“Do you hear their cries?”: A feminist, relational and Jungian ethnography of domestic violence survivors and their religious congregations
This dissertation is an ethnography that uses semi-structured interviews, field notes, and participant observation to explore how two religious congregations respond to survivors of domestic violence. I interviewed twenty-two parishioners including domestic violence survivors, clergy and bystanders. I transcribed these interviews verbatim using Agar’s method of transcript handling. I used participant observation to explore how congregational practices of preaching, teaching, and pastoral care use myth, symbol, and archetypes to construct contextual theologies. These practices can help or hinder survivors of domestic violence. Using a voice relational approach to the analysis of interviews, I brought the data into dialogue with a feminist relational psychology, theological resources, Jungian theory, and Judith Herman’s trauma theory. I explore theological resources from the via positiva, via negativa, and via transformativa. I theorize that religious congregations construct contextual theologies and a persona from practices such as preaching, teaching, and pastoral care that can liberate survivors. Religious congregations can also repress traumatic stories of survivors and use these same practices to silence and oppress survivors. Affect laden, repressed, shameful, violent or sexual elements can later erupt in the form of congregational complexes. This eruption of unconscious material into a congregational complex provides an opportunity to rework the contextual theology to include survivors’ experiences. The congregation can integrate the unconscious elements into the contextual theology and help survivors heal. The eruptions of this material can also trigger congregational anxiety and cause the community to repress the traumatic material again. By minimizing or denying survivor experiences congregations alienate survivors, and often fail to act to protect survivors, and their children. I argue for a concept of self that is a "relational, embodied, centered, self in process and in connection to a just and caring community." This "centered self" can assist survivors encounter the Ground of Being within, through contemplation and meditation providing a transformational experience.
0347: Mental health