Sacred Spaces is a resource for faith communities to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence.

Sexual and gender-based violence or SGBV, is a worldwide epidemic that has been entrenched in global culture for centuries. In 2013, the World Health Organization officially classified violence against women as a “significant public health problem,” reporting that a startling 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence1. Further, a 2011 study conducted by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention not only reiterated the World Health Organization’s findings but also broadened the diagnosis, reporting that one in four U.S. men will be the victim of intimate partner violence2.  It is an issue that transcends gender, culture, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and faith.

Curious about the Protestant Christian community’s understanding of and response to this violence, IMA World Health, which is the secretariat of We Will Speak Out U.S., and Sojourners co-sponsored a LifeWay Research survey of 1,000 U.S. Protestant pastors to gauge their awareness of and response to sexual and gender-based violence in their congregations. The resulting report, titled Broken Silence, revealed that a majority of pastors estimated the prevalence of violence in their congregations to be lower than what national statistics would suggest, and that many failed to address SGBV from the pulpit or did so in a way that did more harm than good. Importantly, Broken Silence revealed that most pastors would do more if they knew more.

In response, We Will Speak Out U.S. has created Sacred Spaces, a five-step resource for faith communities to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence. The intention of this resource is to provide faith and lay leaders with concrete, action points to speak out appropriately and effectively against SGBV. However, it is not comprehensive of the resources and perspectives available. We encourage you to continue educating yourself on the evolving best practices. Within each step you will find a link for the corresponding Sacred Spaces web resource page, which will provide you with additional information and resources for the topic.

For many religious survivors, one of the first responses to abuse by an intimate partner is to seek help from their faith leader. We are grateful for your commitment to breaking the silence and improving the response to sexual and gender-based violence in your community. Thank you for speaking out!

Learn more and download Sacred Spaces 


Cited Sources
[1] World Health Organization. Global and regional estimates of violence against women. 2013
[2] US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. 2010