On Thursday, October 2, WeWillSpeakOut.US and IMA World Health hosted a workshop called “Faith, Culture and Violence” for pastors from our local Carroll County, Maryland, area. Our goals were to introduce (or reinforce) the concept of rape culture as well as introduce the clergy to Rape Crisis Intervention Services (RCIS) of Carroll County, a local nonprofit that assists survivors of sexual violence.

Nine pastors attended the workshop from a variety of denominations and traditions, and Rev. Jacob Simpson of Salem Lutheran Church in Baltimore, MD, served as the event’s chaplain and counselor. The Carroll County Times also attended and covered the event here.

Featured presenters included Josh Bronson, Assistant Director and Investigator for the Office of Sexual Misconduct and Relationship Violence at the University of Maryland, College Park, and Kristen McGeeney, Title IX Investigator at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

Discussing the Hard Topics

Bronson and McGeeney, both former members of the RCIS Board of Directors, developed the Rape Culture presentation to train law enforcement officials, schools and other groups on how our culture condones and even promotes rape and other forms of gender violence, upholds myths about rape, and blames victims for the crimes committed against them. Using examples from advertising, news media, and entertainment, they discussed how desensitized our culture is to the objectification of women and the sexualization of violence.

The workshop also included open discussion on several topics, including about the many ways the women in the room have been instructed throughout their lives to prevent being assaulted, compared with the paltry discussions men had been asked to engage in regarding what sexual assault is and how to prevent it.

Faith, Culture and Violence Workshop a Success!

Making the Connections

A key finding of the June 2014 Broken Silence report was that many clergy are unfamiliar with the resources in their local communities. One of the key goals of the Faith, Culture and Violence workshop was to connect clergy with the local Rape Crisis center, which provides a 24-hour hotline as well as free counseling and other services to victims of sexual violence and their families.

Janice Kispert, the CEO of RCIS, provided an overview of the center’s services and offered several highlights from the organization’s hotline volunteer training on how to talk to a victim of violence and walk alongside them through their time of crisis.

WeWillSpeakOut.US was very pleased with the turnout, the candid discussion and feedback from the attendees. This was the first event of its kind for WeWillSpeakOut.US, and we look forward to taking the lessons learned and expanding this workshop into other areas–the primary goal being to enhance the relationship between clergy and local support services.

For more information about hosting a similar workshop in your area, please contact emilyesworthy@wewillspeakout.us.