Millions of Americans call upon clergy and religious leaders for
spiritual guidance, support, and information in times of personal
study found that people responding to the death of someone close
to them were almost five times more likely to seek the aid of a clergy
person than all other mental health sources combined.2
Although the faith community historically has provided prison ministry
programs, few religious institutions have developed programs specifically
to serve crime victims and their families, and few of the victim
assistance programs funded under the Victims of Crime Act are operated
by religious organizations. However, faith communities have joined
with victim service programs and made substantial progress in expanding
this important source of support. The Office for Victims of Crime
(OVC) supports several collaborative projects between the faith and
victim assistance communities designed to improve the response of
faith-based practitioners to victims of crime. These initiatives
will also help communities create services through their faith-based
organizations, network with secular victim service programs, and
train providers and members of the faith community to meet victims'
Collaborative Response to Crime Victims in Urban Areas
Through a cooperative agreement with the Maryland Crime Victims
Resource Center (MCVRC), OVC is supporting the development of networks
of faith-based and victim service programs in five urban communities—St.
Paul, Minnesota; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Baltimore, Maryland;
Concord, California; and Nashville, Tennessee. MCVRC is continuing
the work of the Stephanie Roper Foundation, which was created in
1982 as a victim service organization. MCVRC has shifted the focus
of the organization's mission from direct services to training and
technical assistance, legal advocacy, and outreach to low-income
victims. Under the project, each site will strengthen partnerships
between faith institutions and victim assistance programs to maximize
the faith community's involvement in supporting victims. MCVRC serves
as the conduit of funding and provides technical assistance for the
pilot sites, which began their 3-year projects in June 2003. For
more information, visit MCVRC's
Web site or call 3019520063.
Protocol Development for Community-Based Grief Centers
In 1989, Separation and Loss Services at Virginia Mason Medical
Center (VMMC) in Seattle, Washington, initiated a support program
for family members of victims of violent death. With the cooperation
of the county medical examiner, this community support program continues
to contact Seattle families affected by homicide to offer outreach,
advocacy, and clinical intervention.
To further enhance these services, OVC initiated a cooperative agreement
with VMMC that is intended to help five cities prepare for incidents
of mass violence and terrorism and crimes that affect entire communities,
such as school shootings and sniper attacks. This project will bring
together victim service providers, mental health practitioners, criminal
justice professionals, community leaders, and members of the faith
community to design protocols for establishing grief centers in the
event of community violence. The cities undertaking the 1-year pilot
projects are Houston, Texas; Altoona, Pennsylvania; Lockport, New
York; Detroit, Michigan; and Memphis, Tennessee. VMMC will serve
as the conduit of funding to the pilot sites and provide guidance
for site staff. For more information, visit www.vdbs.org.
A partnership between the Mobile County District Attorney's Office,
police, local churches, community organizations, and volunteers,
the Good Samaritans program responds to the emergency needs of victims,
makes referrals to service agencies, and offers victims emotional
and spiritual support. The Good Samaritans project will develop a
training curriculum on effective volunteering that will cover ethics
and confidentiality, an overview of the impact of crime on victims,
communication skills, guidelines for responding to crises, and self-care.
In addition, the project will train volunteers and professionals,
reach out to community members through public service announcements
and a Web site, and identify a pilot site in which to replicate the
initiative. The national office of Volunteers of America and the
National District Attorneys Association are partners in this effort.
For more information, visit the Mobile
County District Attorney's Office Web site.
Helping and Lending Outreach Support (HALOS)
HALOS was initiated in April 1997 by the Medical University of South
Carolina (MUSC) and is a collaboration among the MUSC departments
of pediatrics and psychiatry, the Exchange Club Center, College of
Charleston Center for Learning, Lowcountry Children's Center, Charleston
County Department of Social Services (DSS), and the faith, business,
and civic communities. By supplementing caseworker budgets, the program
provides child abuse victims with services and support above and
beyond what DSS caseworkers are typically able to offer. In addition
to partnering with HALOS by "adopting" a DSS caseworker,
organizations, businesses, and community members can participate
in the program by making donations, providing services or materials,
helping with transportation, and recruiting teachers. Some of the
regular services provided by HALOS partners include summer camp opportunities,
birthday salutes, back-to-school drives, and holiday giving programs.
