Faith and Religion

  • “None of us as helpers should ever put a battered woman in the position of having to choose between her safety and the support of her religious community. She needs both... and it’s up to us to provide that.”
Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune, Director, FaithTrust Institute

Religion and faith are deeply held beliefs for many people. They can play a major role in how victims deal with domestic violence. Victims may look to faith leaders for help. Or they may turn to people with similar religious beliefs. Often victims use these supports before, or instead of, traditional domestic violence services. Having knowledge about the impact of domestic violence and the help available can aid faith communities in offering the proper support to victims.

If people believe that their faith community will blame victims instead of abusers, or ask victims to return to dangerous situations, they may steer them away from this as a source of help.

Any helper not trained to support victims with ties to faith may, without realizing it, add to the victims’ feelings of rejection, loneliness and guilt. Fortunately, faith leaders and domestic violence program staff have been working together more closely to provide the best help possible for victims.

See Professional Resources for Faith Leaders

What Abusers May Do

Abusers may cite some religious teachings to excuse abusive behavior. Religion also may be used to justify their ideas about who should have the power within a relationship. They may try to make the victim feel guilty for not following those teachings.

Abusers may keep their victims from going to church, temple, mosque or other houses of worship in order to prevent them from asking for help from others. Or they may beat them so the victim is too embarrassed to go and have others see the bruises.

How is Faith Used to Justify Power and Control Over Women and Children?

These Power and Control Wheels are adapted from the Domestic Violence Power and Control Wheel developed by the Domestic Abuse Project of Duluth, Minnesota.

Judeo-Christian - Power and Control of Women in Patriarchal Society, and Women Created in God’s Image as Equal to Men Wheels - Domestic Violence:A Focus Guide For Clergy And Religious Leaders - Lincoln-Lancaster County (NE) Health Department

Muslim Wheel of Domestic Violence - Developed by Dr. Sharifa Alkhateeb to convey some of the ways religion can be distorted to justify abuse against women and children in the family context.

Many Faith-Based Communities Are Formed Around Race, Ethnic, and/or Cultural Identities

Race, Ethnicity And Culture As Critical Factors In Accessing Domestic Violence Resources This special collection highlights Asian and Pacific Islander, African American, Latina/o and Native American resources that have been developed to specifically address the cultural differences of domestic violence in these communities.

Violence in the Home is a Global Phenomenon Immigrant and Refugee Power and Control Wheel - This wheel developed by Bri Chomilo shows examples of violence - real threats that immigrant and refugee women face if forced to return home or if they "cause trouble" to their family or community in the U.S.

Victim Safety

Responding to violence between people can be difficult, especially when it involves a family that everybody seems to like. Sometimes the victim will make light of what is happening if someone asks about the abuse. There are many reasons why this may happen. The safety of the victim and her children may depend on whether the abuser knows if she is attempting to get help. If the abuser finds out and punishes the victim, it makes it harder to reach out again.

PCADV Works to Support Families and Communities

  • PCADV’s member programs work in every county to provide emergency shelter, housing options and other services to help domestic violence victims and their families obtain safety and justice.
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