religions with title

Become an ally in comfort

Don't forget to register to become an Ally in Comfort.

As an Ally, you will be a leader in our community, advocating for domestic and sexual violence victims, armed with education materials to inform your congregation of ways to not only recognize victims, but to help them, too.

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victims and religion

It is common to hear that abusers use their religion to justify the abuse. Religious teachings can be misinterpreted, taken out of context or used as a tool by some batterers to further their control.

Victims who have been abused may struggle to understand the abuse in light of their religious beliefs. Christian victims may believe that they deserve the punishment because of original sin or that suffering may be a way to salvation. Jewish victims may fear they are not maintaining "shalom bayit," or peace at home.

religious leaders

As a faith leader, it is vital that you recognize and acknowledge the challenge of a victim's inner conflict. Address their guilt, empathize with them, but be clear that the responsibility for the abuse lies with the abuser.

Speaking out against domestic and sexual violence sends a message that it is unacceptable and contrary to religious teachings.

signs that someone may be a victim of abuse

remember, you may be one of the few people who see the victim in a vulnerable state.

Signs to be aware of:

  • Does the victim have visible injuries, such as black eyes, bruises or broken bones?
  • Does the victim tend to miss work or services because of frequent "accidents?"
  • Does the victim's partner exert an unusual amount of control over their activities?
  • Do you notice the partner controlling family finances, the way victim acts or dresses or the victim's contact with family members and friends?
  • Does the partner ridicule the victim publicly? Do members of your faith community ignore this behavior, even though they sense the volatile nature of the comments?
  • Have you noticed changes in the victim's or the children's behavior? Do they appear frightened, exhausted or on edge? Do the children seem to upset easily? Are they experiencing sudden problems in school or other activities?
sad kid with her mom

What faith communities can do to help

you can be part of a community's understanding that violence is not acceptable under any circumstance.

Ways to enhance your community's awareness of domestic and sexual violence:

  1. Educate yourself about the dynamics of domestic and sexual violence.
  2. Educate your community through sermons, speeches and prayers around the subjects of domestic and sexual violence, healthy marriages and relationships.
  3. Encourage development of age-appropriate curriculum on bullying prevention, healthy dating relationships and domestic abuse for children's classes and youth groups.
  4. Listen to survivors in your faith community and ask them for ideas on how your faith community can better support them.
  5. Invite Hope Alliance to speak and facilitate discussions with members of your organization.
  6. Encourage your community to support and get involved with Hope Alliance.
  7. Display phone numbers and posters about Hope Alliance's services and hotline number in your restrooms and bulletins.
  8. Create a fund to help displaced victims in your congregation and community.
  9. Participate in Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October) and Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April).
  10. Organize or join a task force or council within your faith community to address domestic and sexual violence.
  11. Train staff to be aware of signs of abuse.
Hands of a man praying over a Bible at his desk.

Some Questions to Consider

Before you initiate contact with a victim, survivor or perpetrator to provide advocacy or faith-based counseling, ask yourself these questions:

  • What are my attitudes, feelings and thoughts about domestic violence or sexual assault?
  • What qualifications do I have for helping victims, perpetrators and survivors?
  • What are my limitations?
  • What information and resources can I access to help victims, survivors and perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence in my congregation?

Testimonials

"In my experience as a faith leader, I know all too well the dangers of couples or marriage counseling in situations of domestic violence. Earlier in my career, without the extensive education and training I later received on domestic violence awareness, I'd often talk to the victim/survivor with her alleged perpetrator present. The risks I placed on the abused women by my well-intentioned, but inappropriate, efforts were great. I now know that the women were not free to express the devastation under which they lived."

The Rev. Al Miles, 

Author and national trainer on domestic violence awareness for faith leaders

depressed woman sit in underground with a hand coming and offers help

Downloadable handouts

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