MCC photo/Colin Vandenberg

MCC Manitoba's Abuse Response & Prevention Program works to address the realities of interpersonal violence and assist those in need. 

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Join Threads for meaningful conversation about abuse during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.


Listen in as our host Kyle Rudge speaks with Jaymie Friesen and Val Hiebert about their work's passion in abuse response and prevention with MCC Manitoba.

Threads, formerly known as Word and Deed, was established in April 2007. It is a 15-minute radio program by KR Words featuring the work of MCC in Manitoba and around the world. Threads broadcasts on CFAM AM 950, CHSM AM 1250 and CHRB AM 1220 at 8:45 am on the first Sunday of the month. 

Audio transcription:

Kyle Rudge  0:02  
It begins with a single thread, woven through another thread, and then another, and another until we have a single piece of fabric. That fabric is stretched, cut and stitched together with another just like it. [MUSIC]

This process is repeated over and over and over. Until we have a beautiful tapestry that all began with a single thread. Welcome to MCC threads, where we look closely at how our stories in Manitoba weave together with the stories of MCC and its partners around the world. 

In the following episode, we discuss subject matter pertaining to domestic violence and abuse and may not be suitable for all audiences.

Val Hiebert  0:58  
We of course have to have national peace, and to have national peace, you have to have peace in the communities and, to have peace in the communities, you have to have peace at home.

Kyle Rudge  1:07  
November is a lot of things to many people in Canada from the conclusion of Halloween activities to Remembrance Day to event preparation for Christmas and all the decorating. It's also Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and with the shows on Netflix like Maid that recently came out, the conversation about unrest in our homes is coming again to the forefront. 

Jaymie Friesen  1:29  
Many organizations take the month of November to talk about and raise awareness about the realities of domestic violence or what we also might call intimate partner abuse.

Kyle Rudge  1:37  
That's Jaymie Friesen. She is the Abuse Response & Prevention Coordinator for MCC Manitoba.

Jaymie Friesen  1:43  
And actually just before this recording, I was looking because there is a recent report on the rates of intimate partner abuse in Canada. So I was trying to glean some insight from that. But what I what we do know is that the rates of intimate partner violence are only increasing in Canada over the last I think six years, every year the rates are increasing and Saskatchewan, Manitoba have the highest rates. So you know, it really is sometimes referred to as you know, a pandemic of it onto itself, right. And it's something that, unfortunately, so many people suffer in silence, right? There's even within Christian communities, there can be a kind of a belief of like, that doesn't really happen here. And when I hear that type of response, what that signals to me is, oh, people just aren't talking about it. Because it happens everywhere. No, no faith community, no religion, there's no socioeconomic space where it doesn't happen. It happens everywhere. So it's just a time to really address that and talk about it and engage people to learn more about those realities.

Kyle Rudge  2:56  
Each year, we do highlight Jaymie and her work in this area. 

Jaymie Friesen  3:00  
There is something very, you know, when someone's been a abused in a church or in a faith community, and they are able to come forward with that that is so incredibly vulnerable. And I've had the opportunity set at several points in this position to walk with someone who's coming forward for the first time to disclose that they were abused by a pastor, or church leader. And it's too and that journey is never quick, like I'm talking like, two, three years of conversation of exploring options of finding ways for that for this person to experience healing or justice. And there's something that's so incredible about walking with someone through that experience.

Kyle Rudge  3:49  
This past year, however, Jaymie had help. 

Val Hiebert  3:52  
I am Val Hiebert, and I'm the assistant coordinator for the Abuse Response & Prevention Program. And I work out of Mitchell, Manitoba.

Kyle Rudge  4:00  
Val has been working with MCC in this program since January of this year. However, her experience in the area has been years in the making.

Val Hiebert  4:07  
I'm a sociologist, so I teach sociology at Providence University. And among the courses I teach are men, women in society, children and violence, and marriage and family. And in those contexts, my students hear lots from me about just abuse in general, in theory, and its impact. And over the years, students started to come to me to talk about their own experiences of abuse in their families. And that was shocking, troubling. And there was more and more of it, that I was hearing about, and that was just deeply troubling. So I actually set aside a couple of months, a couple of years ago to actually do some research. To see was anyone researching on violence in Christian homes. What was there to know? What was there to understand? What was there to do? And I was quite startled to find that the rates are quite high. They are as high as the more general public. And in some contexts, they're actually higher.

Kyle Rudge  5:15  
We talked at length about the work they are involved in. And at one point, the conversation stirred to its origin. With a sociology professor present, I figured there might be some insight here to be gleaned. 

Val Hiebert  5:27  
Most, not all, but most of the violence is perpetrated by males against females or children who are both male and female. So if we want to start asking the question of why, we have to actually back up and ask the question about why do we construct masculinities in the way that we do. If you look around at how we train young boys to be non-emotive, to be tough, to be aggressive, to lead at all costs, that can produce a human who can't actually manage their emotions. Well, because we don't allow men to express fear and sadness and vulnerability. That's not tough. That's not strong. And then you couple that with cultural scripts, I mean just look at our media, of aggressive violent males, and you start to have a pretty toxic potion there.

Kyle Rudge  6:26  
There was one phrase in particular that stuck out. 

Val Hiebert  6:29  
So this is a sociologist talking. I'm not prepared to accept that men are born violent.

Kyle Rudge  6:35  
I am not prepared to accept that men are born violent. That one sunk deep.

