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Domestic Violence and Faith Communities: Guidelines of Leaders,” was published as a cooperative venture between New York state and New York Theological Seminary (NYTS).

It came as a result of conversations between the Office for the Prevention of Violence and the Governor’s Office for Faith-Based Community Development Services. While the materials are specifically Christian, NYTS reached out to Islamic, Buddhist, Jewish, and as many faith leaders as possible. What follows are excerpts from this document:

The Role of Faith Leaders

“Leaders of faith communities have an important role to play in ending domestic violence in all forms.

Faith leaders… are often in a position to assist in situations of domestic violence. Adherents of particular faith traditions often will seek out these leaders for spiritual or moral counsel, or will come to them for advice. Faith leaders play an important role not only as guides and confidantes, but as voices of moral authority in supporting victims of domestic violence and assisting them in seeking help. They can also hold offenders accountable for their abusive behaviors. Faith leaders also can play an important role in the wider society, advocating for public policies that address domestic violence, and securing both public and private resources for providing support.”

How Faith Leaders Can Help

“Victims of domestic violence are often reluctant to talk to their faith leaders. They may have heard conflicting messages and may feel that they will not be supported, or that they will be shunned, or not believed. Faith leaders may be hesitant to assist because they lack training and may not be sure how to support victims without unintentionally re- victimizing them.

It is important to acknowledge when biases and/or previous experiences may impact an individual’s ability to be present and helpful when a victim of domestic violence seeks help and support. Like all professionals, faith leaders bring their own set of biases to their work, and acknowledging this is critical to helping those most in need. In the absence of being able to provide guidance that is in the best interest of the victim – because it may contradict their personal and/or spiritual beliefs, practices, or experiences – faith leaders can still be of great assistance by referring victims to the local domestic violence program for the help they need. Making such connections between victims and those who can help them can be lifesaving.”

Create a Culture of Safety and Support

“It is important for faith leaders to identify themselves as aware of and knowledgeable about domestic violence. Faith leaders can help bring attention to the issue of domestic violence in a variety of ways, which enhances the environment of zero tolerance within their faith community, and increases the likelihood that victims may feel safer coming seeking support and information.”

Go to document for very practical steps.

Focus on Prevention

“Since domestic violence professionals believe that prevention (addressing domestic violence before it happens) is always preferred to intervention (responding to domestic violence after the harm has already occurred) guiding the entire faith community in practices that are nurturing to self and others can be very useful in preventing violence in all forms.

That being said, since domestic violence is a unique type of violence, given the nature of the relationship between the abuser and the victim and the social stigma and the secrecy that often surround domestic violence, all faiths are encouraged to develop and communicate domestic violence-specific guidelines and policies in addition to their faith- based practices and teachings.

Domestic violence workshops and trainings for the entire faith community can be useful preventive opportunities to engage in thoughtful conversation about domestic violence, and can convey, to victims and abusers, that such behavior is not condoned by their faith or within their community. It can also inform everyone about available resources and supports, so that if they do need assistance at some point, they will know where to turn and that others will support and assist them.

It is critical that faith leaders understand and accept their role as a supportive and loving guide without giving orders or making decisions for the victim about what “should” and “should not” happen. It is also important that faith leaders understand how abusers often misuse scriptures to convince victims that abuse is an accepted – and expected – part of their faith.”

May we demonstrate courage and integrity as we influence this culture of violence toward reconciliation and restoration.