Religion & Domestic Violence
Religious teachings can serve as either a
resource or a roadblock when addressing domestic violence. The outcome
depends on how they are handled. It is the responsibility of the
religious community to minimize any barriers facing abused members of
their congregations and maximize the resources that exist within their
religious traditions. Regardless of which religious doctrine guides the
personal lives of individuals, one thing is clear: the religious and
domestic violence communities must work together to raise awareness and
educate society regarding domestic violence and its effects on
individuals, families, and the community so that the cycle of violence
There is nothing in Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Hindu teachings
that can be used to justify the abuse of one person over another person. However, there
are teachings that can be misused and distorted to suggest that
domestic violence may be acceptable or even God's will. When these
teachings or interpretations of scripture are misused, they become
obstacles to ending the abuse.
Source: Faith Trust Institute
Guidelines for Clergy
An informed, compassionate clergy person can contribute to the healing
process of a victim of domestic violence. More clergy are getting the
education and training needed to support victims in staying safe.
Things you can do if a member of your congregation comes to you for
Safety Is the First Priority
Be Victim Centered
- Safety is the first concern. Make sure the survivor is safe
from further abuse. Do not disclose information to anyone without the survivor’s
permission. Never reveal a victim’s location.
- Make sure the survivor receives appropriate medical
attention for their injuries.
- Refer the survivor to services in your community, including
shelters, domestic violence service providers, police, legal advocacy, hotlines,
and support groups.
- Support the victim’s right to safety.
- Respond to faith questions about divorce, forgiveness,
- Remind the victim that batterers do not end the violence on
their own, and the violence will escalate over time.
- Do not use couples’ counseling if you know or suspect that
abuse is present.
- Discuss the impact of the abuse on the children. Remind the
victim that the children usually see and know more than their parents think.
Even if they are not experiencing physical violence, living in a violent
household is a form of abuse with severe effects on children.
Do Not Blame the Victim
- Take the survivor’s story seriously. Allow the victim time
to tell the story in their own words.
- Bear witness to the abuse and its consequences. Acknowledge
that what happened is abusive.
- Stay focused on the survivor. Let them set the agenda.
Practice active and empathetic listening. Celebrate every small step toward
safety and wholeness.
Do Not Tell the Victim What to Do
- NO ONE DESERVES TO BE HIT. Victims often feel that they
have failed as spouse or partner, that their behavior somehow provokes the
violence. Emphasize that the abuse is the fault of the abuser, not the victim.
There is no justification for abuse. Conflict is normal, abuse is not.
- Living with abuse damages the victim’s self-esteem. Victims may not believe that
they can care for their children, that they are worthy of a better life. Help
victims identify their skills and strengths. Celebrate the courage that it took
to ask for help. Lift the burden of shame and guilt from the victim.
- Do not let victims assume the blame, and do not make
excuses for the abuser’s behavior such as stress, unemployment, alcoholism, etc.
There is no excuse for abuse.
- Recognize that the stigma of domestic abuse falls on the
victim, not the abuser.
Source: Safe Havens – Interfaith Partnership Against Domestic Violence
- Respect every decision victims and survivors make, and do
not make decisions for them. Give them honest feedback, and let them know that
your support is available no matter how they decide to handle the situation. It
is normal, for them to feel confused and to change their minds.
- Recognize that victims may feel ambivalent about the abuser. Victims often still
love their abusers, who can be good parents and providers. Never speak
negatively of the abuser.