skip navigation
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

About This E-Publication

In 1998, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) outlined recommendations for outreach to the faith community in the bulletin New Directions from the Field: Victims Rights and Services for the 21st Century. Victim Services 2000 (VS 2000), a multiyear demonstration project sponsored and funded by OVC, later used these recommendations to organize a 5-year initiative to improve victim services in Vermont and Denver, Colorado.

This e-publication summarizes the approaches used by VS 2000 staff in Vermont to implement these recommendations. The publication also analyzes the processes used to establish the program, offers lessons learned, describes best practices, and recommends specific steps for partnering with the faith community. (Note: Information about the VS 2000 effort in Denver is not included in this publication. For more information about the Denver initiative, see Denver Victim Services 2000 Needs Assessment and Learning About Victims of Crime: A Training Model for Victim Service Providers and Allied Professionals.)

U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs
810 Seventh Street NW.
Washington, DC 20531

Alberto R. Gonzales
Attorney General

Regina B. Schofield
Assistant Attorney General

John W. Gillis
Director, Office for Victims of Crime

Office of Justice Programs
Innovation Partnerships Safer Neighborhoods

Office for Victims of Crime

Preparation of this document was supported by grant number 98-VF-GX-K003 awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions expressed in this document are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Office for Victims of Crime is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.


OVC would like to offer special thanks to the following individuals:

Suzanne Gruendling and JAC Patrissi, who designed the Victim Services 2000 training for Vermont's communities of faith

Sherry Burnette, former Director of Victim Services, Vermont Department of Corrections

Phil Kimball, former Executive Secretary, Vermont Ecumenical Council

Delma Reed, former member of Vermont Victim/Survivor of Crime Council, Peaceful Communities Committee, Victims Compensation Board

Amy Torchia, Child Advocacy Specialist, Vermont Network Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

Betsy Wackernagel, Secretary, Vermont Ecumenical Council

Lynn Walther, Vermont Department of Corrections, Peaceful Communities Committee

Reverend John McDargh, Associate Professor of religion and psychology, Department of Theology, Boston College, Boston, Massachusetts

Reverend Susan McKnight, Warren United Church of Christ, Warren, Vermont

Pastor Ralph Howe, Northfield United Methodist Parish, Northfield, Vermont

Reverend Sharon G. Thornton, Associate Professor of pastoral theology, Andover Newton Theological School

Reverend Barbara Purinton, United Church of Christ, Richmond, Vermont, who provided background and contextual information about this project.

Message From the Director

Many victims of crime have physical, financial, emotional, and spiritual needs that cannot be fully met by the victim services field alone. It is necessary for victim service providers to have a network of resources in the community that can serve as a partner in supporting victims and addressing their various needs. Communities of faith can be valuable partners in the victim assistance movement not only by providing spiritual guidance to victims, but also by helping to mobilize resources to assist them. This publication, Building Victim Assistance Networks With Faith Communities: Lessons Learned by the Vermont Victim Services 2000 Project, highlights an Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) grant-funded initiative that addressed the need for the victim services field to collaborate with faith communities to better serve crime victims.

From 1998 to 2004, OVC funded the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services to implement the Victim Services 2000 (VS 2000) demonstration project in a rural area. VS 2000 supported the development of a model resource network for providing innovative, comprehensive, and integrated services for crime victims. Representatives from victim service agencies across Vermont participated in Vermont VS 2000 and began their work by conducting a needs assessment that revealed that clergy frequently worked with crime victims but often lacked the tools and training needed to effectively assist them. Vermont VS 2000 addressed this issue by developing the VS 2000 Faith Community Initiative, which engaged the faith community in victim issues in a variety of ways, such as regional trainings for clergy on victim issues.

Vermont VS 2000 developed Building Victim Assistance Networks With Faith Communities to provide technical assistance to victim service professionals interested in collaborating with the faith community; however, the information provided will undoubtedly be of interest to those representing the faith community. This publication describes the VS 2000 Faith Community Initiative, the lessons learned, and other promising practices. It also addresses issues related to providing victim assistance and recommends actions for other victim service organizations that are interested in partnering with the faith community.

Signature of OVC Director John W. Gillis.

About the Authors

Barbara Whitchurch is the Public Education Coordinator at the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services, where she designs and implements public awareness and educational outreach initiatives and creates the center's publications. As Product Development Coordinator for Vermont Victim Services 2000 (VS 2000), she researched and drafted publications on creating survivor councils, implementing victim-centered restorative justice initiatives, and creating community response to property crime. She also designed a public education campaign that addressed the issue of elder abuse as part of the VS 2000 initiative. Ms. Whitchurch is currently engaged in creating a campaign to increase public awareness about free HIV counseling, testing, and treatment for survivors of sexual violence. She has worked as a publications consultant and researcher for many years, editing books and articles that have been published and distributed through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as private publishers.

Andrea Beaderstadt served as the Public Education Coordinator at Vermont Victim Services 2000 from 2001 to 2002. A Professor of journalism at the college level for many years, Ms. Beaderstadt has also researched and written many nationally published magazine articles. She has been active in community outreach and organizing in rural areas of Northwestern Vermont, designing and implementing programs for nonprofit organizations to address issues such as unemployment, poverty, and educational opportunity.

Building Victim Assistance Networks With Faith Communities

Lessons Learned by the Vermont Victim Services 2000 Project

The lasting scars of spirit and faith are not so easily treated. Many victims question the faith they thought secure, or have no faith on which to rely. Frequently, ministers and their congregations can be a source of solace that no other sector of society can provide.

—President's Task Force on Victims of Crime (1982)

Communities of faith are in a unique position to offer support to crime victims. Victims often seek comfort and spiritual guidance from religious leaders in the aftermath of crime. Religious and spiritual leaders can quickly mobilize resources and bring disparate groups together in support of victims. For example, they may extend to victims resources that were originally established for poor, disabled, and elderly members-including food pantries, clothing banks, emergency funds, meeting space, childcare, transportation, and even emergency housing.

This document summarizes how the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services, as part of the Office for Victims of Crime's Victim Services 2000 demonstration project, built and used relationships with the faith community to improve victim services. It specifically addresses—

  • The Need for Collaboration.
  • Victim Needs From a Faith-Based Perspective.
  • Elements of Collaboration.
  • Lessons Learned.
  • Issues Unique to Faith-Based Victim Assistance.

