Women who experience domestic violence have not always found compassion and help in their houses of worship. Some pastors, referring to a Bible verse, said women should submit to their husbands. Others likened women’s suffering to that of Jesus’ on the cross. Some counseled forgiveness or suggested that a marriage must be saved at any cost.
Now a growing number of faith leaders from a wide variety of traditions are trying to make sure those days are over. Clergy are joining longtime advocates in saying that religious institutions have a moral and religious responsibility to answer and eliminate domestic violence. The increasing number of statements by denominations and organizations reflects that. One of those statements, the National Declaration by Religious and Spiritual Leaders to Address Violence Against Women, has been signed by more than 2,000 clergy and religious leaders from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Baha’i traditions, among others.
What’s behind the new push to address domestic violence within the framework of faith? Nancy Nason-Clark, a professor of sociology at the University of New Brunswick who has written widely about religion and domestic violence, says the change is a result of a number of factors – the increased boldness of victims who are part of faith communities, more training opportunities for faith leaders and greater understanding among the public that religious leaders should be a part of a community’s response. The shift in attitude is important because Scripture and religious teachings have sometimes been used to justify, excuse or ignore the physical and emotional abuse of women.
Domestic violence cuts across economic, ethnic, racial and faith lines, and religious traditions. Advocates are creating organizations that offer training for clergy, resources for victims and campaigns to increase awareness of the problem.
Why it matters
Religious teachings have sometimes been used to justify the abuse of women and others. Now more leaders are stepping up to insist that religious groups must address domestic violence by offering victims safe haven, support and counseling and assuring them that religious teachings never justify abuse.
- Peace and Safety in the Christian Home is a coalition of academics, professionals, clergy and laypeople alarmed by domestic violence in the Christian home. Its 2007 conference, “Setting the Captives Free: A Christian Theology for Domestic Violence,” will take place May 17-19 in Portland, Ore. Read a report on its 2006 conference, “Domestic Abuse in the Church? Really!” Contact co-founder and president Catherine Clark Kroeger, an associate professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, at 508-896-3518, email@example.com.
- The Task Force to Stop Abuse Against Women was formed in 1997 by members of the international World Evangelical Fellowship to educate evangelical clergy and to reduce domestic violence. Contact chairwoman Winnie Bartel in Shafter, Calif., at 661-746-4748, firstname.lastname@example.org.
• The Black Church and Domestic Violence Institute trains clergy in the black church to recognize and respond to domestic violence. It is located in Atlanta. Contact the Rev. Aubra Love, founding executive director, 770-909-0715.
CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS
See a Feb. 23, 2007, article about a program from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to help victims of domestic violence. It’s posted on the church’s Web site.
• The Awareness Center is the Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault, an international organization that addresses sexual violence in Jewish communities. It has a certification program for rabbis interested in working with victims of sexual violence. It based in Baltimore. Contact executive director Vicki Polin, 443-857-5560, email@example.com.
Jewish Women International is an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., that promotes safe home environments for Jewish women and girls. In March 2007, the organization will hold its third annual international conference on domestic violence in the Jewish community. Contact Lori Weinstein, executive director, via Alix Fried, 800-343-2823.
- The Muslim Women’s League is
a nonprofit organization that works to improve the status of women
in the American Muslim community. Part of its mission is to create awareness
about domestic violence within the American Muslim Community. It is based
in Los Angeles. Contact spokesperson and past president Dr. Laila Al-Marayati,
- The Peaceful
Families Project produces workshops nationwide on domestic violence from
a Muslim perspective. The organization is based in Great Falls, Va. Contact
Farida Hakim, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The FaithTrust Institute of Seattle, formerly the Center for Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence, is an interfaith organization that works to prevent domestic abuse in the Islamic, Buddhist, Asian and Pacific Islander, Jewish, Latino, black, Anglo, indigenous, Catholic and Protestant communities. It is sponsoring the National Declaration by Religious and Spiritual Leaders to Address Violence Against Women, a petition that has attracted almost 2,000 signatories from the spectrum of religious faiths. Contact executive director Kathryn Jans, 877-860-2255, email@example.com.
