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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

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

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