Advocates for Victims of Abuse (AVA) is a ministry of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) that equips individuals and churches to come alongside of victims of domestic violence and childhood sexual abuse with understanding and support. Although AVA falls under the Women’s Ministry umbrella, it is a ministry for the family, not only women.

Why have a ministry that works with the abused? In the United States, nearly 20 people per minute are abused by intimate partners. One in three women and one in four men have been victims of some sort of physical violence by an intimate partner. Each year 2 million to 4 million women are abused, and 4,000 of them die; 30 to 60 percent of children are also physically or sexually assaulted in the United States. The victims of abuse can be found everywhere—including in our churches. Click here to watch a 3-minute video created by the ECC about ministering to the abused in churches.

The ECC believes Christians are called to partner with God to help bring an end to abuse against women, men, girls, and boys. AVA provides resources for victims of abuse; equips the church to minister to victims through workshops, seminars and training programs; and provides preventative measures against abuse.

AVA was started in 2004 by Ruth Hill, then the executive minister of the ECC’s Women Ministries; the first project manager was Rev. Aleese-Moore-Orbih. In 2007 Yvonne DeVaughn was named AVA director, and under her leadership the ministry has grown as more advocates have been equipped and certified to equip others at the conference and local levels.

Each conference in the ECC has at least one regional coordinator. Regional coordinators are recommended by their conference’s Women Ministries’ president and a pastor. In addition to completing the AVA training with Yvonne, they complete 40 hours of training at a local domestic violence agency. Diane Riley is the regional coordinator for the East Coast Conference.

As a regional coordinator, Diane offers educational seminars for local churches, women’ ministry groups, men’s ministry groups, youth groups, and clergy. The seminars include:

  • Domestic Violence 101: Breaking the Silence, Telling the Truth
  • Child Sexual Abuse 101: Healing the Wounds of Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse
  • Turning Roadblocks into Resources: Partnership in the Healing
  • What Clergy (and Layleaders) Need to Know about Domestic Violence
  • Teenagers and Domestic Violence

The local church can help fight abuse and help those who have been abused in a number of ways. The first, of course, is through prayer. People in the church can also:

  • arrange to receive AVA training through their regional coordinator (Diane Riley) encourage clergy to speak out from the pulpit against domestic and sexual violence encourage youth leaders to be trained to talk to teenagers about abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and dating violence
  • know the local resources on domestic violence and sexual abuse and refer people to them
  • develop a relationship with a local domestic violence and sexual assault agency
  • after AVA training, develop an AVA committee and support a local coordinator
  • put up posters, pamphlets and domestic violence/suaul assault hotline information in the women’s room stalls (not walls)
  • provide financial support at the conference and national level

For more information, or to set up a seminar or training at your church, email Diane Riley at diane.ava.ecc@gmail.com.

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