Local pastors trained to fight domestic abuse

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- More than 70 local church leaders came together on Thursday for a training event on domestic violence in the community.

The goal was to educate pastors on the signs and how to combat the abuse.

The training was timely, considering October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The event was a collaborative effort between the Fresno-Clovis Pastor Clusters and the Marjaree Mason Center.

Approximately 7,000 cases of domestic violence are reported every year in Fresno.

Across the US, an estimated one in four women is a victim of severe physical abuse.

"There's something dark and deep going on in our community. 7,000 calls a year says there's a problem with domestic violence," says pastor Eli Loera.

Loera spearheaded an effort to bring awareness to the cause and help local pastors look for signs of domestic violence among parishioners.

"How can you see the signs of an offender but also the victim? Certain personality traits and certain behaviors. So when you can identify then how can you help them and stop the violence?" Loera says.

Jenn Freis is a survivor. She was in an abusive relationship for years.

She says her pastor at the time told her to go back home and stay in the marriage.

Finally another woman recognized the red flags and helped her leave, along with her two small children 10 years ago.

"Domestic violence is one of those hidden secrets that nobody wants to talk about, including in the church," she says.

Thursday's training was clear - recognize signs of domestic violence, support victims and let them know the church is a safe place to get services.

"Victims and survivors need to feel supported. If they feel they're able to trust you with a little bit they can trust you with a lot," Freis says.

Police Chief Jerry Dyer says domestic violence is a problem in every city, not just locally.

But identifying the signs and getting the right help is the best way to break the cycle.

"A pastor's heart is to reconcile between a man and a woman and we want to convey to them that's ok to do. But when there's physical abuse involved they have a responsibility and role to play," says Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer.

If you are or know someone who is a victim of domestic abuse, you can call the Marjaree Mason Center or police.
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