“Women Breaking Silence”

What follows here is part of a ritual for domestic violence awareness, one of several campaigns ongoing throughout the month of October.  It is written by Diann L. Neu and distributed by for October 2013 by WATER, the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual.

Background Information

Women and girls of all ages, economic status, race, religion, nationality, and/or educational backgrounds are at risk for domestic violence. This willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behaviors perpetrated by an intimate partner against another has a profound and long-term effect on the survivors. The consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and last a lifetime.

Facts from the National Coalition of Domestic Violence:

  • One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.
  • An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.
  • 85% of domestic violence victims are women.
  • Historically, females have been most often victimized by someone they knew.
  • Females who are 20-24 years of age are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence.
  • Most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police.

This ritual was first created and celebrated in London with a group of women who gathered for a weekend workshop on violence against women. It has been adapted many times since. Use it as a model for the one you and your group need to mark your commitment to women’s human right to safety. Remember: all women live in fear of violence. For this ritual, have ready some oil and a bowl or shell for anointing.

The Ritual: A Call to Solidarity

Let us unite with women and children to mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Let us remember the names of victims and survivors of domestic violence. Let us recognize that violence against women is a human rights violation.


Compassionate One, you who feel our pain and cry with us in our anguish,
Be with us now and always.

Just One, you who rage with us against the injustices we experience,

Be with us now and always.

Loving One, you who shout with us “no” to violence in all its forms,

Be with us now and always.

Listen to Women’s Words

One in three women may suffer from abuse and violence in her lifetime. This is an appalling human rights violation, yet it remains one of the invisible and under-recognized pandemics of our time.” Violence against women is an appalling human rights violation. But it is not inevitable. We can put a stop to this.  ~ Nicole Kidman, Actress

You must do the things you think you cannot do.   ~ Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady

Domestic violence causes far more pain than the visible marks of bruises and scars. It is devastating to be abused by someone that you love and think loves you in return. It is estimated that approximately 3 million incidents of domestic violence are reported each year in the United States.  ~ Dianne Feinstein, Congresswoman

You can write me down in history with hateful, twisted lies, you can tread me in this very dirt, but still, like dust, I’ll rise.  ~ Maya Angelou, Poet, Educator

We are asking people to understand that slavery still exists today; in fact, according to a recent New York Times article, if you count the number of women and children in bonded labor, domestic slavery or sexual slavery today, there are more slaves in the world than at any other time in history.”  ~ Charlotte Bunch, Activist

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.  ~ Alice Walker, Poet

Blessing with Oil

In solidarity with women and girls around the world, we call upon our sisters of the North, East, South, and West to bless and heal us.

Blessed are you, Enduring Spirit of the North,

For soothing us with oil when cold winds chill us to the bone.

Blessed are you, Comforting Sister of the East,

For refreshing us with oil when we need strength to renew our lives.

Blessed are you, Gentle Wisdom of the South,

For warming us with oil and caressing us with cool breezes.

Blessed are you, Healing Power of the West,

For easing our hurts and bruises with oil when we need to keep open to life’s changes.

Anointing with Oil

Receive this oil and

Reclaim your healing powers

For yourself and for others.

Touch your eyes, saying:

Bless my eyes that I may see clearly the pain of others.

Touch your ears, saying:

Bless my ears that I may listen to the words and expressions of those in pain.

Touch your mouth, saying:

Bless my mouth that I may speak words of healing.

Touch your heart, saying:

Bless my heart that I may feel with compassion.

Touch your hands, saying:

Bless my hands that I may touch with healing grace.

Touch your feet, saying:

Bless my feet that I may walk along a road of health and healing.

Touch your whole body, saying:

Bless my whole body that I may be filled with healing powers.

Interfaith Prayer

(from FaithTrust Institute, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, and the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council)

We gather in sorrow as we recall so many women among us who have suffered rape, battering, harassment, and abuse. We gather in anger that these things continue with no end in sight. We gather in hope that our commitment and our actions will matter.

We come acknowledging that we have not always heard, we have not always acted; sometimes we have turned away rather than stand beside a woman who has been victimized.

Hear the cries of those who have been harmed, O God. We are here today and in every religious assembly throughout our land. Call to account those who have caused harm. Rebuke their careless and exploitative acts. Help us to teach them a better way.

Enlighten those who are called upon to help – judges, police officers, doctors, clergy, legislators, therapists and others – so that their decisions and actions will bring forth justice and healing.

Send us forth as witnesses, renewed in our commitment to stand in solidarity with every woman who has been harmed by abuse and violence, encouraged in our efforts to comfort the afflicted and confront the assailants, and emboldened to speak out in our own communities so that silence may no more mask the injustice of violence against women.

We pray for God’s love and justice to heal our hurt and to bring us to that day when women no longer live with fear in their homes, their workplaces, their religious assemblies, or their communities.


Images via WATER.


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About Caryn Riswold

Caryn D. Riswold is a feminist theologian in the Lutheran tradition. She is Professor of Religion and also teaches Gender and Women’s Studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, where she has worked for over a decade teaching undergraduates to think critically and creatively about religion. She earned her Ph.D. and Th.M. from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, holds a master’s degree from the Claremont School of Theology, and received her B.A. from Augustana College in her childhood hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.