- Sakhi for South Asian Women is
a community-based organization in the New York metropolitan area committed
to ending violence against women of South Asian origin. Contact executive
director Purvi Shah, 212-714-9153 ext.101, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Rev. Dr. Sharon Ellis Davis is a United Church of Christ pastor in Chicago who teaches seminary classes on sexual and domestic violence at area seminaries. She is co-founder and senior pastor of God Can Ministries as well as a police officer and police chaplain. Contact 708-757-5550, email@example.com.
- The Rev. Marie Fortune is the founder of and a senior analyst at the FaithTrust Institute, and she wrote Keeping the Faith: Guidance for Christian Women Facing Abuse (HarperSanFrancisco, 1995). Contact via Kate Roberts at Douglas Gould & Co., 914-833-7093, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Rev. Aubra Love is executive director and founder of the Black Church and Domestic Violence Institute in Atlanta. She is a United Church of Christ minister. The institute sponsors This Far by Faith conferences on domestic violence for church leaders. Contact 770-909-0715.
- Catherine Clark Kroeger is an associate professor in classical and ministry studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Mass., and co-founder of Peace and Safety in the Christian Home. She has written about the Christian concept of submission and its relation to domestic violence. She has also written numerous books about domestic violence and Christianity. Contact 978-468-7111.
- Al Miles is the author of Domestic Violence: What Every Pastor Needs to Know (Augsburg Fortress, 2000) and Violence in Families: What Every Christian Needs to Know (Augsburg Fortress, 2002). In March 2007, he will be on a panel titled “Re-Examining our Efforts to Address Domestic Violence in the African-American Community” at the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community at
the University of Minnesota in St. Paul. He lives in Honolulu. Contact through
Rebecca Pollard, public relations, Queens Medical Center, 808-547-4975.
Rev. Bruce Kittle is a United Church of Christ minister and chaplain
for the Sixth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services
in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He is on the National
Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women for the U.S. Department
of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women. Contact email@example.com.
- Carol Goodman Kaufman is a psychologist and author of Sins of Omission: The Jewish Community’s Reaction to Domestic Violence (Westview Press, 2003). She is based at the Haddassah Institute at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lev is the author of Shine the Light: Sexual Abuse and Healing in the Jewish Community (Northeastern
University Press, 2002). The book has a Web site.
- Salma Abugideiri is co-director of the Peaceful Families Project and a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Sterling, Va. She is the co-author of What Islam Says About Domestic Violence: A Guide for Helping Muslim Families (Foundation for Appropriate and Immediate Temporary Help, 2003). Contact 703-430-2002.
- Dr. Laila Al-Marayati is the spokeswoman and past president of the Muslim Women’s League, a Los Angeles-based organization dedicated to strengthening the role of Muslim women in society, including addressing domestic violence issues. Contact 213-383-3443, email@example.com.
- Farida Hakim is a task force committee member with the Peaceful Families Project, a nonprofit group based in Great Falls, Va. that produces workshops on domestic violence from a Muslim perspective. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hathout is a prosecutor in the Los Angeles district attorney’s office
and co-founder of the Muslim Women’s League.
She has written about
misperceptions of domestic violence within the American Muslim community.
Contact via Muslim Women’s League, 626-358-0335.
- Adelita Medina is executive director of Alianza, the National Latino Alliance for the Elimination of Domestic Violence. She has said that advocates for women who have experienced domestic violence should take a woman’s faith into consideration when trying to help her. Contact 646-672-1404, email@example.com.
- Leila R. Milani is co-chairwoman of the Working Group on Ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and is the NGO liaison for women’s issues for the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is in the U.S. She is based in Washington, D.C. Contact 202-833-8990.
