An Open Letter to Faith Leaders to Speak Out for Survivors

By Emily Love Esworthy, Jenna Barnett

Faith communities can play a powerful role in preventing violence and supporting survivors, but collectively we’re falling short. Two-thirds (65 percent) of pastors say they speak once a year or less about sexual and domestic violence, with 1 in 10 never addressing it at all.

This failure has a deep and lasting impact. A few years ago, I (Emily) was staffing the We Will Speak Out U.S. booth in a crowded vendor tent at CreationFest, the nation’s largest Christian music festival, asking passersby to sign a pledge to speak out against sexual and gender-based violence. I was disheartened by how many people, including pastors, assured me this wasn’t an issue among people of faith. Then a woman slipped through the crowd and quickly thrust a $10 bill into my hand. Our eyes barely met before she darted back into the throng. She never said a word, but her silence, and what I knew was a courageous act of support, still echoes in my mind: There is so much pain. We must do better.

This October, We Will Speak Out U.S., a coalition uniting faith communities against sexual and gender-based violence, encourages faith leaders to take a stand and speak out against domestic violence. We have assembled training resources and materials to help faith leaders take informed and appropriate action against violence — including sermon guides and litanies, basic facts about violence, links to local counseling and support allies, and more.

Will you send a letter to your faith leader and ask them to speak out during Domestic Violence Awareness Month?

Read full letter co-written by members of the WWSO U.S. coalition.