1. It’s Happening More Often Than You Think

Last year’s Broken Silence survey found that an overwhelming majority of pastors (75%) underestimate violence experienced within their congregations. Most assume that such violence is rare, but in reality, the WHO estimates that one in three women and one in four men will experience sexual and gender based violence within their lifetime. Regardless of the size of your worship gatherings, statistics show that someone in the community has most likely been affected by this violence.

  1. Victims Often Disclose Their Experience to Faith Leaders

It’s no surprise that faith leaders often serve as the first point of contact for a victim or survivor of SGBV, but are all faith leaders equipped to respond appropriately? At WeWillSpeakOut.US, we’ve heard countless stories of women and men being retraumatized and shamed by their faith leaders, leading them to question their own voices and experiences. We also know that the first reaction a victim or survivor receives after disclosing their experience can determine whether or not that individual will go on to seek the support they need, so it’s especially critical that they are affirmed and supported the first time they share what happened to them.

Faith leaders need to ensure they can respond in a way that affirms the victim’s voice and points them in the right direction toward the appropriate medical, psychological, or legal aid.

  1. Faith Leaders Often Give Harmful Advice

Research from the Broken Silence report shows that faith leaders have too often given dangerous advice to victims that could further add to their traumatizing experience. Over 60% of pastors said that they have responded to incidents of abuse and domestic violence by encouraging marriage or couples counseling, thus creating a dangerous and potentially lethal environment for the victim.

Though specific situations vary from person to person, training would equip faith leaders with the appropriate tools to respond to these complex issues in a way that centers the victim’s safety instead of putting them in harm’s way.

  1. Congregants Don’t Feel Safe

Based on the overwhelming statistics, there are bound to be survivors and victims in faith communities, but far too often they do not feel comfortable speaking about the issue. The most recent research on faith leaders’ attitudes around sexual and gender based violence in the Interrogating the Silence report found that members of faith communities do not feel safe talking about sexual or domestic violence in their communities. But shouldn’t our faith be the one place we can turn to?

  1. Faith Leaders Can Serve as an Example

Faith leaders are leaders for a reason – attending a training on sexual and gender based violence would send a powerful message to the rest of their community that SGBV is a critical issue that deserves their time and attention.

If you are a faith leader who wishes to speak and serve as a catalyst in your community around SGBV, we strongly urge you to seek training so that you are prepared with a foundational knowledge of the complexities of sexual and gender based violence and equipped with the appropriate tools and resources to appropriately respond.

Interested in attending a training on SGBV in Faith? Check out upcoming webinars on our calendar, or browse through some of the many trainings conducted by members of the WeWillSpeakOut.US Coalition listed under Resources, featuring organizations like the ones highlighted below.

FaithTrust Institute offers a number of training and consulting opportunities on a variety of SGBV issues, from Domestic Violence and Boundaries for Clergy to Healthy Teen Relationships and Sexual Violence. Check out more details here.

Connect NYC provides classes and trainings on the intersection of gender justice and faith including an upcoming workshop this December entitled “Responding to Domestic Violence in Communities of Faith”. Check out more details here.