Deacons Learn about Domestic Violence
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
February 28, 2019
ROCKFORD—“People want to talk with us because we have a wife (and maybe) children,” said Deacon Ignacio Felix.
Deacon Thomas Petit agreed. “People see us (as someone who) has walked in their shoes,” he said. “They think they have a better chance to be understood.”
They were among a roomful of permanent deacons and wives who attended a Deacon Assembly Day on Feb. 23 at the Cathedral of St. Peter. 
For domestic violence help
Two specialized assistance programs to help  domestic abuse and violence victims in the counties of the Rockford Diocese are:
Remedies in Rockford and Belvidere: 24-hour hotline # is 815-962-6102. Web:
Community Crisis Center in Elgin: English: 847-697-2380; Español: 847-697-9740; TTY: 847-742-4057. Web: 
Two other Domestic Violence Hotlines are:
Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-877-TO END DV (1-877-863-6338)
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233)
The topic at this continuing education event was “Protect Your Flock,” a program designed to assist clergy to recognize domestic abuse and know how to respond.
Speakers included Jim Kintz, who developed the program.
Kintz is retired after 42 years of law enforcement experience in several jurisdictions. He is certified with the Illinois Police Training Board as an instructor for Domestic Violence Investigation. 
Kintz also chairs the Ministry to Victims of Domestic Abuse at his parish, St. John Neumann in St. Charles, and speaks to social, community and church groups to educate the public on domestic violence.  
He is a founding board member and president of the Fox Valley Court Watch program that monitors domestic violence cases in Kane and Kendall Counties.
What is abuse?
Kintz began by saying the terms “domestic violence” and “domestic abuse” are “exactly the same.” 
Abuse within marriages and households is found in every age group, part of the country, ethnic group, level of financial income, education level and sexual orientation, he said. Statistics show “one in three women and one in four men have been abused by an intimate partner,” he added.
“You have victims sitting in your congregations,” he told the deacons and encouraged them to provide homilies about the topic. Victims are not always easily recognized.
The broken bones and bruises usually pictured in people’s minds does not apply to all victims. Types of abuse do often include physical harm. But abuse also is:
�–� Verbal — including emotional abuse with the goal of breaking down the self-esteem of the victims; 
�–� Sexual — including forced abortion; and 
�–� Mental abuse, perhaps the most difficult to be recognized, even by victims.
That was the case with  Cheryl, a victim who assists Kintz in the ministry by sharing her own story.
“Abuse can’t always be seen from the outside,” Cheryl said. “The abused can appear to be happy, confident, strong ... and they can actually be (at times) happy, confident and strong.”
Her 17-year marriage started out great, but a few years in her now-ex-husband began to change. She, her husband and even their children kept up a good front for a variety of reasons.
“It wasn’t always bad,” she said, “and not always openly violent.” She experienced the common cycle of building tension, explosion, followed by a “honeymoon phase” that might include apologies and pledges to change. 
And then tension builds again and the cycle continues. “Walking on eggshells,” might be a description of the state of a victim.
The emotional and psychological abuse “was all very cloudy,” Cheryl said. 
Only over time, when she began to “add it all up and put it all down and stand back and look at it,” could she begin to see more clearly, stop second-guessing what is “normal,” and stop telling herself that he would change. 
Her pastor’s description of a normal marriage, once she went to him for assistance, helped her further understand that her marriage was far from healthy or good.
It’s about control
At the top of the list of subtle signs of abuse was the word “control.” From belittling a spouse to blaming her or him for the abuser’s own behavior, to games played with the goal of having a victim doubt her or his own mind, to threats and physical acts — all of it works to manipulate and control the spouse or partner.
Some of the characteristics of an abuser include a quest to control, feelings of entitlement, selfishness, a sense of superiority, possessiveness and narcissism.
Kintz spoke about several “F words” that identify why victims stay with an abuser including friends and family who can’t comprehend well-hidden abuse and don’t want to believe it. 
Other words are fear, failure, faith, finances, fatigue, frustration and an unknown future. 
The Catholic Church, Kintz said, tells women and men in abusive situations to separate and to be safe. Most all major religions, he added, follow that line of thinking. 
But not all priests or ministers know how to give good advice — one of the reasons he developed the “Protect Your Flock” program.
Learning to feel it
The deacons and wives participated in an “In Her Steps”  role playing exercise where groups of three were given a real-life abuse case and given choices to follow various paths in response to situations within those real examples. 
In the process, they discovered how frustrating it can be to find the resources that can help and to stop the abusive cycle that so often happens.
“It gave me a better appreciation for what they go through,” Deacon Petit said.
His wife, Joleen, took part in a different group than her husband, for the “Steps” exercise. 
Her assigned victim was of a particular ethnic culture and seeking help from her family “was not the place to go,” Joleen said.
Deacon Felix’s group struck out with both the mother and priest of the victim. 
“They both told the victim to stay” in the marriage, he explained.
Deacon Michael Keane, a former police officer, told his table about two women whose abuser even pulled their hair out. 
But after “five hours of paperwork” when it came time for court, they begged him to let the guy go. 
Such a scenario is common and frustrating for officers, he said.
What can help
What can a deacon or anyone else do to assist a victim who comes to them?
First of all, “listen, and believe them,” Kintz told the group. 
“If (you learn) nothing else, please, when you walk out of here, know where to send them,” Cheryl said.
Kintz and his helpers provided materials from specialized agencies that deal with domestic abuse victims — or abusers themselves who want to change. (See box on page 3.)
“Be available to talk,” Kintz instructed. “Ask ‘How can I support you?’ (and) know and provide names and contact information of (those specialized) agencies.”