What Can Religious Communities Do to Prevent Sexual Assault?
The religious community provides a safe haven for women and families in need. In addition, it exhorts society to share compassion and comfort with those afflicted by the tragedy of domestic or sexual violence. Leaders for religious communities have identified actions to create a unified response to domestic violence and sexual assault.
Become a Safe Place. Make your church, temple, mosque or synagogue a safe place where victims of sexual violence can come for help. Display brochures and posters, which include the telephone number of the sexual assault programs in your area. Publicize your state coalition, MS Coalition Against Sexual Assault number, 1-888-987-9011 or the National RAINN Hotline number, 1-800-656-HOPE.
Educate the Congregation. Provide ways for members of the congregation to learn as much as they can about sexual violence. Routinely include information in monthly newsletters, on bulletin boards and in marriage preparation classes. Sponsor educational seminars and violence against women workshops in your congregation.
Speak Out. Speak out about sexual assault from the pulpit. As a faith leader, you can have a powerful impact on people’s attitudes and beliefs.
Lead by Example. Volunteer to serve on the board of directors at the local sexual assault program or attend a training to become a crisis volunteer.
Offer Space. Offer meeting space for educational seminars or weekly support groups.
Partner with Existing Resources. Include your local sexual assault program in donations and community service projects.
Prepare to be a Resource. Do the theological and scriptural homework necessary to better understand and respond to sexual violence and receive training for professionals in the field of sexual violence.
Intervene. If you suspect violence is occurring in a relationship, speak to each member of the couple separately. Help the victim plan for safety. Let both individuals know of the community resources available to assist them. Do not attempt couple counseling. If it may be happening in an adult/child relationship, report your concerns to your county child protection program.
Support Professional Training. Encourage and support training and education for clergy and lay leaders, hospital chaplains and seminary students to increase awareness about sexual violence.
Address Internal Issues. Encourage continued efforts by religious institutions to address allegations of abuse by religious leaders to ensure that religious leaders are a safe resource for victims and their children. Advocate that your place of worship has a policy in place for addressing clergy and religious leaders when allegations of sexual violence occur.
MORE THINGS RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES CAN DO TO PREVENT SEXUAL VIOLENCE…
Adult Education. Offer an adult education class on sexual violenc during the month of April. Utilize resources from your local rape crisis center to foster discussion around the spiritual issues.
Education Forum. Host a community-wide forum on addressing and preventing sexual violence.
Donate to the Center. Give a gift to your local rape crisis center. Take a one time special offering during April (Sexual Assault Awareness Month) or pledge to give through one of your special funds.
Be Creative. Utilize your own original ideas. We would love to hear any innovative programs you have in your congregation.