While growing up in the Bay Area of Northern California, I lived in a community that had synagogues, kingdom halls, churches, temples and mosques – all in a two mile radius. A person’s spiritual beliefs are very personal and intimate and can be rooted in culture, family tradition, and experiences. As a volunteer or staff person working for a rape crisis center (RCC), your purpose and reasoning for being there is personal and rooted in a passion to help, to educate, and to create a better community.
A 2009 report by Pew Research Center and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life indicates that 72 percent of Americans attend some type of religious service.
If your crisis center has not connected with the faith or spiritual organizations in your community, you may be missing out on an incredible opportunity for outreach.
Sexual violence shows no discrimination based on what or whom you believe in or worship. Whatever the dynamics or diversity of spiritual and faith organizations in your community; you can make a strategic and concerted effort to do outreach, seek possible collaborations and show your agency as an excellent resource.
Several years ago when I worked in the CALCASA Campus Program, I visited colleges and universities in approximately 42 states. During every visit, I had various meetings with faculty, administrators and students; one of which often included the local religious organizations on campus or those in the community that served the campus. Some common themes that were exposed in the meetings with the faith and spiritual organizations were:
- Individuals would disclose issues related to sexual assault or adults molested as children to the faith or spiritual leaders.
- Some leaders felt they had inadequate or no training to help the person deal with the issues of abuse that had been disclosed.
- Some leaders did not know what resources were available for survivors in their community or if a local crisis center even existed.
As a result of those meetings, in 2007 CALCASA collaborated with the Black Church on Domestic Violence to produce a document titled From Campus to Congregation: Secular and Sacred Collaboration to End Campus Violence Against Women. This document has information that is relevant to working with faith organizations in your local communities regarding sexual assault issues.
An ABC News Investigation published report on April 9, 2010 talked about a swim coach who sexually abused more that 12 teen female swimmers for three decades. In November 2009, the coach was sentenced to 40 years in prison after a 14 year old girl disclosed the abuse to her youth pastor.
At the 2009 CALCASA Statewide Leadership Conference “Ending Sexual Violence 2.0 – Future is Connected” I worked with Kibbie Ruth, founder and senior consultant of Kyros Ministries to provide content for one of the institutes. The eight hour training was titled “Tapping Spiritual Resources: Your Own, The Survivor’s and the Community.” Many RCC staff learned techniques to help them do outreach with faith-based communities in their local areas.
While many rape crisis centers already have a connection with faith groups in their communities, there are still other centers that have not taken advantage of the opportunity to provide outreach, establish collaborations, and make themselves known as excellent resource. Urban, rural or suburban America; wherever your center is located, think about reaching out to your local faith or spiritual organization to foster collaborations and let them know that you are a valuable resource.
If you are a rape crisis center that has already done the groundwork for outreach and built partnerships with faith organizations, please use the comment box below to share what you did and how you did it.
Religion and Violence Against Women Prevention
Faith Trust Institute
The Association of Religion Data Archives
Violence Against Women and the Role of Religion