- Purvi Shah is executive director of Sakhi for South Asian Women, a community-based organization in the New York metropolitan area committed to ending violence against women of South Asian origin. Contact 212-714-9153 ext.101, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nason-Clark is a professor of sociology at the University of New
Brunswick in Fredericton, Canada. She has written about the interface
between religion and domestic violence for the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion and
is the co-author of Refuge From Abuse: Healing and Hope for
Abused Christian Women (InterVarsity Press, 2004). She is one
year into a four-year project funded by the Lilly Endowment called RAVE,
Religion and Violence e-Learning, a Web-based system for assisting
religious leaders in responding to domestic violence. Contact 506-458-7440, email@example.com.
- The Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Data Resource Center, a project of the Justice Research and Statistics Association, keeps national and state-by-state data on victims and legislation.
- The U.S. Department of Justice posts statistics on “intimate partner violence” in
- The Black Church and Domestic Violence Institute maintains
a page of domestic violence statistics drawn
from academic studies, the U.S. Department of Justice and other sources.
• The federal Violence Against Women Act of 2005 was signed into law in January 2006.
- Read a January 2007 Sojourners article on evangelical resources on domestic violence.
- Read a paper by the late Sharifa Alkhateeb about domestic violence in the Islamic community.
- Read a Beliefnet.com interview with Lakshmy Parameswaran of DAYA about domestic abuse in the South Asian community.
- Read an essay by Marie Fortune for the April 13, 2006, Seattle Post-Intelligencer about the duty of religious organizations to support victims of domestic violence. The essay is posted on the Web site of Religion and Culture.
Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Council on Family Violence jointly
produced “The Faith Community and Domestic Violence,” a
brochure for clergy about domestic abuse.
Many faith groups have made statements about domestic violence. Among them:
- The Catholic Church’s National Conference of Catholic Bishops issued the statement “When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women” in 2002.
- The Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution against domestic violence in 1979.
- The United Methodist Church passed a resolution on domestic violence in 1992.
- The Episcopal Church passed a resolution in 1994 at its 71st General Convention condemning violence against women. In 2000, delegates at the 73rd General Convention called the church to
address domestic violence within its own community.
- The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) crafted
a policy statement on domestic violence at
its 2001 General Assembly.
• The Jewish Domestic Violence Task Force of Central Massachusetts provides counseling, mediation and other services to Jewish families. Among its clients are victims of domestic violence. It is based in Worcester, Mass. Contact Zelda Schwartz, past president, 508-755-3101.
• The Joint Urban Ministry Project is a collaborative ministry between religious organizations in Burlington, Vt. Among its clients are victims of domestic violence. Contact 802-862-4501.
- Margaret Abraham is a sociology professor at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. She is the author of Speaking the Unspeakable: Marital Violence Among South Asian Immigrants in the United States (Rutgers University Press, 2000). Contact 516-463-5641, Margaret.Abraham@hofstra.edu.
- Andrea Spencer-Linzie is executive director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault,
which has conducted outreach to faith communities in the New Jersey area.
- Mary McGee is an adjunct professor in religion at Columbia
University in New York, N.Y. She has written about domestic violence
and its relationship to religion among South Asians in the United States.
Contact 212-854-6821, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Arnita Cirksey is the co-founder of I’m Free Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit organization that provides assistance to victims of domestic violence. It is operated by Bethany Baptist Church in Lindenwold, N.J. Contact 856-782-6754, email@example.com.
- Pamela Cooper-White is a professor of pastoral theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. She is the author of The Cry of Tamar: Violence Against Women and the Church’s Response (Augsburg Fortress, 1995). Contact 215-248-7375, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Ted Bunch and Tony Porter are the co-founders of A Call to Men, an association committed to ending domestic violence against women. It is located in Valley Stream, N.Y. In February 2007, both men were presenters at the Black Church and Domestic Violence Institute‘s conference for church leaders, This Far by Faith. Contact 917-922-6738.
