communications and membership at the Evangelical Alliance.

The time has come. Millions of football fans around Europe have been counting down to the first kick-off this evening as France take on Romania. Which of our national teams will go the furthest in the competition? Will Spain meet hosts France in the finals? Will Ronaldo be the top scorer?

The beautiful game wouldn't be the same without punditry and predictions. But sadly there is one heartbreaking prediction that we can be almost certain will come true: there will be more instances of reported domestic violence over the coming weeks as our teams battle it out on the pitch.

A study by Lancaster University during the World Cup in 2014 found a match day trend showed the risk of domestic abuse rose by 26 per cent when the English national team won or drew, and rose by 38 per cent when the national team lost.

Of course, we must never forget that many men are also victims of domestic violence and such abuse must never, ever be tolerated. But with men still comprising the majority of football fans, the Euros are an opportunity to raise awareness of male-on-female domestic violence. Every year, 1.4 million women suffer some form of domestic violence. Today, 30 women will try to kill themselves because they just cannot see a way out of the cycle of violence.

Commander Christine Jones, who is the senior Met officer that oversees tackling domestic abuse, has told the media that Home Office analysis and academic research indicates there will be a spike in domestic abuse during the course of the competition. "We want to know if you are experiencing domestic abuse and there are a wide range of third party reporting facilities available," she said. "My message to victims is: if you feel you cannot tell the police, please tell someone."

At the Alliance, many of us are really looking forward to the football over the next few weeks. Football, like the Church, has the ability to bring people from all walks of life together in unity. Sporting organisations such as the FA have backed campaigns to kick racism out of football and are now partnering with Women's Aid to tackle domestic violence in football fans' homes.

But we also believe that as the Church we have a responsibility to speak up on behalf of those who are voiceless, to protect the vulnerable and to speak hope and life into those places where there is darkness and despair, including many homes – curtains pulled shut – up and down the country.

Football is not the cause of domestic violence. But when increased alcohol consumption during such sporting tournaments and the heightened emotions brought about by the highs and lows of the game are thrown into the mix of an environment in which women's bodies are so often abused, the result is an increase in such violence. We must educate young men so that sexist behaviour is challenged on every level, because as Christians we believe in the inherent dignity of every human being.

One in three women worldwide and one in four women in the UK have been victims of domestic violence.

It is heartbreaking to think that Christians are among these statistics – both perpetrators and victims. Domestic violence happens in churches too, as a campaign by Restored, an international Christian alliance working to end domestic violence, tells us. More often than not, the global Church is criticised for turning a blind eye to abuse, for condoning it and colluding with perpetrators. This must not be our story. Because Christ's Church has got to be better than that.

For those churches who are wanting to tackle domestic violence in their midst, Restored has launched a new pack for churches wishing to tackle domestic violence in their mist.

"Whilst much has been achieved to create an environment where women can flourish and achieve their full potential in many countries, we know that violence and abuse of women remains at epidemic levels," says co-director Mandy Marshall.

"Abuse can prevent a woman from flourishing, achieving and being all that God created her to be. We want every church, in every nation, to respond appropriately and effectively to domestic abuse. We want to see each church with a policy, procedure and process that is publicised and implemented so that victims and survivors of abuse can disclose in confidence and be signposted to the professional services available."

The church pack contains practical information on what domestic abuse is, the epidemic nature of abuse, practical steps churches can take alongside helpful charts on how to respond.

It also includes an expanded theological section, which aims to guide you through some of the issues specifically faced by Christians that can lead to abuse.

For more information, visit Restored's website.

As a member of the Evangelical Alliance, Restored is one of 600 organisations supported by the Alliance. We facilitate members' initiatives and campaigns and offer support to increase their impact and provide training for organisations on how to engage with the local government and media.

If you would like to become a member of the Evangelical Alliance as an organisation, church or individual, you can find out more here.