Domestic Violence and Religion
What Can Religious Organizations Do to Help End Domestic Violence?
Religious communities can be incredibly helpful or incredibly damaging to survivors of abuse. Religion plays a very important role in the lives of many victims of domestic violence. Many women have confided in their faith leader when experiencing domestic violence, and some women have found the support and assistance of their faith community to be essential in obtaining safety. Other women have felt that their religious community has not helped or supported them, by encouraging the woman to work harder to make a marriage work, to pray for strength to deal with domestic violence, or by telling the woman that it is her obligation to stay in a dangerous relationship. Sometimes religious text and traditions have been misinterpreted or misused by religious leaders, which has resulted in guilt, shame, self-blame, and suffering for victims. Some religious texts have been used to justify abusive behaviors. Yet other faith communities have taken a strong stand against abuse in the home and have found ways to advocate with abuse survivors, help facilitate safety and providing essential support for victims.
Religion plays a very important role in the lives of many victims of domestic violence. Many women have report that their faith and faith community provided essential support when leaving an abusive relationship, and found their religion to be a comfort to them in very difficult times.
Below is a list of ways in which faith communities can assist survivors of domestic violence:
- Get involved.
- Make connections with your local domestic violence program.
- Co-sponsor a training on domestic violence.
- Partner with domestic violence organizations or become a part of your local domestic violence coordinated community response.
- Support domestic violence organizations.
- Help a domestic violence organization by taking a special offering, raising money or making donations.
- Volunteer your time or resources to a domestic violence organization.
- Offer free space for domestic violence support groups or trainings.
- Educate your faith community.
- Put domestic violence information your bulletin or newsletter. Ask someone from your local domestic violence program to write an article.
- Invite a representative from the domestic violence program to speak to church groups, subcommittees, or at meetings.
- Have information such as posters with the local domestic violence programs phone number available in clergy offices, in restrooms, and at women’s meetings.
- Understand that abusive individuals tend to be manipulative and coercive and will often make promises to change, yet rarely keep those promises.
- Address domestic violence in Sunday School or at children’s classes or youth groups. For example, children can take a “Hands Are Not for Hitting” pledge where they trace and color their own hands and sign a promise not to use their hands for violence.
- Talk about domestic violence in sermons or messages from faith leaders.
- Make your faith community a safe space and support abuse survivors
- Make it clear, that your house of worship is a place that a person can talk to someone about abuse and be supported.
- Intervene when you suspect abuse is occurring. Talk to the couple separately and help the victim plan for safety. Know about community resources for both the abusive individual and the victim.
- Do not engage in any victim blaming and remember only the abuser is responsible for the choice to be violent.
- Reinforce to survivors (and their children) that abuse is never their fault.
- Support the survivor in her decisions, regardless of if they are the same decisions you would make.
Go to www.faithtrustinstitute.org for fantastic resources on faith communities and effective ways to respond to domestic violence. Click on the resources tab for downloadable articles about domestic violence, and other forms of abuse. Also check out an article on religious issues and domestic violence at http://www.faithtrustinstitute.org/resources/articles/Commentary.pdfFor more information on addressing domestic violence or for assistance please contact your local domestic violence program/shelter or you may contact the Ohio Domestic Violence Network at (614) 781-9651 or (800) 934-9840. Also see our library for resources that can be borrowed for use with your religious community when addressing family violence.