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Building Victim Assistance Networks With Faith Communities: Lessons Learned by the Vermont Victim Services 2000 Project
About This E-PublicationAcknowledgmentsMessage From the DirectorAbout the AuthorsRelated Links
The Need for Collaboration
Victim Needs From a Faith-Based Perspective
Elements of Collaboration
Lessons Learned
Program Startup, Relationship Building, and Sustainability
Cross Training
Lay Ministries

Enhanced Seminary Curricula

Faith Community Involvement in Task Forces and Community Initiatives
Public Education Opportunities
Interdisciplinary Approach
Issues Unique to Faith-Based Victim Assistance
Supplementary Materials
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Faith Based Victim Assistance Organizations

Lessons Learned

Enhanced Seminary Curricula

Interviews with faith leaders clearly revealed that clergy are not adequately prepared to deal with what James Gilligan11 calls a "national epidemic of violence." In addition, victims may be experiencing the complex and often offender-focused criminal justice system for the first time, a system that faith leaders may not be able to help them navigate successfully without specific training. Moreover, clergy need to be trained about when it is appropriate to offer assistance and when it is best to make a referral. In domestic violence cases, for example, a faith leader should not counsel both parties, especially when the criminal justice system is involved.

The most obvious remedy is to enhance the curriculum at theological schools and seminaries to include a more comprehensive study of victimology, including the latest information on trauma; the mechanics of the criminal justice system; the dynamics of domestic and sexual violence, including child sexual abuse; and the services available to assist victims. Although such an enhanced curriculum has been developed and piloted by Denver Victim Services 2000 and the Denver Seminary (see Other Initiatives), implementing this curriculum in local seminaries is beyond the scope of what most victim services programs can directly accomplish. Through collaboration, however, it is hoped that clergy will recognize the need and press for such reform within their own faith communities.

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