The Need for Collaboration

In many ways, communities of faith are well equipped to offer support to victims in the aftermath of a terrible crime. Because faith leaders already have the trust of their parishioners, they are in the unique position of working directly and immediately with victims of crime and their families. Furthermore, religious leaders can quickly mobilize resources, and many are increasingly involved with emerging issues such as clergy abuse, mass victimization, child abuse, cyber crime, and human trafficking and can use their extensive resources and services to benefit victims of crime in their congregations.

One area in which clergy have provided invaluable service is in offering faith-based support to inmates. Prison ministries, prayer groups, and offender reentry programs represent just some of the ways that congregations have expressed their missions of social justice. These offender-centered activities are well established and draw upon other models of institutional pastoral work (such as college, hospital, or military chaplains). Clearly, both the need and the opportunity exist for clergy to support victims—as well as offenders—who are members of their faith communities.

Yet despite these experiences, many religious leaders lack the particular expertise that veteran victim service providers have acquired. The VS 2000 Initiative in Vermont sought to redress that lack by implementing a model network of victim resources and training opportunities for faith communities.

  • Insufficient Training in Victim Issues.
  • VS 2000 Program Structure and Goals.
  • Case Study: Helping Francine.

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

VS 2000 Program Structure and Goals

From 1998 to 2004, the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, provided the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services with funds for implementing the Victim Services 2000 (VS 2000) demonstration project in a rural area. The project's goal was to create a model network of victim resources that would provide innovative, comprehensive, and integrated services in a victim-centered environment. Representatives from victim service agencies across the state participated in the initiative, including community nonprofit and criminal justice-based programs and allied professionals.

A specific component of the program asked victims and survivors of crime victims to reflect on their experiences with victim assistance providers, including faith communities. From these interviews, program managers created a composite profile to illustrate the typical experience of victims who sought assistance from faith communities.

Wide-Range Needs Assessment

Overall, the VS 2000 initiative began with a needs assessment to—

  • Better understand the range and accessibility of victim services in Vermont.
  • Identify victim needs.
  • Highlight gaps in services and identify underserved populations of crime victims.
  • Develop a preliminary plan for establishing the model network.

Assessment tools included interviews and focus groups held throughout the state; surveys of victim advocates and service providers, survivors of crime, social service providers, law enforcement officials, and court and corrections personnel; reviews of documents and reports from victim assistance programs; and an analysis of the current victim services network. An independent firm also conducted a public awareness survey, interviewing 605 randomly selected Vermont residents to assess their general knowledge of crime victims' rights.

Victim/Survivor of Crime Council

Victims and survivors of victims were involved in all aspects of the project's assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation processes. VS 2000 established a statewide Victim/Survivor of Crime Council to enable victims to participate in program and policy planning and evaluation, offer feedback based on their personal experiences with the criminal justice system, suggest improvements, and form a pool of speakers for victim impact panels and other presentations.

Case Study: Helping Francine

Based on interviews with victims and survivors of victims, the Victim Services 2000 program managers created a composite profile to illustrate the experience of victims who sought support in the faith community, the experience of faith leaders who provide assistance, and the issues affecting that experience.

Francine's Experience

Francine, whose daughter Chris was murdered, recalls what happened after being notified of her daughter's death. "The first person I called was my pastor, Reverend Howard. She was at my house in 5 minutes," she said. "She comforted us, went and picked up my son at school, [and] calmed down my husband. I couldn't have done it without her. She was there to help us begin grieving. She was a rock."

Francine's church community, however, was at a loss as to the appropriate way to respond to the tragedy. "The people in the congregation were horrified, terrified. They didn't know what to do. They were embarrassed—they wanted to run and hide. The church family needs to have a place where they can talk about such issues," she said.

With more training, Francine's pastor would have understood that the congregation was experiencing extreme discomfort over the tragic circumstances and would have been better equipped to address its needs while suggesting how members could be more supportive to Francine and her family.

Reverend Howard's Experience

In retrospect, Francine's pastor realized that although she did what she instinctively felt was right, she made mistakes because of a lack of training in victim assistance procedures. Reverend Howard realized, for example, that she should have asked for help to escort Francine's son rather than leave the family alone while she performed this task herself, but she did not know that she could have asked for the support of a victim advocate trained in death notification. Later, she realized that she did not know how to explain to Francine and her family the stages of recovery from traumatic grief. If Reverend Howard had known more about the services available through her local victim assistance program, her task would have been easier, and Francine and her family would have benefited.

Reverend Howard also was surprised by her own strong feelings. Francine's daughter Chris had been her friend and parishioner as well, and Reverend Howard's own daughter and Chris had attended the same elementary school. As a mother, she empathized with Francine's anguish at the loss of her child to violence. To help Francine's family at a critical time, Francine's pastor had to postpone her need to process her own grief and pain.

Reverend Howard later concluded that her church needed to train other leaders of the congregation, such as deacons, how to provide auxiliary support so that the minister could concentrate on the emotional and spiritual needs of the victim and his or her family. She also was firmly convinced that training in basic victimology, as well as in some of the specifics of victim assistance, would greatly benefit faith leaders and their parishioners.

Victim Needs From a Faith-Based Perspective

The church should be a place of refuge, but often we have not known how to listen, how to be present to victims. We have told them that their anger is wrong, that they need to move on, to forgive, to forget. We have denied them their right to mourn and instead have laid new burdens on them. All this is understandable—as part of our effort to distance ourselves from pain and vulnerability—but not at all helpful.

—Howard Zehr, "Restoring Justice," God and the Victim, 1999

Victimization often makes orderly lives disorderly, thereby drawing victims into faith-based settings where they hope to find reasons for their pain. It is important that clergy who work with victims understand these unique emotional needs. Specifically, faith communities can help crime victims by—

  • Realizing that victimization often causes people to question their faith.
  • Recognizing that coping mechanisms involving detachment, blame, or superficial pleasantries—no matter how well-intentioned the statement—are detrimental to victims.5
  • Understanding the unique needs of crime victims and the distinction between traumatic grief and other forms of bereavement.
  • Understanding and preventing vicarious trauma in themselves.

The Effects of Victimization on Faith

Without training, the most well-meaning congregations can be uncertain how to respond to a personal tragedy of this nature. "We all need to believe the world is a predictable place, that we have some measure of control over our lives," writes Christopher Marshall, Professor of religious studies at Victoria University of Wellington. "But the randomness of crime challenges that perception. Victims remind us of our vulnerability."6 Marshall adds that congregations feel uneasy with "the coarse, unedited feelings that spew from deep inside the one who has been victimized-the pain, anger, despair, grief, and desire for revenge." Such raw emotions are hard to bear, and are often outside the experience of the average parishioner used to dealing with more prosaic forms of grief resulting from the illness or natural death of a loved one. Fearful of saying the wrong thing, they say nothing at all, leaving victims feeling isolated.

