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Logo for the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence
The Technical Assistance (TA) Bundle is a resource from NRCDV that packages innovative TA Questions and complementary resources by theme, offering stories, resources, and promising practices for promoting advocates' and survivors' empowerment, healing, and wellness.

Religion and Domestic Violence: Addressing the Connections

“I’ve always believed in God, but during this turmoil, it was like God had abandoned me. And I come to find out, I come to realize God didn’t abandon me, I walked away from him. So it took from my pastor, the support from my family, to help me get where I am. I still have a ways to go, and I’m not going to stop ‘til I get there.” – Survivor

Faith and spirituality can be instrumental in supporting the healing processes of domestic violence survivors. Research and practice alike have shed light on the ways in which faith and spirituality may help survivors rise above their suffering and/or view their trauma and life purpose in a new light. This may be particularly true for survivors from traditionally marginalized communities. African American survivors, for instance, have often emphasized the centrality of spirituality in their lives and the role it plays in helping them overcome and cope with abuse and violence. Many survivors report finding hope and healing in the spiritual practices of their ancestors. While religion can be a critical resource – being a lens through which survivors understand the abuse, identify options and make safety decisions – it is also known to be, for various reasons, a roadblock to help-seeking and safety. Therefore, the role of faith leaders and faith communities in responding to survivors of abuse and supporting long-term change for those who abuse must not be underestimated. This also means that nonspiritual advocates at domestic violence agencies are often working with survivors who, regardless of faith or religious affiliation, may wish to mobilize resources rooted in their belief systems in their journey towards safety and healing.
 
Because “survivors of abuse deserve the best of what both faith leaders and advocates bring to the table” (Rev. Dr. Anne Marie Hunter), it’s imperative that faith leaders and advocates engage in ongoing cross-training and partnership building so that survivors can benefit from holistic, faith-sensitive and culturally relevant services and support. Join us for our upcoming webinar on Wednesday, September 23rd to explore Honoring Survivors' Spiritual Needs: Supporting Jewish, Catholic, and Muslim Survivors of Domestic Violence.

“Many faith leaders (like many people in the wider community) have been taken in by an abuser’s charm and likability. Faith leaders say, ‘He said he was sorry, so I told her to go back home and get the family back together.’ Or, ‘He’s the nicest guy whenever I’m around; I’m sure he wouldn’t hurt anyone.’ With little to no training or resources about abuse, faith leaders can be, as one said to me, ‘suckers for a good confession.’ As a result, well-meaning faith leaders may minimize the violence, silence or blame the victim, and suggest unsafe options.” – Rev. Dr. Anne Marie Hunter

When considering the provision of faith- and culturally affirming services for survivors of abuse, it is also critical to examine – through an intersectional lens – how race/ethnicity, gender, and religion play a role in shaping survivors’ help-seeking experiences. White supremacy practices within domestic violence agencies, coupled with Anti-Blackness, Islamophobia and hostility towards immigrants and refugees, have historically left many survivors, especially Black women, isolated, discredited and fearful for their safety –  not only in their abusive relationship but also when accessing services from domestic violence agencies.

This Technical Assistance (TA) Bundle includes TA Questions (TAQs) and other resources from NRCDV to help advocates and faith leaders deepen their knowledge and analysis of how religion can be a resource or a barrier for survivors seeking safety and healing from abuse. Promising practices are shared throughout the resources to support domestic violence agencies and other service providers in developing holistic, faith- and culturally affirming services to survivors. Ultimately, this TA Bundle is intended to inspire advocates and faith leaders to forge meaningful collaborations and to think more critically about how race/ethnicity, gender, and religion intersect and compound the trauma experiences, help-seeking patterns and healing needs of domestic violence survivors, especially those most marginalized.

How can partnerships with faith communities support accountability and hope for those who cause harm?

While the first priority must always be safety and support for survivors, faith leaders are also charged with the spiritual care of those who abuse. In NRCDV’s July 2020 TAQ, Dr. Anne Marie Hunter and Dr. David Adams offer insight into how faith communities can respond to those who cause harm.

How can domestic violence advocates better serve Muslim women in shelter?

As domestic violence shelters build capacity to serve diverse populations and strive to become culturally competent, it is important for advocates to understand how they can have a direct impact on the outcome of the survivor’s path. In NRCDV’s January 2020 TAQ, Saman Quraeshi discusses the main barriers that Muslim women face when accessing services and staying at domestic violence shelters and highlights best practices for advocates. 

