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  • National Resource Center on Domestic Violence

Role of Faith Leaders and Laity in Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention

Communities of faith play a unique and vital role in the response to and elimination of domestic violence, as they carry the responsibility to protect and nurture the spiritual wellbeing of the community as a whole and its individual members. Victims and survivors of domestic violence may turn to faith leaders for spiritual guidance and support before or instead of secular domestic violence services, because of the unique dimension they can add to the sometimes overwhelming experience of seeking help. Similarly, batterers may also turn to faith leaders, perhaps either as a means of legitimizing the abuse or to seek guidance and support in understanding and changing behaviors. Faith leaders may be asked, then, to provide spiritual guidance and counseling to both the victim and the perpetrator.

This requires efforts by faith leaders to not only acknowledge domestic violence but also to continually educate themselves and the entire community and to join in creating responses to domestic violence that are safe and supportive for victims and survivors. Yet responses to domestic violence cannot exist without careful attention to the safety of the victim as well as some form of accountability for the abusive partner. When faith communities make an effort to examine issues of batterer accountability, in addition to those of victim safety and empowerment, they are better able to create a response that meets the needs of individuals and their communities. This section offers tools, including information on best practices, model policies, and successful collaborations, to support faith leaders in their efforts to prevent and respond to domestic violence in the community.

Best practices for faith leaders and laity in assisting domestic violence victims

FaithWheel.jpg"Interpersonal violence in families can take on many forms and ranges from abuse of our elderly, to abuse of a spouse or intimate partner, to abuse of our children. As clergy, we are often aware of the violence our families experience, but not always aware of how we can best intervene and provide support, and even whether we are required by law to take further steps." - Rabbi David Rose for Jewish Women International, 2011

Barriers in addressing domestic violence in faith-based communities
Creating successful partnerships between faith-based communities and local domestic violence programs

"Work to end domestic violence is a marathon, not a sprint." - Safe Havens Interfaith Partnership Against Domestic Violence


Where Faith and Safety Meet: Faith Communities Respond to Elder Abuse is a resource page from Safe Havens Interfaith Partnership Against Domestic Violence and The National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life that offers helpful tools for collaboration between faith leaders and domestic and sexual violence service providers to best respond to the needs of older victims of abuse.

Mandatory reporting and its ethical tensions
The issue of when clergy are mandatory reporters can be both legally complicated and ethically challenging. It is important for all professionals to accurately understand the reporting requirements in their state and to understand that not all professionals (e.g. clergy, therapists, etc.) have the same reporting requirements within a state. Additionally, certain state laws only require formally ordained clergy, rather than other informal faith leaders, to be encompassed within the mandatory reporting requirement, so it is important to keep that in mind in assessing obligations to report certain types of abuse and neglect as the following resources lay out.
How faith leaders respond when there is a domestic violence homicide in their congregation. Is forgiveness even possible?

"Despite our experience, faith, and seminary training; despite Tom’s thirty years of ministry and my ten, nothing could have prepared us for this crisis. It would have been helpful, however, to be able to access resources to assist us as we made our way through such unfamiliar territory.” - PDVN