More complex dynamics may also be at work. Marshall describes how victimization may strike at the very foundation of faith, potentially forcing victims and the people close to them to redefine what faith means. "In some ways, victims constitute an even more threatening presence in the religious community . . . for the stark reality of their victimization raises profoundly unsettling questions about Christian faith . . . about the arbitrariness of suffering and the value of spiritual commitment when God seems to fail those who trust in him."7

Perhaps no one program, clergy person, or victim advocate can address all of a victim's needs, but an interdisciplinary approach to victims' issues, such as VS 2000, brings together the combined talents of faith communities and victim services professionals to help faith communities more effectively serve the victims who already look to them for comfort and spiritual care.

The Victim Experience of Trauma and Bereavement

It is important that clergy and spiritual leaders understand how victimization-related injuries differ qualitatively from those related to illness and natural or accidental death. The search for meaning and coherence after a violent death, for example, can be exhausting and may leave survivors feeling empty.

This relationship between trauma and grief is a complex one, but it is certainly not beyond the scope of religious communities. Edward K. Rynearson, author of Retelling Violent Death,8 established the Violent Death Support Service Program in Seattle in 1990 to help survivors cope with trauma. His therapeutic technique, restorative retelling, helps survivors and victims reframe the traumatic incident so they become active participants in the story—working through various scenarios—rather than helpless onlookers. Restorative retelling also helps reconnect the teller with the living memories of the deceased that had been displaced by the traumatic incident.

Although faith communities may not see themselves as trauma centers, they are certainly resources for the bereaved and places where people go to mourn, to remember, and to memorialize their loved ones. Rituals of lament, such as the Hebrew mourner's Kaddish, and public lament and mourning, offer profound ways to help survivors experience grief.

Specific research on trauma and traumatic grief.

Vicarious Trauma

Strong emotions are a normal part of working with victims of crime. Victim assistance professionals, including clergy, should expect to have their own emotions unbalanced at times. As victims unburden themselves with tales of horrific experiences, healers absorb some of the pain. In effect, they become witnesses to the traumatic experience. Like others who assist victims in crisis, clergy may become subject to compassion fatigue, also known as burnout. In some cases, they risk an even more serious danger: vicarious or secondary trauma.

  • Symptoms.
  • Risk Factors.
  • Prevention and Response.


Vicarious trauma is a stress reaction that may be experienced by clergy and other victim assistance professionals who are exposed to disclosures of traumatic images and events by those seeking help. Helping professionals may experience long-lasting changes in how they view themselves, others, and the world.

The symptoms of vicarious trauma are similar to, but usually not as severe as, those of posttraumatic stress disorder, and can affect the lives and careers of even clergy with considerable training and experience in working with disaster and trauma survivors. They may include—

  • Intrusions such as flashbacks or nightmares.
  • Avoidance, in which the person tries to reduce exposure to the people or situations that might bring on his or her intrusive symptoms.
  • Hyperarousal or physical symptoms such as hypervigilance, sleeplessness, or increased startle response.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase the risk of vicarious trauma include—

  • Unexpected or repeated exposure to trauma.
  • The degree of empathy that a clergyperson feels for the victim's suffering.
  • Unresolved emotional issues.

Prevention and Response

It is crucial for clergy who work with victims to find ongoing support systems for themselves, and to identify situations that may trigger unresolved emotional issues and refer such cases to a colleague. Often, simply acknowledging the effect on one that others' pain has can be one of the best coping mechanisms. The victim assistance community also may be able to provide support for clergy by using established debriefing techniques. Finally, for clergy who are exposed to a mass victimization, participation in a well-run critical incident stress debriefing (CISD) may be helpful.9

Elements of Collaboration

The VS 2000 initiative set out to address the lack of specialized training in victim assistance among clergy through a pilot project in Chittenden County, where more than one-fourth of all Vermont residents live.10 The project included—

  • Introductory Training.
  • A Survey of Faith Leaders.
  • Regional Workshops.
  • Evaluation of Regional Workshops.
  • Peaceful Communities Committee.

Introductory Training

A 3-hour workshop titled "How Can I Be of Service? The Faith Community in Support of Victims of Crime" covered the basics of crime-related psychological trauma, including the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The workshop also explored the relationships that community members have with faith leaders, provided an overview of power dynamics in domestic violence relationships, and listed specific things that clergy can do to support parishioners.

In addition, the training shed light on some of the responses that faith communities may expect from survivors of crime. In some cases, victims of crime may avoid anything that reminds them of their victimization—a behavior that is often referred to as second-order conditioning. In this instance, a traumatic victimization elicits physical and emotional reactions in a victim that may generalize to other neutral stimuli that become linked in the victim's mind with the traumatic event. It could be a sound or a smell or even a person unconnected to the trauma. Consequently, a victim who initially sought support from a faith leader or pastoral counselor may later reject further contact with that person because he or she has become inextricably tied to the victimization.

A Survey of Faith Leaders

As part of the original VS 2000 needs assessment, program staff and the Vermont Ecumenical Council (VEC) developed a survey (sent to the VEC mailing list) that identified the needs of faith leaders and assessed their level of knowledge about assisting crime victims. VS 2000 staff compiled the results of 68 completed surveys and compared the responses with those from a separate public awareness survey conducted among 605 randomly selected Vermont residents to assess general knowledge of crime victims' rights. Five of the seven questions on both surveys revealed that the general public had a greater awareness of victims' rights than did the faith community.

Notable survey findings included—

  • Seventy-five percent of faith leaders said that they received minimal or no training in domestic violence.
  • Three percent of faith leaders said they obtained their knowledge of domestic violence through self-study.
  • Seventy-seven percent of respondents believed that some parishioners in their congregations had been abused.
  • Seventy-five percent of respondents stated that they were not currently working with battered victim services or batterers' intervention programs, but 88 percent indicated they would like to have some involvement. Many respondents cited time pressures, lack of available training, and other commitments as obstacles to involvement.

Regional Workshops

Based on the initial assessment results, VS 2000 staff offered a series of 4-hour regional workshops cosponsored by the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services and VEC.

