By Marit Gookin
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, in 2019 2,037 domestic violence incidents were reported to law enforcement in the state of Wyoming, and many more went unreported. The Covenant Presbyterian Church of Lander has frequently held seminars and talks on topics such as domestic violence and abuse in the past, as part of the church’s efforts to support its communities. These seminars were put on hold for a few years during the pandemic, but this Saturday the Presbyterian Church will be holding its first seminar in several years, in coordination with the Fremont County Alliance Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. Titled “Be a Refuge,” the seminar will feature speakers Darby Strickland and Rachael Denhollander.
Denhollander, who was one of the first women to accuse Larry Nassar and who was instrumental in his trial and sentencing, is now a lawyer and author of the book “What Is a Girl Worth?” She has spoken before world governments, on major college campuses, and before large corporations – and now will speak here, in Lander. Strickland, the author of “Is It Abuse?: A Biblical Guide to Identifying Domestic Abuse and Helping Victims,” is a faculty member at the Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia as well as being a lecturer and counselor for the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation.
“I was on a committee with the two of them for the Presbyterian Church of America,” explained Kelly Dehnert, chair of the Refuge Ministries of North America and Lander resident. The committee was discussing how the church should respond to issues of abuse; he said that he and the two women found they got along, and eventually he invited them to come to Lander. “I had spent much of my work and research focused on toxic leadership and Darby and Rachael broadened my understanding of abuse and trauma. I learned much from them. They are incredibly knowledgeable and have extensive experience helping those who have faced abuse and helping organizations care well for the abused.”
“We’re excited,” he added, to be able to invite the Lander community to hear from these highly regarded experts.
While the Presbyterian Church is hosting the event, it is not a solely religiously-focused event. From 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., there will be a faith-based presentation discussing the theology of abuse, how leaders and community members can identify abuse and how to advocate for survivors in a church setting. After a break for lunch, the seminar will pick back up at 1:30 p.m. with a more community-wide afternoon session, which will offer information on the neurobiology of trauma, advocacy, and local resources available to abuse survivors.
“Both [Denholland and Strickland] are very highly trauma-informed in their approach to counseling,” Dehnert described. “We believe this seminar will provide an invaluable service to Fremont County.”
Attendees may register to attend either session – or both – at Covenant Presbyterian Church’s website, cpclanderwy.org. While attendance is completely free, advance registration is required so the church can know how many people to expect and how many packets to print out.
“It’d be really nice for people to register by Wednesday night,” Dehnert said.