Family Violence

Family Violence

What Communities of Faith Can Do To Make a Difference

Make the church, temple, mosque, or synagogue a safe place for victims of violence against women. Display materials that include local, state, and national hotlines for these victims.

Routinely include instructional information in monthly newsletters, on bulletin boards, and in marriage preparation classes, and sponsor educational seminars on violence against women.

Speak out about sexual assault and domestic violence from the pulpit. A faith leader can have a powerful impact on people’s attitudes and beliefs, and his or her leadership is important, particularly on public policy issues such as funding and changes in criminal laws.

Volunteer to serve on the board of directors at the local sexual assault or domestic violence program or train to become a crisis volunteer.

Offer meeting space for educational seminars and weekly support groups or to serve as a supervised visitation site when parents need a safe place to visit their children.

Include local sexual assault or domestic violence programs in donations and community service projects. Adopt a shelter for which the church, temple, mosque, or synagogue provides material support or provide similar support to families as they rebuild their lives following a shelter stay.

Seek out training from professionals in the fields of sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, and stalking. Do the theological and scriptural homework necessary to better understand and respond to sexual assault and dating and domestic violence.

If suspicions that violence is occurring in a relationship or in a family exist, speak to each person separately. If an individual is being or has been victimized, speak to her privately. Help the victim plan for safety, and refer her to the community resources available to assist her.

Encourage and support training and education for clergy and lay leaders, chaplains, and seminary students to increase their awareness about sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, and stalking.

Encourage continued efforts by religious institutions to address allegations of abuse by religious leaders to ensure that religious leaders are a safe resource for victims and their children.

Religious Communities Can....

Emphasize the teachings, practices, and organizational structures that promote a woman’s right to be free from violence, such as teachings that support equality and respect for women and girls. Develop theologically based materials that emphasize a woman’s right to safety and support and a perpetrator’s personal responsibility for ending the violence. Adopt policies developed by religious leaders that outline appropriate responses to victims and perpetrators of violence, and educate leaders about child abuse reporting requirements, the importance of confidentiality, misconduct by clergy or spiritual leaders, and other safety issues. Support local advocacy programs that provide services to victims and survivors by encouraging congregants to donate time, money, and other material resources.

Ensure that religious, spiritual, and faith-based communities are safe environments to allow victims of violence to discuss their experiences and seek healing. Encourage members and leaders of churches, synagogues, mosques, and other spiritual or

Develop and refine guidelines and protocols for responding to disclosures of sexual assault, dating or domestic violence, or stalking of a member of the congregation or community. Encourage support for a victim’s continued inclusion in the community of her choice if the perpetrator is from the same community, including respecting emotional and physical safety considerations and no-contact orders. Consider the emotional and physical safety of victims and any dependents affected by victimization, including elderly relatives and children. Encourage youth workers to receive training on child abuse reporting requirements and local child welfare practices. Encourage congregations, religious community centers, and other religious institutions to adopt policies for employees, members, and participants who may be victims or perpetrators of violence.

Develop consistent policies for responding to misconduct or abuse by spiritual leaders or clergy to ensure that action is taken to protect congregants and that appropriate cases of clergy misconduct are referred to law enforcement agencies.

Create opportunities for youth to develop healthy and appropriate interpersonal relationships in the context of their religious, spiritual, or faith-based traditions. Consider conducting background checks of volunteers and staff who work with youth to try to ensure that they have not been perpetrators of physical or sexual violence. Invite youth to participate in the design and evaluation of programs that address their needs, such as writing and designing multimedia materials on safety and healthy relationships. Train youth to support victims and to constructively confront peers about violence against women and girls.

Organize youth ministry and leadership groups to educate young people about the dynamics, impact, and prevention of sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, and stalking. Inform leaders about the particular vulnerabilities of older people and people with disabilities who may be dependent on abusive partners or caregivers.

Additional Resources

Two out of every three Americans are affiliated with a religious, spiritual, or faith-based group or organization, and approximately one out of every four Americans is an active member of such a community.1 Based on the breadth and reach of these organizations, it is not surprising that many women and girls turn to religious leaders for guidance in dealing with violence. Some religious, spiritual, and faith-based organizations provide victims with well-informed, practical, and spiritual guidance, including referrals to other organizations.Religious organizations are essential to the culture and sustenance of communities and are uniquely positioned to champion efforts to end violence against women. Although philosophical differences have created tension between some religious, spiritual, and faith organizations and victim advocates, common ground can be found in shared interests to end violence against women.

Faith-based groups and organizations often have strong relationships with communities of color, older women, women with disabilities, and immigrant communities. Religious organizations can reach the large numbers of people often underserved by other groups with messages of safety and support for victims and with information about offender accountability. Establishing training for and by members of religious communities and building the capacity to address the issue will strengthen the role of religious communities in ending violence against women and girls. Outlined below are specific actions religious, spiritual, and faith-based organizations, community-based sexual assault and domestic violence programs, secular victim services, advocacy programs, and public and private funders can take to end violence against women.