At each training site, representatives from the local domestic violence program provided information on local resources and encouraged clergy to collaborate with other programs and make referrals. Topics included understanding the subjective experience of victims; traumatic grief; the relationship dynamics implicated in domestic violence; information on victims' rights and local resources; how to make medical, mental health, and social service referrals for victims; and specific skills in working with victims. (A compendium of training topics and resources is available from the Training Department of the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services.)

Evaluation of Regional Workshops

Thirty-four clergy members attended the initial round of trainings, which were well received. Participants identified the workshops on domestic violence dynamics, including the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationships, as the most useful part of the training. They felt that having providers from local shelters and victim assistance programs as presenters was extremely helpful.

Several followup trainings were conducted at annual meetings and individual churches. The most positive result of the faith community training initiative—the result that marked its institutionalization—was the establishment of the Peaceful Communities Committee in January 2000.

In the evaluation process, training organizers also realized their assumption that clergy would naturally want information and training about victimization was shortsighted. In subsequent conversations with faith leaders, it became clear that only those faith leaders who have come face to face with a congregant in crisis truly understand the importance of providing assistance—and the need for training. As a result, organizers identified such individuals as key members of advisory groups because they can effectively motivate other faith leaders to participate.

Peaceful Communities Committee

The Peaceful Communities Committee's goal was to bring together clergy, victims, victim advocates, and corrections officials to explore issues of justice for both victims of crime and offenders. At their initial meeting, committee members agreed on the need for training—both brief and extensive—for pastors and church leaders about the needs of, and services available to, victims, their families, and their communities. They recommended several specific roles for clergy in aiding crime victims, including helping victims to stay safe when offenders reenter the community or when the offender is not arrested or arraigned.

Over the past 3 years, the Peaceful Communities Committee—which includes representatives from VEC, the Vermont Department of Corrections, and the Victim/Survivor of Crime Council—developed a restorative justice resource directory that lists volunteer opportunities for clergy and others. The committee plans to conduct a statewide series of study circles on offender reentry and community safety in collaboration with the Study Circle Center in Connecticut, including a "Training of Trainers" on study circle facilitation. The committee also works with Vermont's seven community justice centers to share resources and involve faith leaders in developing programs and offering assistance to reparative panels. (Read more about the Peaceful Communities Committee and other initiatives).

Lessons Learned

Faith leaders who attended the training sessions found the information valuable. When evaluating the overall effectiveness of the Faith Community Initiative's training model, however, organizers realized that taking a more collaborative approach—one that included presentations by clergy or lay members of a congregation who were already assisting crime victims—may have resulted in wider participation. Building this sense of ownership of and investment in the project was a valuable lesson learned. Other lessons learned focused on—

  • 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.

Program Startup, Relationship Building, and Sustainability

The VS 2000 staff recommend that victim service programs planning to partner with a faith community take specific steps related to program startup, relationship building, and sustainability efforts.

Program Startup

  • Reassure faith leaders that they can use many of the resources they have already developed; they do not need to create a completely new program.

  • Ask them about their vision for serving victims of crime in their congregations. Create a vision together; do not impose a vision onto the faith community.

  • Learn about the demographics of the neighborhood, the history of the religious institution, the community groups involved, and the important players.

  • Take plenty of time to lay the program foundation. Create an advisory committee to do strategic planning.

  • Find out what kind of opposition may exist, and plan with the faith community how to deal with it.

  • Find a skilled, neutral facilitator to lead the group through the strategic planning process.

  • Find out which members of the congregation may already be providing some of these services and include those people in the strategic planning team.

Relationship Building

  • Meet faith communities on their own ground, "break bread" with them, and find out how they already address the needs of their parishioners.

  • Find common ground, and keep it foremost.

  • Be open to faith leaders' ideas. Faith leaders may not be experts on victim assistance, but some of the best ideas come from people who approach a task without preconceived ideas of how it should be done.

  • Remind faith leaders that victims of crime may be a hidden population in their congregations.

  • Remember that many of the needs identified by victims of crime cannot be provided by victim service programs: the whole community is needed to serve victims comprehensively.

Sustainability Efforts

  • Remain engaged after the initial phase is over; offer ongoing consulting services to the faith community.

  • Help the faith community seek funding to provide additional services. Provide technical assistance, and share resources.

  • Encourage faith leaders to take ownership of the initiative by including their congregations in program planning and design and by keeping them informed.

  • Ensure that faith communities receive the state victim services resource directory, and stay informed about the resources of the local congregations.

  • Evaluate the project and use the findings to improve future efforts.

  • Provide for ongoing sustainability and long-term input.

Cross Training

VS 2000 proposes that faith leaders and victim service providers offer collaboratively designed cross training because often one group may have expertise that illuminates an otherwise inexplicable experience. Victims sometimes avoid service providers, for example, because they may remind the victim of the crime. Clergy whose parishioners have avoided them after they have conducted a funeral service may have been puzzled by this experience. Such avoidance, known as second-order conditioning, is a valuable concept that the victim assistance community can impart to clergy members. (For a detailed definition, see the "Elements of Collaboration" page.)

Ongoing cross training would not only educate both groups about how their members can assist crime victims but also improve communication between faith communities and victim service providers.

Lay Ministries

Increasingly in congregations, pastoral care is done by the laity, either by individual members of the congregation or through the efforts of community partners. Congregations often include people with a mental health or medical background who are willing to be trained in victim assistance as a focus of their lay ministry. They can act as liaisons between crime victims and other community services. In addition, a congregation may include members with particular skills or knowledge who can help crime victims fill out victim impact statements or victim compensation applications, accompany them to court, or translate materials into their primary language. In the final phase of the VS 2000 training workshops, participants frequently identified the need to engage lay leaders within congregations and to collaborate with victim resources in their communities.

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.

Faith Community Involvement in Task Forces and Community Initiatives

Clergy can play an important role as members of an interagency council or task force, and protocols should be provided to faith leaders so they will know a community's procedures for assisting victims. Few clergy who responded to the VS 2000 survey knew of the existence of such protocols. In communities that are establishing new task forces, clergy should be invited to participate in the initial planning of these groups.

Faith communities can participate in community initiatives in many ways. In Vermont, for example, faith communities are working with community justice centers, volunteering to serve on reparative boards, and working with the Burlington First Response Team to help victims of vandalism and property crime. Faith leaders can also play a valuable role in organizing and maintaining community crisis response teams, and can provide resources such as meeting spaces at their houses of worship, clothes collections for sexual assault or domestic violence victims, transportation to court or medical appointments, and help with completing victim assistance or compensation paperwork. When resource directories, such as the VS 2000 Victim Services Resource Directory, are created, religious institutions should be included in the distribution plan so they can make informed referrals to other services.

