Someone in my Faith Community is living with abused. What should I do?
Recognizing that you have a role to play is the first step.
Speak to her one-on-one. Although she is part of your faith community, it is better if one person that she trusts approaches her first to ask if she’s comfortable with having other concerned members of the faith community offer their support. Remember that she may feel overwhelmed and further victimized if a whole group approaches her at once.
Be careful about confidentiality. If your faith community is part of a “tight-knit” community that all lives in the same area, or shares the same culture, or language, she may be afraid to tell anyone about the abuse because of fear that word will get out to the rest of the community. Emphasize that there will be confidentiality, if she does not wish for details to be shared within the broader community. If there are members of the broader community that could be helpful, ask her how she feels about them being involved in supporting her first – and respect whatever decision she makes.
Be aware of the abuser’s relationship to the faith community. If the abuser is also part of the faith community, be aware that some people in the community may support him. Is he close to the faith leader? Is he the faith leader? This may affect what steps the survivor chooses to take next and who she chooses to trust.
Look out for spiritual abuse. Has the abuser used your faith to justify his abuse? Has he said that God lets him abuse? Or that he is abusing her because she is not religious enough, or part of the wrong religion? Now is a good time to remind her that abuse is always wrong, and that it is never okay, and that it is not her fault.
Faith leaders take action. It is best if faith leaders speak up about domestic violence on a regular basis, so that it is clear that it is unacceptable and to break the silence. If you have her permission, and it is clear that the faith leader can keep her information private, speak to a faith leader in your community. A faith leader may be able to connect her to resources in the community.