Val Hiebert  6:42  
I can't go there. I'm not convinced by that kind of an argument. I think we construct violence as part of masculinity. And so what we have is a masculinity problem. That's, that's what we have. And so when we're dealing with violent men, and and some of the stories are really horrific, and we have to get those children out of those environments, and those partners that out of that violence. But there, there's also a male there, who if all we do is condemn, then we're not going to solve the problem either. So we do have to back up and look at how we might be more broadly responsible in our environment, for how we teach boys to be men. This is really important, deep, long work that needs to be done there. An abuse is generational. So that means that you may actually already have grown up inside some form of abuse, and you may be conditioned to thinking it's normal. And because it has normalised for you, as an adult, now you're in an abusive context. Well, isn't that just how it is, which is why raising awareness and educating is so incredibly important.

Kyle Rudge  7:58  
Raising awareness and educating is exactly what Jaymie and Val intend to do. On November 17, at 10am to 11:30am Val will be leading a webinar over Zoom specifically for pastors regarding abuse that is going on in each congregation.

Val Hiebert  8:13  
It's actually a pairing. So mine is called Behind Closed Doors: The church and domestic abuse. And so I'm just going to sort of roll out the research and what we know based on the research on prevalence rates, which are high in Christian contexts, and then explore some of the reasons, exactly like the question you've just asked, why they're high. What's going on inside Christian families that we have high levels of violence present. And then the second one, and I'm just going to pull up the title here will be by Cameron McKenzie. And it is called Opening Closed Doors: The Bible pastoral care and the challenge of domestic abuse. And Cameron is a pastor. And so he will sort of respond to what I've described and the challenges I've described, from the pastoral perspective. Engaging the biblical text, how pastors could possibly respond, better responses. I mean, lots of pastors don't really have any training either. So it's it's difficult to know what's the right response when you actually haven't been given any grounding in this kind of information to start with. So one of the things we really want to do that Jaymie and I both care about quite a bit is just equipping pastors to to respond when there is a disclosure from within their own congregation.

Kyle Rudge  9:43  
The goal is that pastors who attend would walk away with a better understanding of abuse and how to recognise it from their context.

Jaymie Friesen  9:50  
And I hope too, like whenever we do webinars, we always try to send out information after too for ways that folks can get involved, ways they can interact with our program, and have us even come in to do further trainings or workshops, and also equipped with more resources, readings. So we're always available too for churches and pastors, if they're wanting to engage further or do more. Maybe they want to even have a sermon on domestic violence or do something in their congregation to raise awareness, which is awesome. And we are here to obviously come alongside those types of efforts.

Val Hiebert  10:23  
Yeah, we're always happy to show up and adapt something for a particular congregation. I think one of the other things that we hope for is that that pastors also talk more with each other about this. Like the more it becomes part of general discourse, the more pastors can also help each other and support each other in better, wiser ways that results in long term healing inside families where there's abuse.

Kyle Rudge  10:50  
There are also resources available for those who are not pastors, but instead find themselves or loved ones in situations like these.

Jaymie Friesen  10:56  
For starters, I would probably point people to our website. So it's So on there, there's resources for people who are experiencing intimate partner abuse, but also content and resources for people who think they might themselves be abusive, or are questioning that. And there's some really helpful areas of our site that help people discern whether what they're experiencing is abuse or not. When COVID first started, I did interviewing with Karen McCampbell. Davis, who is the author of the book When Love Hurts. So her and I did a podcast together that is on the website, and specifically about, it's specifically geared for people who are experiencing abuse during COVID. And it talks about coping and tips, so that would be another great resource. And Karen McCampbell Davis is a wellspring of knowledge. also highly recommend her website

Kyle Rudge  11:47  
Working in this field can't be easy. You hear so much trauma of others, and your empathy and compassion that is shared can drain you fairly quickly. So why work in a field like this.

Val Hiebert  12:01  
To shine light in this dark place produces more light. That that's just deeply rewarding. That, sort of like Jaymie, I just feel really privileged to be able to help people walk away from dark places, even just to give them language. You know, sometimes I mean, I've had students in my classes, who didn't even realise that, actually, there were words and categories for what they were experiencing. And the language is so powerful. And when you give people a couple of really good words that describe their experience that's really empowering for them. As they as they suddenly can take hold of a good strong word and say, this is what happened to me. It's just meaningful. It's really meaningful. I I'm just grateful that I can do this work.

Kyle Rudge  12:58  
There's no doubt in my mind of the importance of this work. In our conversation led me to ask Mennonite Central Committee is known for bringing relief and development in countries around the world. How does Abuse Response & Prevention fit into that overall vision and purpose of MCC?

Jaymie Friesen  13:13  
We often think of MCC is the work they do out there in, you know, in the trenches so to say, where, where there's famine, where there's natural disasters where there's really deep seated conflict. But certainly part of the reason this program began is because we recognized and it began in the 90s, where women were coming forward in the church saying like, there's wars going on in our homes, right. So we also need to look inwardly and within our own systems and spaces and ask, yeah, that question like where is there, violence and harm happening here and there's lots and lots of work to be done to, to bring about peace and relief, bases where people are feeling very oppressed and silenced and wounded.

Kyle Rudge  14:02  
If you or someone you know, is in a situation like these, there are resources available to you. One of those resources is You can have your church leadership sign up for the Behind Closed Doors webinar, at MCC Threads is produced by KR Words with story assistance from Nikki Hamm Gwala. I'm Kyle Rudge and this is MCC Threads.

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