How can I assist survivors of Jewish faith in overcoming obstacles to obtaining a religious divorce ("Get")?

get is a document needed to end a marriage between two Jewish people. It certifies the fact that each individual is now free to remarry in accordance with Jewish law. In NRCDV’s May 2015 TAQ, Amanda Manes provides guidance on assisting Jewish survivors of domestic violence through the process of obtaining a get.

As an advocate at a secular program, how can I support and validate the religious beliefs and spiritual needs of survivors?

Many survivors of domestic and sexual violence experience religion, faith, and/or spirituality as distinctive elements of their identity and personal lives. Therefore, survivors may wish to mobilize resources rooted in their belief systems in their journey towards safety, solace, and support. In NRCDV's July 2013 TAQ, Patty Branco provides guidance on how advocates in domestic and sexual violence programs can support this process. 

Universal Prayer for Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) 2020

Each year for Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), the Domestic Violence Awareness Project publishes a Universal Prayer, typically featured during NRCDV’s annual Call for Unity, to be held this year on Thursday, October 1 at 3:00 PM EST. The Universal Prayer for Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) 2020 is available in PDF format as a supplement to the #1Thing Action Guide; a video recording of the prayer, featuring diverse voices, will also be shared via NRCDV’s social media channels. 

“We pray for a daring hope. The kind we cannot ignore; a hope undeterred by logic and unrestrained by our immediate reality. We pray for a hope whose current is strong and ceaseless. Even when the surface of life’s water looks unchanged and unmoved, may we know that there is something greater, swirling beneath its exterior, at work in our hearts and minds.”
WEBINAR: Honoring Survivors' Spiritual Needs: Supporting Jewish, Catholic, and Muslim Survivors of Domestic Violence

September 23, 2020 3pm EST / 2pm CST / 12pm PST

“None of us, as helpers, should ever put a battered woman in the position of having to choose between safety and the support of her faith community. She needs both, and it’s up to us to provide that.” – Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune

For many survivors, spirituality and religious beliefs are an integral part of their healing journey. Through that lens, survivors make sense of their situations, consider their options, and make decisions. As advocates, we must recognize the importance of this influence and should learn ways to provide the support they need while respecting survivors’ faith traditions. This webinar will help advocates adopt a faith-sensitive lens and will offer best practices for supporting families who are guided by their faith. Participants will learn how faith can be a resource or a barrier to hope, help, and healing; gain insight into faith-specific understandings; be aware of best practices and resources for engaging faith leaders as allies; and explore strategies for working with faith leaders in their communities. Register now.

Domestic Violence and the Holidays: Cultural Sensitivity During the Holiday Season

The holiday season (defined here as the time period beginning the week of Thanksgiving through New Year's Day) can present both opportunities and challenges for survivors and advocates in shelter. This Technical Assistance Guidance (TAG) discusses some issues to consider as programs work with survivors and their families during this time of year. 

This TAG is part of the Domestic Violence and the Holidays: Technical Assistance Guidance Series, which highlights trauma-informed strategies to support programs in promoting healing, wellness and safety during the holiday season, while taking into consideration the diverse needs of survivors and the advocates that serve them. For example, by only focusing on Christmas during the holiday season, domestic violence programs may cultivate feelings of isolation, alienation and being “othered” for some shelter residents and staff who practice a religion other than Christianity or who simply do not wish to celebrate Christmas. Many cultures and religions also follow specific dietary laws. Select information within this series can support advocates in their efforts towards offering faith-sensitive and culturally relevant services to survivors from diverse faith and religious affiliations.

We want to hear from you! Contact NRCDV to share your strategies for forging partnerships between faith leaders and domestic violence advocates and for offering faith-sensitive services to survivors of abuse. You can also request free information, training and technical assistance to support your efforts at nrcdvTA@nrcdv.org. Additional resources and guidance for domestic violence advocates and faith communities can be obtained from Safe Havens Interfaith Partnership Against Domestic Violence and Elder Abuse, FaithTrust Institute, Peaceful Families Project, Catholics for Family Peace and Jewish Women International.

This publication was made possible by Grant Number #90EV0428 to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence from the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Family and Youth Services Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Copyright © 2020 National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, All rights reserved.


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