Back to Table of Contents



The Spiritual Dimension in Victim Services

The Spiritual Dimension in Victim Services is a resource to both the religious community and to victim and social service providers.

Its purposes are to . . .

The Spiritual Dimension is a non-profit educational corporation. It maintains an exempt status under Section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue code.


P.O. Box 6736
Denver, Colorado 80206-0736
Phone: (303)333-8810
Fax: (303)333-8805


This manual is being offered to pastors, priests, rabbis, military, hospital and prison chaplains, other specialized clergy, lay leaders and religious counselors of all faiths as an elementary guide to understanding the issues confronting victims of crime. It also offers suggestions on what you and those in your sphere of ministry can do to address the complex issues of the victims of crime and violence who are present in the congregations of every church, temple or synagogue, on military installations, certainly in hospitals and in your community. Although it is difficult to look into the pain of family violence and other forms of victimization, it cannot be denied that such suffering is an ever present reality.

In considering the needs of the victim you are, in a very real way, identifying with the prophets of Israel -- with Ezekiel who "sat where they sat" (1) and with Jeremiah who, out of the depths of compassion, cried, "For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded. I mourn, and dismay has taken hold on me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why, then has the daughter of my people not been restored?" (2)

The Christians among you, in choosing to minister to victims, are responding to the powerful message of the One you call Savior and Lord, as given in the often recalled story of the Good Samaritan. This story tells of the failure of two individuals, and the ministry of one to a victim of crime. At the end, Jesus asked, "Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the man who fell in with the robbers?" The answer came, "The one who treated him with compassion." To which Jesus replied, "Then go and do likewise." (3)

Your concern for victims is reflected in the prayer of one of the saints of the church.

"Oh, God, Creator of us all, I do not aspire to comprehend You, nor Your creation, nor to understand pain or suffering. I aspire only to relieve the pain and suffering of others, and I trust in doing so, I may understand more clearly Your nature, that You are the Parent of all humankind, and that the hairs of my head are numbered."

St. Francis of Assisi

(1) Ezekiel 3:15 KJV
(2) Jeremiah 8:21, 22 KJV
(3) St. Luke 10:36, 37 NAB

Subject Matter

Since the publication of The Report of the President's Task Force on Victims of Crime, 1982, two other significant task force reports have been published. They are The Attorney General's Task Force on Family Violence, 1984, and The President's Child Safety Partnership, 1987.

The first report dealt broadly with the entire spectrum of crime in America. The last two covered more specific crimes within the family and against children.

Although we have been asked by the Office for Victims of Crime to place primary emphasis upon the child and family issues of the two latter reports, other crimes of violence will also be considered.

This manual is designed as an elementary overview of present understanding and experience regarding victimization by the following crimes:

Section I Child Abuse and Neglect

Section II Spousal/Partner Abuse

Section III Rape -- Sexual Assault*

Section IV Abuse of the Elderly

Section V Robbery/Assault/Burglary

Section VI Violent Death

Note: At the end of each of the above sections is a segment outlining suggested Positive Clergy and Congregational Responses to the Needs of Victims.

Section VII Planning and Conducting a Clergy Training Event

* There are those in the field who have suggested substituting the term "sexual assault" for the term "rape". However, in deference to rape crisis center opinion the stronger word has been maintained throughout.


Recommendations For The Ministry

"In hearing after hearing across the country, victims identified the religious community as a vital and largely untapped source of support for crime victims. The government may compensate for economic loss; the state may punish; doctors may physically heal; but 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. It is in recognition of the unique role of the ministry that we offer the following recommendations.

1. The ministry should recognize and address the needs of crime victims.

2. The ministry should develop both seminary and in-service training on the criminal justice system, the needs of victims, and ways to restore victims' spiritual and material health."


The report continues with the following commentary.

"All too often, representatives from the religious community come to court only to give comfort, support, and assistance to the accused. This is indeed a noble endeavor, and this Task Force would not seek to discourage it. However, what we do seek, here as elsewhere, is a balance, a recognition that the victim certainly no less than the victimizer is in need of aid, comfort, and spiritual ministry. There is as great a need for a ministry to victims as there is for a ministry to prisoners.

"The almost total lack of church involvement in this area is not due to any failure of charity or compassion. The clergy operate under the same misconceptions and lack of information that contribute to secular insensitivity. Most people fail to meet the needs of crime victims because they do not appreciate the demands that the crime, the system, and the consequences of victimization impose. Seminary and in-service training that addresses the victim's needs is as necessary for the minister as it is for the doctor, the lawyer, or the psychologist.

"There is much that can be done in addition to extending a willingness to listen and pray and give counsel. Ministers and their congregations can help meet important needs. In some counties the victim/witness assistance program is operated by interfaith groups. In others, churches have undertaken extensive volunteer projects that provide 24 hour crisis counseling and court escort services in addition to emergency housing, food, and clothing. In some cities, ministers, priests and rabbis have formed an interdenominational chaplaincy corps that is on 24-hour call to go to the scene of a crime, to the hospital, or to the homes of victims' families to ensure that this tragic information is imparted with care, and to provide the counsel and solace that they are so uniquely qualified to bring.

"In most of these programs, the laity as well as the clergy are deeply involved. Even if there are programs offered by secular groups, or if the church is unable to cooperate in an extensive undertaking, each congregation should be mindful that every year, every congregation will have members who are victimized. It is hoped that these victims could turn to their community of faith to find understanding and support. In addition, those without faith also need help. Churches that minister only to their own meet but a small part of the problem and may discharge only a measure of their obligation."