- Tonya Lovelace of the Women of Color Network in
Harrisburg, Pa., spoke at a February 2007 This Far by Faith seminar of the
Black Church and Domestic Violence Institute. The network works to eliminate
violence against women and families. Contact 800-537-2238 ext. 137.
- The Rev. Traci C. West is
associate professor of ethics and African-American studies at Drew
University Theological School in Madison, N.J. She wrote an article on domestic violence in
2000 for the American Academy of Religion and is the author of Wounds of the Spirit: Black Women, Violence and Resistance Ethics (New
York University Press, 1999). Contact 973-408-3082, email@example.com.
- Project Stop Abusive Relationships at Home (SARAH)
is a program of the Jewish Family Services of Clifton-Passaic, N.J., that
targets domestic violence in Jewish and Russian-speaking homes. Contact 973-777-7638.
Breitowitz is the rabbi of the Woodside Synagogue in Silver Spring,
Md. He speaks on issues of family law and ethics and has delivered
talks on men’s anger and the Torah. Contact 301-587-8252, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Peaceful Families Project of Great Falls, Va., has a roster of speakers who can address domestic violence issues in the Muslim community. The speakers are all residents of the metro Washington area. Contact 703-474-6870, email@example.com.
- Imam Mohammad Qatanani of the Islamic Center of Passaic County in
Paterson, N.J., counsels men on domestic violence. Contact 973-278-7070
• Lakshmi Rajagopal is a coordinator for Manavi, a domestic abuse center for South Asian women in New Brunswick, N.J. Many of the women who come through the center are Muslim, and coordinators recognize religion as a major factor in battling domestic abuse. Contact 732-435-1414.
- The Rev. Robin Griffeth is a United Methodist pastor in Orangeburg, S.C., who has participated in conferences on the religious response to domestic violence. She has volunteered for Sistercare, a battered women’s shelter, and was a training coordinator for the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse. Contact 803-823-2989, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
- The Rev. Amanda Hendler-Voss is minister of faith formation at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Asheville, N.C., and a member of the Wellspring Clergywomen’s Alliance of the Black Church and Domestic Violence Institute. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rev. Melody Johnson is director of outreach, team care, caring and
sharing at Greater Piney Grove Baptist Church in Atlanta. She spoke
at a February 2007 This Far by Faith seminar of the Black Church and
Domestic Violence Institute. Contact 404-377-0562, email@example.com.
• Lydia Walker is a nationally known domestic violence consultant based in Springdale, Ark. She has written three books on domestic violence and consults with groups, including religious organizations, about responding to domestic violence. Contact via her Web site.
- Ellen T. Armour is director of the Carpenter Program in Religion, Gender and Sexuality at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and a professor in the Divinity School. Contact 615-322-2776, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Sara Lisherness co-edited Striking Terror No More: The Church Responds to Domestic Violence (Bridge Resources, 1997). She is the coordinator of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program in Louisville, Ky. Contact 888-728-7228 ext. 5779.
- The Rev. Renita Weems is an independent scholar who lives in Nashville, Tenn. She is the author of Battered Love: Marriage, Sex and Violence in the Hebrew Prophets (Fortress Press, 1995). Contact 615-299-8704, email@example.com.
- Brenda Branson founded Focus Ministries after experiencing domestic abuse. Read a September/October 2004 Q&A from Christianity Today. Contact her in Elmhurst, Ill., at 630-595-7023. The ministry also has a Kentucky office at Hanson: 270-825-2423.
- The Rev. Chuck Dahm is a Dominican priest and pastor of St. Pius V Parish in Chicago. He was the keynote speaker at the first domestic violence conference for Catholic clergy in Chicago. He is the author of Parish Ministry in a Hispanic Community (Paulist Press, 2004), which includes a section on violence and machismo. Contact 312-226-6161.
