Why Pastoral Response Is Important
Families turn to their faith communities and leaders in time of crisis and for ongoing support. Spiritual beliefs help shape a person’s perspective and choices, including how they navigate broken human relationships. All human faiths exhort their congregants to provide compassion and aid to those who are suffering.
What Your Faith Community Can Do Become a Safe Place. Make your church, temple, mosque or synagogue a safe place where victims of domestic violence can come for help. Display brochures and posters which include the telephone number of the domestic violence and sexual assault programs in your area.
Educate the Congregation. Provide ways for members of the congregation to learn as much as they can about domestic and sexual violence. Routinely include information in monthly newsletters, on bulletin boards, and in marriage preparation classes. Sponsor educational seminars in your congregation. Speak out about domestic violence and sexual assault from the pulpit.
Lead by Example. Volunteer to serve on the board of directors at the local domestic violence/sexual assault program or attend a training to become a crisis volunteer.
Offer Space. Offer meeting space for educational seminars or weekly support groups or serve as a supervised visitation site when parents need to safely visit their children.
Partner with Existing Resources. Include your local domestic violence or sexual assault program in donations and community service projects. Adopt a shelter for which your church, temple, mosque or synagogue provides material support, or provide similar support to families as they rebuild their lives following a shelter stay.
Prepare to be a Resource. Do the theological and scriptural homework necessary to better understand and respond to family violence and receive training from professionals in the fields of sexual and domestic violence. Encourage and support training and education for clergy and lay leaders, hospital chaplains, and seminary students.
Intervene. If you suspect violence is occurring in a relationship, speak to each member of the couple separately. Help the victim plan for safety. Let both individuals know of the community resources available to assist them. Do not attempt couples counseling. Keep the victim’s confidentiality. (Suggestions adapted from: A Community Checklist: Important Steps to End Violence Against Women, Advisory Council on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Justice, October 1996.)
For resources for our Community Partners in the Faith Communites please click here.