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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
Insufficient Training in Victim Issues
VS 2000 Program Structure
and Goals
Case Study: Helping Francine
Victim Needs From a Faith-Based Perspective
Elements of Collaboration
Lessons Learned
Issues Unique to Faith-Based Victim Assistance
Supplementary Materials
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Faith Based Victim Assistance Organizations

The Need for Collaboration

Insufficient Training in Victim Issues

Although faith communities are increasingly involved with crime victims' issues—and victim service professionals can gain much from working with these local resources—even the best intentioned faith communities are not always equipped to provide assistance. Many clergy receive little or no training in how to help victims, and they have little information about available services or how victims experience the adjudication process.

Pastors Ill-Prepared To Address Serious Victim Issues

A pastor who serves a small Vermont community recalled in a telephone interview that her seminary training included only one course that dealt with responding to families in trauma and the characteristics of catastrophic stress. Furthermore, she said that the training she received in pastoral care (helping people cope with loss and grief) left her inadequately prepared to deal with the specific issues of child sexual abuse, sexual assault, and the traumatic grief experienced by many survivors of homicide victims.1

Reverend Al Miles, Coordinator of the Hospital Ministry for Pacific Health Ministry at the Queen's Health Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, made the following remarks about the need to help more clergy become sensitized to issues facing victims of intimate partner violence:

In fact, due to the lack of education and training in domestic abuse response, the vast majority of clergy attempt to completely avoid the issue. We deny the pervasiveness of the problem, especially among couples in our own congregations and community, and we often end up saying and doing things that imply battered women are either not to be believed, or they are to blame for their own victimization.2

Seminary Curricula Lack Victim Focus

Other anecdotal evidence supports the lack of knowledge and preparation among clergy. Reverend John McDargh, Associate Professor of religion and psychology at Boston College, states that victimology is given "slender attention" in the schools that make up the Boston Theological Institute. Most courses that address this material in any depth lead to a degree in counseling and psychology rather than in pastoral ministry.3 Reverend Sharon G. Thornton, Associate Professor of pastoral theology at Andover Newton Theological School, said the school has no specific courses covering victimology but that "aspects of it are touched upon in other courses . . . . [T]he course on death and dying briefly addresses complicated grief, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is addressed in some of the upper division courses. More training would certainly be helpful to the students."4

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