- The Rev. David J. Holden is the minister for adult education and men’s ministries with the United Church of Christ’s Worship and Education Ministry Team of Local Church Ministries in Cleveland, Ohio. In 2003, he wrote an essay describing domestic violence as a men’s problem that should be addressed within a Christian framework. Contact 216-736-3861, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Jennifer Marcum is executive director of Safe Haven Ministries, a Christian-based ministry for victims of domestic abuse in Grand Rapids, Mich. The ministry has an informational outreach program for congregations called “Raise Hope.” Contact 616-452-6664, email@example.com.
- Linda Mercadante is a professor of historical theology at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio in Delaware, Ohio. She contributed an article on violence, abuse and oppression to The IVP Women’s Bible Commentary (InterVarsity Press, 2002). Contact 740-362-3442, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- James Newton Poling is a professor of pastoral care, counseling and theology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill. He has written about domestic violence as a pastoral care issue. Contact 847-866-3985, email@example.com.
- Lakshmy Parameswaran is the founder and past president of DAYA, a Houston organization that raises awareness about domestic violence in the South Asian community. She participated in a Q&A with Beliefnet.com on the subject of a spiritual solution to domestic violence. Contact 713-981-7645, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Sheryl Cates is executive director of the Texas Council on Family Violence,
an organization that works to educate the community about domestic violence.
It has formed partnerships with different faith groups across Texas and publishes
a brochure for clergy about responding to domestic violence. It is based
in Austin, Texas. Contact 512-794-1133.
- Patricia Castillo is executive director
of PEACE Initiative,
a San Antonio, Texas, coalition of organizations committed to ending
domestic violence. PEACE has held workshops for local faith leaders
about responding to domestic violence. Contact 210-533-2729.
• P. Aneesah Nadir is an assistant professor of social work at Arizona State University in Tempe. She has written about the problem of domestic abuse in the American Islamic community for SoundVision.com, an Islamic information Web site. Contact 602-543-6670, Aneesah.Nadir@asu.edu.
• Chata Alfaro is executive director of the Support Network for Battered Women in Sunnyvale, Calif. Since 1998, the network has been working with local faith leaders to improve their response to domestic violence. Contact 408-541-1333, email@example.com.
- Carolyn Rexius is director of Christians Addressing Family Abuse in Eugene, Ore. Contact 541-686-6000.
- The Rev. Lydia Sarandan is associate pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian
Church in Newport Beach, Calif.; a member of Presbytery Committee on Domestic
Abuse; and a member of the board of directors of Peace and Safety in the
Christian home. Contact 949-631-2880.
- St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Medina,
Wash., recently held a Sunday Forum series on domestic violence at
the church. After the forum, the church’s clergy signed the National Declaration by Religious and Spiritual Leaders to Address Violence Against Women.
Contact Josh Hosler, associate for Christian formation, 425-454-9541, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Naomi Tucker is executive director of Shalom Bayit, a nonprofit organization that works to prevent domestic violence in the Northern California Jewish community. It is based in Oakland, Calif. Contact 510-451-8874, email@example.com.
Levenstein is a licensed social worker and the advocacy director of
the Domestic Abuse Women’s Network in Tukwila, Wash. Among her specialties
is dealing with Jewish women and domestic violence. Contact DebALev@aol.com.
- Dena Hassouneh-Phillips is an assistant professor at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. She has studied spousal abuse within the American Muslim community. Contact 503-494-2714, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yunus is one of the co-founding directors of SEMAH,
a Muslim-oriented organization that works to end domestic violence.
It has held workshops with local faith leaders about their response
to domestic violence. It is based in Newark, Calif. Contact 510-206-8158, info@SEMAH.org.
• Kavitha Sreeharsha is president of Narika, an organization that offers aid to South Asian victims of domestic violence and conducts outreach to local clergy in Sikh and Muslim worship centers. Narika is based in Berkeley, Calif. Contact 510-444-6068, email@example.com.