CNS PHOTO ILLUSTRATION/GREG TARCZYNSKI
One in four women has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime, according to surveys and data from the last decade. It permeates all facets of society.
CNS PHOTO ILLUSTRATION/GREG TARCZYNSKI One in four women has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime, according to surveys and data from the last decade. It permeates all facets of society.

As many of you know, I truly love sports. I play tennis regularly, early in the morning and sometimes even three times a week. I love to watch our local teams.  You might call me a “homer”.  If the Redskins, Nats, Caps or Wizards are playing, I can usually update you the next day on who won and the highlights of the game.  That is why the stories about the NFL, Ray Rice and his wife and the tragic and very public instance of domestic violence have caught not only my attention, but that of the whole country.

Earlier this month, we were all shocked when video surfaced from the elevator the night Ray Rice had physically abused his fiancée (now wife). This was an incident which originally took place in February. And even though we knew what had happened, it was still very shocking to see and very hard to watch.

Why?

I asked one of our longtime program managers at a shelter serving women and children fleeing domestic violence in southern Maryland. In one simple statement, she said, “It made it real.”

It made it real, indeed. It is one thing to know. It’s another to see it with the intimacy of a camera that was mere feet from the brutal incident. Setting aside all of the issues and speculation about who knew what and when, I’d like to focus on this: domestic violence happens to one out of every four women in the United States during their lifetime and one out of every 10 men.

In almost all of those cases, there isn’t a video. It’s happening to people who live in the neighborhoods around our parishes. It’s happening to people who sit in the pews around us. And it’s happening to someone who will read this article.

I’m proud to say that last spring, our own Archdiocese of Washignton, under the leadership of Cardinal Wuerl, approved a special task force to deal with the issue of domestic abuse and family peace. I’ve been asked to chair that committee and we are meeting monthly and preparing a year-end report on the problem and a suggested response. This issue effects our schools, our employees, our parishes and all of our agencies. It is much more prevalent than any of us would like to admit.

Ultimately, we have three goals: 1.) Create a similar network to what we have for women who are vulnerable to choosing abortion; 2.) Create a system to train priests for dealing with the unique challenges of domestic violence; and 3.) Identify parishes in each deanery who can play a role in the immediate crisis and down the road to assist victims in rebuilding and restarting.

I know many of the clients at Catholic Charities, especially the women in our shelters, housing programs, and mental health services have experienced serious, life-threatening violence.  One woman I met had experienced violence from her husband of seven years of marriage. It took her several tries to finally leave him, and when she did, he pursued her, breaking the windows of a friend’s home where he thought she was staying.

This is simply terrifying. It can happen to anyone. The very real fear of having someone you love turn that trust into an abusive grab for power deserves a very sincere and tangible response from our Church community. I look forward to sharing more as we progress and build this important ministry.

(Msgr. Enzler is president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington.)