It was July 2012 & it was a lovely warm summers day outside. The Olympics had started in London & I tried to watch as much as I could on TV. Every time a British female athlete won a medal I cried. I cried because I felt strongly about the opportunities the female athletes had at the Olympics to compete in sports that historically they were counted out of. I cried because each time they won a medal represented a small victory against misogynistic ideas & it would inspire the next generation of girls who looked on.
4,847 women will take part in the London 2012 Games. Never before will so many have run, jumped, swum and ridden at an Olympic Games. Never before will any have boxed at the Olympics. Never before will every competing nation have been represented by at least one female athlete. And never before will a sporting regiment of women have had so many medals to win.
Robin Scott-Elliot, Independent Newspaper, Thursday 26th July 2012. Before the London Olympics 2012.
My husband & I were contemplating the new project we were setting up & its vision. The Dwell Project started in September 2012 aimed at preventing domestic violence in faith communities. As I thought about the purpose of the project I wondered if anyone would have a problem with it. Surely everyone wants to see an end to domestic violence, don’t they?! Therefore they wouldn’t have a problem with our aims.
A few months after we started we were meeting with groups from non faith & faith groups to discuss partnership work. We were surprised by the response from both groups. The response from non-faith groups was hostile & territorial. They didn’t think faith had anything to bring to the table & therefore didn’t believe a faith based project like ours could help end domestic violence. Wasn’t Christianity patriarchal & therefore condoning domestic violence, rather than as we believe, an inspiration for ending it? It was frustrating & discouraging to hear this over & over again.
Then when we met with faith leaders we would often come up against denial that domestic violence existed in their community. We spoke at churches to church leaders & heard the argument – what has this got to do with us? This doesn’t happen in our community. The influence & change they could bring to culture in their churches didn’t seem to change their thinking either.
From the beginning we felt stuck in the middle of these 2 responses & one question remained as urgent as ever: Will we as Christians be drawn further into alliances with male abusers or draw together to end domestic violence? We hope that we can have an impact on those who are in faith groups to face up to the reality of domestic violence in their own communities. Partnership is still an important part of who we are & therefore we won’t give up trying to work together with others.
Together we can end domestic violence. We can’t do this on our own. Our faith in Jesus is the reason we exist & Jesus himself is our model for how & why we work to end domestic violence.
We haven’t been shocked at these responses & we’ve also been surprised by really positive responses from faith & non faith groups to the work we are trying to do. Groups that we didn’t think would be interested have invited us to speak at their events. We’ve run interactive workshops for 82 faith leaders across the UK in the past 6 months.
The London Olympics was a great success for women’s sport all over the world but also a step in the right direction against sexism & gender inequality.
Lets keep on going as we have a long journey ahead & we’ve only just started walking.