Public Education Opportunities

Communities that have been shattered by violent crime need public rituals to help them recover, and awareness of this need is growing. Houses of worship have traditionally opened themselves to such public rituals, from the days of the civil rights movement through the antiwar protests of the 1960s, to the spontaneous response to the events of September 11, when houses of worship overflowed with people distraught and bewildered by the terrorist attacks. The ritual may take the form of a community's protest against violence, or it may demonstrate support for individual victims, or both. Such public rituals can be healing for the entire community.

In Burlington, for example, the Unitarian Church has for the past 3 years allowed the Domestic and Sexual Violence Task Force of Chittenden County to hold a remembrance vigil in its sanctuary during National Crime Victims' Rights Week, and its pastor has officiated at the ceremony. In Warren, Vermont, Susan Russell, a Vermont victim advocate and herself a victim of crime, organized an awareness event called "Come Unite!" to explore ways in which communities can support victims whose offenders are being released from prison. She invited local faith leaders to attend and get involved; one minister spoke about how neighbors, including faith communities, can form a circle of support around victims of crime.

Faith leaders can also use their pulpits to educate congregations about issues, especially during public commemorations such as Sexual and Domestic Violence Awareness Months, National Crime Victims' Rights Week, and Child Abuse Prevention Month. They can invite representatives from local domestic violence shelters or rape crisis programs to speak to their congregations, and they can invite the survivors themselves to speak.

Reverend Susan McKnight invited Susan Russell to share her story with the congregation. According to Russell, "this opportunity offered everyone in that faith community a story about hope and healing. It has also opened the door for that community to serve crime victims, as they now know they have someone to call for information and resources."12

Interdisciplinary Approach

The VS 2000 Faith Community Initiative recommends an interdisciplinary approach to victims' issues. Common sense dictates that no one program, clergy person, or victim advocate can address all victim needs. Faith leaders have shown themselves willing to engage in this type of collaborative process with the secular victim assistance community. It is strongly recommended that victim assistance providers reach out to local faith leaders; invite them to participate in trainings, conferences, and their state's victim assistance academy; and invite them to participate in a collaborative process of community response so they may in turn effectively serve the victims who already look to them for comfort and spiritual care.

Issues Unique to Faith-Based Victim Assistance

The VS 2000 Faith Community Initiative and subsequent meetings of the Peaceful Communities Committee revealed several broad issues that specifically affect faith-based victim assistance:

  • Restorative Justice.
  • Confidentiality and Mandatory Reporting.
  • Separation of Church and State: Do's and Don'ts.

Restorative Justice

Restorative justice is derived from the theological and ethical concept, "to decide what belongs to whom and return it to them" (theologian Walter Brueggemann, as quoted by Susan Russell in "Notes on Forgiveness"). Vermont's Peaceful Communities Committee is exploring the use of a restorative justice model to address the needs of both victims and offenders, in collaboration with Vermont's network of Community Justice Centers.

Victim-offender mediation, one type of restorative justice practice, has been popular with faith communities because it proposes to "heal" the relationship between the offender and the victim. In his essay, "Christian Care for the Victims of Crime," Christopher Marshall states, "When one person injures another, both victim and perpetrator are unavoidably bound together by their common experience . . . one is bound by guilt and shame, the other by bitterness and pain . . . victim and offender need each other to experience liberation and healing from the continuing thrall of the offence."13 Critics of this approach argue that this concept is flawed because it assumes that there is, or was, a relationship between the victim and perpetrator before the crime—which is simply untrue in many cases. Others object because the concept assumes the victim's recovery is contingent on the repentance of the offender.

Victims also express many reservations about this model, some of which are outlined in Taking Victims and Their Advocates Seriously: A Listening Project.14 Of particular concern is the use of restorative justice to resolve cases in which domestic violence is a factor. As one victim stated, "Domestic violence is not a conflict that can be mediated; it is not a dispute when you are dealing with someone whose method of dispute resolution is to beat you up."15

Indeed, the subject becomes even more tangled. Domestic violence often hides behind other offenses, as in the classic example of the woman who was brought before a reparative board for forging checks. In truth, she had been forced to forge the checks by an abusive partner. The volunteer staff of that reparative board may not have had sufficient training in the dynamics of domestic violence to see below the surface of this situation or to know how to deal with it, if they did recognize it. After hearing testimony from victims, VS 2000 and the Vermont victim assistance community sought to ensure that restorative justice and victim-offender mediation are not automatically embraced as solutions for all victims.

Confidentiality and Mandatory Reporting

Within the victim assistance arena, confusion frequently arises over confidentiality issues and which victim service providers are required to report abuse. In Vermont, for example, victim advocates who work for the State's Attorney are not required to keep communications with victims confidential. Community-based advocates, on the other hand, are required by state statute to keep those communications confidential (Title 12, Section 1614: Victim and Crisis Worker Privilege). This situation can understandably result in confusion and frustration for victims.

Confidentiality is no less complex for communities of faith, whose communications with members of their congregations traditionally have been protected as confidential. At times, religious leaders may minister to members of their congregations who have committed criminal acts. "In these situations, clergy must weigh the importance of respecting privileged communication in relation to the need to protect victims and society from harm."16

Although Vermont clergy are not mandated reporters of abuse or neglect of vulnerable adults, or of adult sexual or domestic violence, the state added clergy to the list of mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse and neglect in 2003 (Title 33 VSA, Section 4913). Nevertheless, clergy still have the option of not reporting a crime if the information is received in a confidential setting, if the clergy member is acting in the capacity of spiritual advisor, if the information is intended as an "act of contrition or a matter of conscience," or if it is required to be kept confidential by religious law, doctrine, or tenet. Despite these exceptions, if a clergy member has also received this information in a setting outside those that are exempted, he or she must report the crime.

The legislation requires clergy in Vermont to consider their responsibility to the child. Clearly, to make responsible decisions, clergy must receive training on not only the implications of the statute but also on issues of child victimization. Any faith leader's obligations as a mandated reporter should be clarified before allowing the victim to continue with the details of his or her story.

Separation of Church and State: Do's and Don'ts

When partnering with faith communities, all involved organizations that receive federal funding must understand what actions are prohibited and what actions are required. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that faith-based organizations may not use federal funding to directly support religious worship, proselytization, or instruction, or to purchase religious or scriptural materials. Such funding may be used only to support the nonreligious social services they provide. Guidelines developed by the U.S. Department of Justice's Task Force for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives are available at the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Web site, which provides a useful overview of legal issues faced by faith-based groups that receive federal funding.

