Faith communities can be both a place of healing and a place of pain for survivors. As is true with all institutions, there are structures and practices that can both protect and harm individuals.
It is important to emphasize that specific religions do not cause abuse to happen; rather we must examine the ways in which people play a part in creating an environment of silence within religious institutions. Silence becomes embedded in the organizational practices of institutions but that does not mean it is a part of the spiritual aspect of a given religious practice. Congregants can both hold perpetrators accountable and still have deep religious faith. Abuse happens where there is systemic unchecked power. Although there have been many high profile cases and investigations, sexual violence is not isolated or unique to specific to the Catholic Church.
Many faith traditions advocate for peace, harmony, social justice, healing, and spiritual support. The sense of community that faith can offer may be an important resource for healing sexual violence whether the abuse happened within the context of an institution or outside of it.
While the teachings and practices of faith groups can, at times, create challenges in addressing sexual violence, they also have the capacity to be significant resources to aid both victim healing and perpetrator accountability. Through collaboration with faith communities, we can make these resources available and help to change the social norms and institutional practices that justify and reinforce abuse.
FaithTrust Institute: a national, multifaith, multicultural training and education organization with global reach working to end sexual and domestic violence.
Children of Combahee: Confronting Child Sexual Abuse in the Black Church
Faith Communities Toolkits: Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation
Heart Women & Girls: HEART promotes sexual health and sexual violence awareness in Muslim communities through health education, advocacy, research and training.
Building Victim Assistance Networks With Faith Communities from the Office for Victims of Crime