Thank you for signing the CARE Covenant! Please take a moment to share the covenant with another church leader, encouraging your colleagues in ministry to join you in this important commitment.
 
As you and your congregation work towards adopting best practices in recognizing domestic abuse and supporting victims and their families, we will send you relevant training opportunities and educational resources. For now, please review the information below about addressing the issue of domestic abuse as a faith leader.

WHY SHOULD YOU UNDERSTAND AND ADDRESS THE ISSUE OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN YOUR CHURCH OR FAITH COMMUNITY?

      •  Sociologists Anne L. Horton and Judith A. Williamson have commented, “Each year more abuse victims, perpetrators, and family members seek help from clergy and religious leaders than all other helping professionals combined.”
      • Faith-based organizations are charged with forming the moral values of a community, and can encourage new understandings about healthy relationships and domestic violence.
      • The religious community often knows families across generations, and may even have regular access to homes. This offers a unique opportunity to provide preventive education to pre-marital couples, children, and youth about healthy relationships, to work to end abuse in later life, and to proactively connect family members to much-needed services when needed.
    • In some rural communities, a church may be the only resource within miles of a victim’s house. In many refugee and immigrant communities, the faith-based organization of their country of origin may be the only safe place to turn. For victims who do not have financial resources, the free counseling and advice available through a local congregation may be the only free services that the victim knows about.

ADDRESSING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN YOUR CHURCH OR FAITH COMMUNITY:

      • Educate yourself and the leaders within your church about the facts and dynamics of domestic violence, and become familiar with local resources for victims and perpetrators in your community.
      • Keep in mind that 1 in 3 women worldwide are victims of domestic violence, rape or stalking at some point in their lives. Victims and perpetrators come from all walks of life – all ages, races, ethnicities, religions, income levels and educational backgrounds are affected.
      • Regularly address the issue of domestic violence in worship services and teachings (through sermons, prayers, classes, etc.).
      • Support domestic violence programs through your mission/outreach/volunteer ministries.
      • Talk to men in your congregation about the roles that they can play in ending violence against women – visit www.manupstate.org.
      • Teach members that abuse is never acceptable or justified.
      • Avoid teachings that might imply that a victim ought to stay in a controlling or violent relationship (i.e. divorce is always a sin, wives must submit to their husbands’ authority, women are subordinate to men, etc.).
      • Refer members to domestic violence programs (Safe Harbor, etc) who indicate that they are victims of abuse.
      • Keep brochures and crisis line numbers for domestic violence programs and shelters in public areas of your place of worship (near the sanctuary, on bulletin boards in hallways, in restrooms, etc). Keep Safe Harbor’s crisis line number (1.800.291.2139) readily available in your cell phone at all times.
    • Contact Safe Harbor to arrange for a speaker to come to educate your faith community or church group about the issue of domestic violence and available services/resources for victims.
WORKING WITH A CONGREGATION MEMBER WHO DISCLOSES TO YOU THAT S/HE IS A VICTIM OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:
• Establish trust and rapport through active listening. Believe the victim’s story and provide a safe, confidential space for the victim to share her/his story. Do not blame the victim or minimize her/his experience. Assure the victim that the abuse is not her/his fault.
• Keep all conversations completely confidential (***with the exception of disclosure of child abuse, abuse of a vulnerable adult, or suicidal/homicidal thoughts or plans).
• Remind the victim that s/he is not alone. Clarify the concerns, discuss options and make referrals to community resources and offer to assist the victim in accessing these resources if s/he is ready to seek assistance.
• Do not try to coerce the victim’s choices. You can express your concern for his/her safety and share that no one deserves to be abused, but respect the victim’s decision if s/he is not yet ready to seek help.
• The victim may minimize the abuse because she feels unsafe, fears that s/he won’t be believed, or is concerned s/he will be judged if the whole story is told. Respect how much, when, and if the victim is ready to talk about the situation.
• If the victim is not interested in seeking help from Safe Harbor or other local resources, review the basic safety tips that can be found in Safe Harbor’s brochure, helping the victim to establish a safety plan for herself and her children.
• Couples/marriage counseling is unsafe and detrimental when domestic violence is present in a relationship. If you believe that issues of abuse/power/control may be present in a relationship, avoid marriage counseling. If you have already begun marriage counseling with a couple and recognize warning signs of abuse, establish a safe way to ask if you can meet with each member of the couple separately to offer support and community resources confidentially.
• It is the abuser’s violence, and not the victim’s leaving, that ends the relationship and breaks the marriage covenant. If a victim chooses to leave, do not advise her to stay in or return to the relationship that is endangering her life and the lives of her children.

WORKING WITH A CONGREGATION MEMBER WHO IS ABUSIVE TOWARDS HIS/HER SPOUSE OR PARTNER:

      • Abuse is a complex problem. Do not try to deal with it alone. Create a healthy model of support. Do not allow the complex dynamics of domestic violence get played out in your relationship with the batterer.
      • Do not share any information with the batterer that the victim has disclosed to you. Do not attempt to serve as a mediator or messenger between the two individuals in the relationship.
      • Refer batterers to a state-certified batterers’ intervention program. If the batterer asks you to provide counseling instead, tell him that this is best done by a batterers’ intervention program in a group setting by counselors specifically trained for such work. You can meet individually with the
      batterer to discuss the faith crises involved and to support continued participation in the batterers’ intervention program.
      • The abuser may minimize the abuse and control that he exerts in the relationship or may blame the victim for the abuse. Many batterers promise to change after a violent incident. Beware of remorse and confessions that are not related to concrete changes in behavior. Without the intervention of a certified batterers’ intervention program, real change is unlikely to occur and the abuse will continue to escalate.
      • Offer abusers hope that change is possible if they are wanting to change their abusive behaviors and attitudes. Participation in state-certified batterers’ intervention programs that address power and control issues within relationships can help reduce or stop abusive behavior in people who are motivated.
      •  Do not refer batterers to individual therapy, anger management, conflict management,
      or other treatment programs to address their abusive behavior.
      • Alcohol and/or drug use can contribute to the severity of abuse and should be carefully considered when assessing lethality. However, substance abuse does not cause domestic violence. A batterer who is also a substance abuser requires both alcohol and/or drug treatment and a batterers’ intervention program.
    • Research suggests that batterers who have received support from their clergy are more likely to attend and complete a batterers’ intervention program.