According to the White House Web site, faith-based organizations that receive direct funds should separate—either by a difference in time or venue—their inherently religious activities from the government-funded services they offer. For example, organizations may set up a charitable organization that would conduct nonreligious programs (although this is not required, it facilitates the tracking of funds). Furthermore, faith organizations that receive direct federal aid may not require their program participants to attend any of the religious activities that they sponsor; they may only invite their voluntary participation. Faith-based initiatives that receive federal funding are required to inform the beneficiaries of their services (counseling, pastoral care, and referrals for victims of crime, for example) and that they have a right to not participate in any religious activities. This requirement is particularly important when faith leaders provide pastoral care to victims and families who are not part of their congregation and when clergy provide publicly funded cross training to victim services programs.

Further regulations outlining President George W. Bush's policy of including faith-based charities in the federal grants process are available.

Supplementary Materials

Following are resources the contributors used in the development of this document. The inclusion of these resources should not be construed as an endorsement by the U.S. Department of Justice.

A number additional resources are available that support and illustrate effective collaboration between the victim service and faith communities. They include—

  • Other Initiatives.
  • Trauma-Specific Resources.
  • References.
  • Bibliography and Related Resources.
  • Notes.

Other Initiatives

Faith Community Professional Education Initiative

Denver Victim Services 2000 and Denver Seminary teamed up to develop and pilot a core curriculum for clergy on victimization issues, "Victim Care: Issues for Clergy and Faith-Based Counselors." The curriculum is designed for use either as a formal academic course or an intensive continuing education course and is being disseminated to theology schools across the country for use in their existing curricula. A Web-based format for distance learning that incorporates video lecture, PowerPoint, and written text has also been produced. The curriculum is currently being adapted for a broad range of faiths. For more information, contact Steve Siegel at the Denver, Colorado, District Attorney's Office at 720-913-9022.

Sudden Death Trauma Program

Franne Whitney Nelson, an educational thanatologist and sudden death trauma specialist, has trained the Vermont State Police on death notification and dealing with sudden, unexpected death. This 4-day training includes information about homicide response (trauma that is complicated by the willful injury to the victim), crisis intervention, and bereavement support. She has offered a 2-day version of the training to Vermont's victim advocates, mental health providers, Department of Corrections personnel, clergy members, and first responders. Ms. Nelson has written two handbooks: A Grief Handbook for Victim Advocates: Guiding a Family Step-by-Step Through the Aftermath of Violent Death and A Grief Guide for Crime Victims, both available through the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services. For more information, contact Death Education Consulting, P.O. Box 571, Montpelier, VT 05601, 802-223-7872, [email protected].

Law Enforcement Chaplaincy Services

U.S. Community Chaplaincy developed the "Community Crisis Intervention: Volunteer Responder Basic Training Curriculum" through its Law Enforcement Chaplaincy Services to Crime Victims project. The curriculum will be used to train volunteer law enforcement chaplains to provide nonsectarian support and services, such as death notification, to victims in the aftermath of violent crime. Because of the specialized knowledge required, trainings using this curriculum will be conducted through the OVC Training and Technical Assistance Center (OVC TTAC). For more information, contact David Vincent at U.S. Community Chaplaincy at 916-834-6765.

Good Samaritans Volunteer Crime Victims Assistance Program

The Mobile County District Attorney's Office developed a training curriculum, "Good Samaritans Program Handbook and Basic Volunteer Training Guide," for communities interested in replicating its Good Samaritans Volunteer Crime Victims Assistance Program. Once released, the curriculum will be used to train faith-based and secular volunteers, law enforcement personnel, and emergency dispatchers to work together to expand services to crime victims. For more information, contact the Mobile County, Alabama, District Attorney's Office at 251-574-8400.

Collaborative Response to Crime Victims in Urban Areas

The Maryland Crime Victims' Resource Center established networks of faith-based and secular victim assistance programs to enhance victim services in five urban sites through the Collaborative Response to Crime Victims in Urban Areas project. Each community developed a directory of services, such as shelter, individual and group counseling, legal and personal advocacy, hotline, and recruitment and training of faith-based volunteers. A "Lessons Learned" document is planned for release following the end of the project on October 31, 2006. For more information, contact the Maryland Crime Victims' Resource Center at 1-877-842-8461.

Helping And Lending Outreach Support

Helping And Lending Outreach Support (HALOS), in Charleston, South Carolina, connects faith-based and civic organizations, businesses, and individuals with the needs of abused and neglected children through the Charleston County Department of Social Services (DSS). These businesses, faith-based and civic organizations, and caring individuals affiliated with a variety of denominations act as HALOS partners who "adopt" local DSS caseworkers to provide services and support to child abuse and neglect victims served by DSS, beyond what DSS is financially and logistically able to provide. HALOS and its partners address some of the tangible and ongoing needs of victims, assisting DSS caseworkers with overcoming the constraints they encounter when aiding abused and neglected children. OVC funded HALOS to institutionalize, evaluate, and expand their program in Charleston. The next phase of the project's development is to replicate the model program used in several communities throughout the country. For more information, contact HALOS, Inc., Director, Kim Clifton, at 843-953-3715.

Peaceful Communities Committee of VEC

This committee is planning three initiatives as a result of its collaboration with the VS 2000 Faith Community Initiative:

Workshops on victim assistance. Staff of the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services and faith leaders will copresent the workshops, which will be offered at the annual meetings or conferences of each denomination. Because these conferences are attended by active lay members of congregations as well as faith leaders, some workshops will focus on teaching laypeople how to assist crime victims with specific needs (e.g., filling out paperwork, providing transportation). Special workshops on teen dating violence and on the role of the church in fostering healthy relationships among its youthful members also will be offered.

A speakers' bureau. The bureau will include members of the Vermont Victim/Survivor of Crime Council and its speakers will be available to address congregations on victims' issues. Its purposes are to encourage survivors to reach out to larger communities and to educate congregations about opportunities for assisting their members. For more information, contact the Peaceful Communities Committee of VEC, P.O. Box 728, Richmond, VT 05477, 802-434-7307, [email protected].

