Ideas on how to… Partner with your community to stop violence
- Identify those in your local community (and beyond) who are working to stop violence and meet the needs of those who have been abused. This will include (but not be limited to):
- the staff and board of directors of the local shelter;
- specially designated police officers on the local police force;
- facilitators at the nearest batterer intervention program;
- staff at the local community-based counseling agency;
- specially designated victim-advocates in the court system;
- staff at the local sexual assault centre; and
- activists in the anti-violence movement at the community level.
- Identify the local needs. What services are well provided for in terms of staff and financial commitments? Where is the need the greatest? What resources are available to meet those needs? Are there lobby groups already formed in the community?
- Potential resources within the faith community to bring to a collaborative community response to end violence.
- Physical space—including a sanctuary that may seat hundreds of people, class-rooms, multi-purpose rooms, kitchen facilities, nurseries, gymnasiums and often ample free parking. For many days during the weekly routine of church life, these facilities may be under-utilized;
- Community-based mission—many faith communities support a philosophy of service to their local communities, and responding to the needs of abused women and their children is one way they could implement such service goals;
- Infrastructural support—like educational institutions, churches provide regular opportunities for religious instruction for adults and children, and religious leaders (liked educators) have many opportunities to disseminate important information. While the power of the Sunday sermon should not be underestimated, neither should the role of small groups where men and/or women assemble for study, socializing and support;
- Volunteers—committed men and women within congregational life who are desirous of impacting their neighbourhood (and their world) for good. Most faith communities have a highly developed informal networking system for obtaining volunteers.
- Establishing partnerships between churches and community-based resources to end domestic violence takes a lot hard work and many committed people. Here are several principles on which cooperation might be built and common ground discovered:
- Ensuring that the physical safety of the abused woman and her children is the number one priority in any coordinated response;
- There must be no tolerance for violence as a strategy for maintaining power and control in intimate relationships;
- Abusive acts must be condemned as an unacceptable way to resolve conflict, power struggles or life’s disappointments;
- The centrality of healing for the victim must be affirmed;
- There needs to be strategies (including giving information and suggesting options) to empower the victim to make choices that will ensure her safety and self-esteem; and
- It is critical to understand that many perpetrators are also victims often based on their childhood experiences.
- Some strategies for exploring common ground, or enacting the principles listed above. Here are four that are very important:
- Allowing opportunity for informal interaction between secular and sacred caregivers—this enables clergy and social workers (or police or shelter staff) to begin to break down their stereotypes of one another;
- Focussing on areas of overlap or shared vision—start with things on which you all agree;
- Identifying the unique contributions different perspectives bring—celebrate diversity of talents and viewpoints and training. Ask: how can we harness these in order to provide the best service possible in our community;
- Offering flexibility for region-specific needs and challenges—what works in one area or part of the country may or may not work in another. It all depends—on the needs, on the people who are willing to assist, on economic and regional factors, on laws, on levels of religiosity and levels of community diversity.
This discussion has been based loosely on chapter 7 of Nancy Nason-Clark’s book, The Battered Wife: How Christians Confront Family Violence (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1997).