Quotations Placed in the Margins of the Report

"Many times people will trust a clergyman when they would not trust a police officer, and they will listen to us, relative to how they can be protected." Rev. H. A. Hunderup, Police Department Chaplaincy Corps, Portsmouth, VA

"We were left alone to bury our daughter. More than 2,000 people attended the funeral but after the services everyone seemed to disappear. People don't know what to do or say so they stay away. Even the religious stayed away. To this day they visit the killer and his family weekly, but for the victim's family there doesn't seem to be any time." A Victim

"I found myself questioning some of the deep basic beliefs that I had grown up with. At one time they comforted me." Another Victim

(1) For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402


On November 23, 1994, The Department of Defense issued Directive Number 1030.1. Subject: Victim and Witness Assistance. Also, included with this directive was an accompanying Department of Defense Instruction Number 1030.2. Subject: Victim and Witness Assistance Procedures. The full text of Directive 1030.1 and Instruction 1030.2 are in the supplement section of this manual.

Following are excerpts from the directive which will be of interest to chaplains in their victim and witness assistance.

"Policy It is the DoD policy that:

The necessary role of crime victims and witnesses in the criminal justice process should be enhanced and protected.

The DoD Components shall do all that is possible within the limits of available resources to assist victims and witnesses of crime, in accordance with the requirements listed in DoD Instruction 1030.2 without infringing on the constitutional rights of the accused. Particular attention should be paid to victims of serious, violent crime, including child abuse, domestic violence, and sexual misconduct.

Officers and employees engaged in the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crimes, shall ensure that victims are accorded their rights . . . . a crime victim has the right to:

a. Be treated with fairness and respect for the victim's dignity and privacy.

b. Be reasonably protected from the accused offender.

c. Be notified of court proceedings.

d. Be present at all public court proceedings related to the offense, unless the court determines that testimony by the victim would be materially affected if the victim heard other testimony at trial.

e. Confer with the attorney for the Government in the case.

f. Receive available restitution.

g. Be provided information about the conviction, sentencing, imprisonment, and release of the offender.

Court-martial convening authorities and clemency and parole boards shall consider making restitution to the victim a condition of granting pretrial agreements, reduced sentences, clemency, and parole. They may consider victim statements on the impact of crime."


The Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness shall:

Establish Victim and Witness Assistance Council to provide a forum for the exchange of information and the consideration of victim and witness policies, and provide a liaison with the Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime.

The Secretaries of the Military Departments and the Heads of the Other DoD Components shall:

Designate the 'Component Responsible Official...'

Designate a central repository...for each Military Service, to ensure that victims shall be notified of changes in confinee status,

Ensure that a multi-disciplinary approach is followed by victim and witness service providers, including law enforcement personnel, criminal investigators, chaplains, family advocacy personnel, emergency room personnel, family service center personnel, and other persons designated by the Secretaries of the Military Departments; and ensure that those providers receive training to assist them in complying with this Directive. (Emphasis added)

Ensure distribution to local responsible officials of the DOJ Federal Resource Guide on Victim and Witness Assistance

Establish procedures to ensure that local installation responsible officials:

(1) Provide victim and witness services as required in DoD Instruction 1030.2 at the installation level through coordination with the representatives identified in paragraph d., above.

(2) Maintain the DOJ Federal Resource Guide on Victim and Witness Assistance as a reference."


This edition of Victims: A Manual for Clergy and Congregations has been edited to address particularly military chaplains. It is a component of a training project funded by the Office for Victims of Crime, U.S. Department of Justice known as Clergy In-Service Initiative IV. This training project is being conducted in cooperation with representatives from the U.S. Department of Defense. An advisory committee, members of which are listed below, has contributed to the editing of this manual and to the oversight and implementation of this training project.

Advisory Committee

Armed Forces Chaplains Board

Chaplain (Col.) Cecil R. Richardson, Executive Director

Army Chaplain (Lt.Col.) Terry A. Dempsey, Training and Professional

Development Officer, Office of Chief of Chaplains

Chaplain (Maj.) Lawrence C. Krause, Soldiers and Family Ministries

Officer, Chaplaincy Service Support Agency

Navy Capt. J. David Atwater, CHC, Director, Plans, Programs, and

Professional Development Division, Office of Chief of Chaplains

CDR Steve Epperson, CHC, Special Assistant for Ethics, Assistant

Chief of Naval Personnel; Personnel, Readiness and Community


CDR Bill Reed, NETPMSA (OOG) Assistant Chaplain Program


Air Force Chaplain (Col.) Jack Williamson, Chief, Plans & Programs Division,

Office of the Chief of the Chaplain Service

Chaplain (Lt.Col.) Tom Sandy, Hq. USAF HC

Chaplain (Col.) Charles C. Baldwin, Director, USAF Chaplain

Service Institute

Chaplain (Lt.Col.Select) Joseph Wallroth, Chaplain and Intermediate Course

Director, USAF Chaplain Services Institute

This training project is the fifth in a series of Clergy In-Service Training Initiatives for clergy and religious leaders funded by the Office for Victims of Crime, U.S. Department of Justice.


A crime victim has the following rights:

(1) The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim's dignity and privacy.

(2) The right to be reasonably protected from the accused offender.

(3) The right to be notified of court proceedings.

(4) The right to be present at all public court proceedings related to the offense, unless the court determines that testimony by the victim would be materially affected if the victim heard other testimony at trial.

(5) The right to confer with attorney for the Government in the case.

(6) The right to restitution.

(7) The right to information about the conviction, sentencing, imprisonment, and release of the offender.

Victims' Rights and Restitution Act of 1990

42 USC 10606-10607

Archive iconThe information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.