The Spiritual Dimension in Victim Services. This program has conducted a series of inservice training initiatives for clergy. These have included city and statewide training events (the most recent was for clergy and hospital chaplains in high-crime urban areas); a survey of 96 religious denominations concerning the extent of their involvement in victim assistance and their interest in receiving training; and workshops at national and regional denominational events. A product of these training initiatives is the OVC publication Victims of Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, Elder Abuse, Rape, Robbery, Assault, and Violent Death: A Manual for Clergy and Congregations, Special Edition for Military Chaplains.

For More Information

For more information about faith-based victim service initiatives, including restorative justice initiatives in Vermont, please contact:

Peaceful Communities Committee of the Vermont Ecumenical Council
Attn: Betsy Wackernagel, Secretary
P.O. Box 728
Richmond, VT 05477

Will Roberts, Training Specialist
Sharon Davis, Victim Service and Restorative Justice Consultant
Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services
58 South Main Street
Waterbury, VT 05676-1599

For more information about the Vermont Victim Services 2000 Project, please contact:

Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services
58 South Main Street, Suite 1
Waterbury, VT 05676-1599
Fax: 802-241-1253

For assistance in identifying resources and training available to faith-based and other community organizations, please contact:

Task Force for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
Suite 4413
Washington, DC 20530
Fax: 202-616-9627
[email protected]

For copies of other OVC publications or information on additional victim-related resources, please contact the OVC Resource Center.

Submit questions to OVC.

Trauma-Specific Resources

For those who wish to do additional reading on this topic, we offer the following brief bibliography. Please note that a more comprehensive bibliography, including links to more detailed references, current articles, books for purchase, and Web resources helpful in understanding trauma responses and treatment, is available at David Baldwin's Web site,

Buchwald, Emilie, Pamela Fletcher, and Martha Roth, eds. 1993. Transforming a Rape Culture. Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions.

Figley, Charles R., Brian E. Bride, and Nicholas Mazza, eds. 1997. Death and Trauma: The Traumatology of Grieving. Washington, DC: Taylor and Francis Publishers.

Herman, Judith Lewis. 1982. Father-Daughter Incest. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Herman, Judith Lewis. 1997. Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence. New York: Basic Books.

Jenkins, Bill. 1999. What to Do When the Police Leave: A Guide to the First Days of Traumatic Loss, 2nd Edition. Richmond, VA: WBJ Press.

Jenkins, Philip. 1996. Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis. New York: Oxford University Press.

Jenkins, Pamela J., and Barbara Parmer Davidson. 2001. Stopping Domestic Violence: How a Community Can Prevent Spousal Abuse. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.

Ledoux, Joseph. 1996. The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life. New York: Touchstone.

Levine, Peter A., with Ann Frederick. 1997. Waking the Tiger: Healing. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books.

Nelson, Franne Whitney. 2004. A Grief Handbook for Victim Advocates: Guiding a Family Step-by-Step Through the Aftermath of Violent Death. Waterbury, VT: Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services.

Rothschild, Babette. 2000. The Body Remembers: The Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Scaer, Robert, C. 2001. The Body Bears the Burden: Trauma, Dissociation, and Disease. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Medical Press.

Schmidt, Karen Louise. 1995. Transforming Abuse: Nonviolent Resistance and Recovery. Philadelphia: New Society Publishers.

Terr, Leonore. 1990. Too Scared to Cry: Psychic Trauma in Childhood. New York: Basic Books.

Terr, Leonore. 1994. Unchained Memories: True Stories of Traumatic Memories, Lost and Found. New York: Basic Books.

Van der Kolk, Bessel A., Alexander C. McFarlane, and Lars Weisaeth, eds. 1996. Traumatic Stress: The Effects of Overwhelming Experience on Mind, Body, and Society. New York: Guilford Press.


Beatty, David, Christine Edmunds, Lucy Friedman, Susan Herman, Ralph Hubbard, Janice H. Lord, Aurelia S. Belle, Brian Ogawa, Anne Seymour, John Stein, and Marlene Young. 1998. New Directions from the Field: Victims Rights and Services for the 21st Century. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime, NCJ 180315.

Gilligan, James. 1997. Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic. New York: Vintage Trade Paperbacks.

Kushner, Rabbi Harold S. 1981. When Bad Things Happen to Good People. New York: Avon Books.

Marshall, Christopher D. "Christian Care for the Victims of Crime." Stimulus (November 2003), 11–15.

Mika, Harry, Mary Achilles, Ellen Halbert, Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz, and Howard Zehr. 2002. Taking Victims and Their Advocates Seriously: A Listening Project. Akron, PA: Mennonite Central Committee Office on Crime and Justice.

Miles, Reverend Al. 2000. "Domestic Violence: What Every Pastor Needs to Know." Clergy Journal (August), 14–22.

President's Task Force on Victims of Crime. 1982. Washington, DC.

Russell, Susan S. n.d. "Creating Peaceful Communities" and "Notes on Forgiveness." Unpublished articles written for M.A.

Rynearson, Edward K. 2001. Retelling Violent Death. Philadelphia: Routledge.

Schreiter, Robert. 2001. "Reconciliation in the Global Agenda." Lecture at John Carroll University, February 18.

Streets, Reverend Frederick J. 2002. "Forgiveness Is the Word From Clergy," New Haven Register, September 8.

Zehr, Howard. 1999. "Restoring Justice." In God and the Victim: Theological Reflections on Evil, Victimization, Justice, and Forgiveness, edited by Lisa Barnes Lampman and Michelle D. Shattuck. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Bibliography and Related Resources

Adams, Carol J., and Marie M. Fortune, eds. 1996. Violence Against Women and Children: A Christian Theological Sourcebook. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Alsdurf, James, and Phyllis Alsdurf. 1989. Battered Into Submission: The Tragedy of Wife Abuse in the Christian Home. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.

Beatty, David, Christine Edmunds, Lucy Friedman, Susan Herman, Ralph Hubbard, Janice H. Lord, Aurelia S. Belle, Brian Ogawa, Anne Seymour, John Stein, and Marlene Young. 1998. New Directions from the Field: Victims' Rights and Services for the 21st Century. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime, NCJ 180315.

Boles, Anita B., and John C. Patterson. 1997. Improving Community Response to Crime Victims, An Eight-Step Model for Developing Protocol. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Center for Mental Health Services. 2000. Human-Caused Disasters: Recommendations for the Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Delaplane, Rev. David, and Anne Delaplane. 2001. Victims of Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, Elder Abuse, Rape, Robbery, Assault, and Violent Death: A Manual for Clergy and Congregations, Special Edition for Military Chaplains, 4th Edition. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime, NCJ 163707.

FaithTrust Institute (formerly the Center for the Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence). An interreligious educational resource. Seattle, WA: FaithTrust Institute.

Fortune, Marie M. 1995. Keeping the Faith: Guidance for Christian Women Facing Abuse. New York: Harper Books.

Heitritter, Lynn, and Jeanette Vought. 1989. Helping Victims of Sexual Abuse. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House.

Articles and materials from Judeo-Christian traditions.

Jenkins, Bill. 1999. What to Do When the Police Leave: A Guide to the First Days of Traumatic Loss, 2nd Edition. Richmond, VA: WBJ Press.

Lampman, Lisa Barnes, and M.D. Shattuck. 1999. God and the Victim: Theological Reflections on Evil, Victimization, Justice and Forgiveness. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Lampman, Lisa Barnes. 1997. Helping a Neighbor in Crisis. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

Lord, Janice Harris. 1988. Beyond Sympathy: What To Say and Do for Someone Suffering an Injury, Illness, and Loss. Atlanta, GA: Pathfinder Press.

Mika, Harry, Mary Achilles, Ellen Halbert, Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz, and Howard Zehr. 2002. Taking Victims and Their Advocates Seriously: A Listening Project. Akron, PA: Mennonite Central Committee Office on Crime and Justice.

Nelson, Franne Whitney. 2004. A Grief Handbook for Victim Advocates: Guiding a Family Step-by-Step Through the Aftermath of Violent Death. Waterbury, VT: Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services.

Office for Victims of Crime. 2000. Responding to Terrorism Victims: Oklahoma City and Beyond. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime, NCJ 183949.

Schreiter, Robert J., 1998. The Ministry of Reconciliation: Spirituality and Strategies. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Stone, Howard W. 1993. Crisis Counseling. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress Publishers.

Switzer, David K. 1986. The Minister as a Crisis Counselor. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention. 1999. Handbook on Justice for Victims: On the Use and Application of the United Nations Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power. New York: United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, Centre for International Crime Prevention.

Van Ness, Daniel. 1986. Crime and Its Victims. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.

Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services. 1999. Vermont Plan for Comprehensive, Integrated Victim Services. Vermont/Washington, DC: Victim Services 2000, Office for Victims of Crime/Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services.

White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. 2006. Guidance to Faith-Based and Community Organizations on Partnering With the Federal Government. Washington, DC: White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. E-publication retrieved from

White, Mary. 1995. Harsh Grief, Gentle Hope. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.

Young, Marlene A. 1998. Community Crisis Response Team Training Manual, 2nd Edition. National Organization for Victim Assistance. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime, NCJ 173406.


1 McKnight, Susan. 2004. Telephone interview, July 6.

2 Miles, Reverand Al. 2002. "Domestic Violence: What Every Pastor Needs to Know." Clergy Journal (August), 14–22.

3 McDargh, John. 2004. Telephone interview, July 8.

4 Thornton, Sharon G. 2004. E-mail correspondence, June 29.

5 Marshall, Christopher D. 2003. "Christian Care for the Victims of Crime. "Stimulus (November 2003), 11–15.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

8 Rynearson, Edward K. 2001. Retelling Violent Death. Philadelphia: Routledge.

9 See page 4 of David Baldwin's Trauma Pages for a list of articles and references about CISD. OVC and the National Organization for Victim Assistance also offer comprehensive materials on community crisis response and debriefing.

10 While establishing itself, the Chittenden County Victim Access Project tried to convene meetings of Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist leaders in the county. The project received responses primarily from the Christian clergy; however, its recommendations are intended to be faith-inclusive and generally applicable. Although the method of outreach chosen-sending letters of invitation to faith leaders—was not effective, the group attracted the attention of the Vermont Ecumenical Council (VEC). The executive secretary of VEC subsequently published a series of articles in VEC's newsletter encouraging clergy to become involved in the access project. Also through the VEC executive secretary, the training director from the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services was invited to speak to the VEC executive board about victim assistance. Collectively, these efforts led to a series of trainings offered to faith leaders around the state and to the creation of the Peaceful Communities Committee.

11 Gilligan, James. 1997. Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic. New York: Vintage Trade Paperbacks.

12 Russell, Susan. n.d. Unpublished articles written for M.A., "Creating Peaceful Communities" and "Notes on Forgiveness."

13 Marshall, Christopher D. 2003. "Christian Care for the Victims of Crime." Stimulus (November 2003), 11–15.

14 Mika, Harry, Mary Achilles, Ellen Halbert, Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz, and Howard Zehr. 2002. Taking Victims and Their Advocates Seriously: A Listening Project. Akron, PA: Mennonite Central Committee Office on Crime and Justice.

15 Ibid.

16 Beatty, David, Christine Edmunds, Lucy Friedman, Susan Herman, Ralph Hubbard, Janice H. Lord, Aurelia S. Belle, Brian Ogawa, Anne Seymour, John Stein, and Marlene Young. 1998. New Directions from the Field: Victims Rights and Services for the 21st Century. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime, NCJ 180315.

Related Links

Web Sites and Online Services

OVC's Web Forum—Forum for victim advocates, prosecutors, and other professionals to exchange promising practices.

Training and Technical Assistance Center—Web site for OVC center that provides technical assistance and training resources to victim service providers and allied professionals.

Calendar of Events—Web site integrating information on conferences, trainings, and other victim assistance-related events.

Directory of Crime Victim Services—Electronic directory for finding crime victim services.

OVC Resource Center—Information clearinghouse for emerging crime victim issues.—Site for finding funding resources from OVC.

Publications and Other Products From OVC

New Directions from the Field: Victims' Rights and Services for the 21st Century

Making Collaboration Work: The Experiences of Denver Victim Services 2000

Victims of Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, Elder Abuse, Rape, Robbery, Assault, and Violent Death: A Manual for Clergy and Congregations

Privacy of Victims' Counseling Communications

Restitution: Making It Work

Partnering With Faith Communities To Provide Elder Fraud Prevention, Intervention, and Victim Services

Resources by Topic

OVC also offers several more publications, online resources, and listings for more information on the subject. To learn more, browse through OVC's Topical Resources on—

  • Victim Assistance by Faith-Based Organizations.
  • Clergy.

Other Related Resources

Guidance for Faith-Based and Community Organizations on Partnering With the Federal Government

OVC Home | About OVC | OVC Publications | Web Site Links Disclaimer

Office of Justice Programs seal background Building Victim Assistance Networks with Faith Communities: Lessons Learned by the Vermont Victim Services 2000 Project OVC logo