HALOS also assists vulnerable adults served by DSS. OVC is funding
the program to evaluate its existing protocols and to expand and
develop protocols and information for possible replication in other
communities. For more information, visit the HALOS
Community Chaplaincy Program
Law Enforcement Chaplaincy Sacramento (LECS) was incorporated in
1977 and trains chaplains to serve as first responders to victims.
Its roster of emergency responders includes about 90 trained and
credentialed volunteer chaplains. Of those 90, about 20 are licensed
or ordained chaplains who serve law enforcement employees, and about
70 chaplains who serve the community at large. LECS has long-standing
relationships with 14 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies
and responds to homicides or suspicious deaths; assaults; barricaded
subjects with or without hostages; kidnappings; alcohol-related collisions;
rapes; child, spouse, or elder abuse; and other incidents. In addition
to providing a comforting presence, chaplains may also help victims
deal with stressful situations; provide information and resources;
arrange for emergency food, clothing, transportation, or shelter;
and refer victims to a broad network of public and private agencies.
To accomplish the program's goals, its staff plan to modify and
expand an existing LECS curriculum to include guidance on responding
to incidents of mass violence. Topics covered in the training curriculum
include an overview of the grief process, confidentiality, appropriate
responses to victims and survivors, death notification, working with
children and adolescents, working with the elderly and disabled,
working with diverse cultures, responding to large-scale incidents,
secondary trauma, and self-care for responders. They will then pilot
test the revised curriculum on volunteer chaplains in other sites
and work with those sites to establish community chaplaincy programs.
For more information, visit the Law
Enforcement Chaplaincy Sacramento Web site.
Faith Community Professional Education Initiative
The Faith Community Professional Education Initiative will incorporate
victimization dynamics into seminary curricula. Under a previous
project, the Denver VALE Board and the Denver Seminary collaborated
to develop the "Victimization: Seminary Education in Pastoral
Counseling" curriculum to instruct seminary students on the
issues victims face. This initiative will identify schools of professional
religious education representing a range of faiths in which the curriculum
will be pilot tested, then refined and broadly disseminated. To complement
this project, OVC will support the production of a promising practices
video highlighting effective and innovative faith-based victim service
programs. The video will feature both direct service and education
initiatives that improve how faith communities respond to victims.
For more information, visit the Denver
District Attorney's Web site.
Communities Against Senior Exploitation (CASE) Partnership
OVC is supporting a training project to help faith-based practitioners
identify and intervene in cases of elder financial fraud and exploitation.
The Denver District Attorney's Office, working with Denver's faith-based
institutions, has developed the Communities Against Senior Exploitation
(CASE) Partnership program, which provides community-based services
related to elder financial fraud prevention, intervention, reporting,
and victim support. The partnership includes a train-the-trainer
program and weekly financial crime prevention messages and urgent
alerts. Specifically, the project trains staff and volunteers at
faith institutions and uses these partners to educate the elderly
about fraud in general and to warn them about specific fraudulent
schemes as they become known. A grant award supports both the continuation
and expansion of the CASE Partnership program and its replication
in another Colorado county. The award also provides for intensive
technical assistance to the new site to build a similar initiative
in that community. The project targets many types of fraud and exploitation
against elders and focuses particularly on underserved populations.
The Family Violence Project
The Family Violence Project is a collaboration of the courts, schools,
faith community, and social services of Orange County, California,
whose ultimate goal is to eliminate violence in the family and community.
The project actively works with the county's faith community and,
with the collaboration of the Orange County Superior Court, sponsors
an annual interfaith conference. The goals of the conference are
to educate the clergy about domestic violence and teen dating violence,
to assist clergy in appropriately counseling victims, and to teach
clergy when and how to help victims seek secular assistance. For
more information, visit the Family
Violence Project Web site.
Helping Outreach Programs to Expand (HOPE)
OVC directly supports grassroots victim service efforts. The HOPE
grant program provides grassroots community-based victim organizations
and coalitions with up to $5,000 to network, develop programs, build
coalitions, and deliver services. Faith-based victim service programs
are eligible to apply for these grants and to use the funds to develop
and disseminate brochures, newsletters, and other victim-related
materials to the community; to provide financial support for advocates
and volunteers to attend victim-related training conferences; and
to support a 24-hour crisis counseling hotline. Some innovative uses
of HOPE funding include establishing a support crisis hotline; offering
SMILE Bags that contain personal care items, stuffed toys, books,
and so forth for women and children who are victims; and supporting
National Crime Victims' Rights Week activities.
OVC recognizes the vital importance of enlisting the faith community
to serve both the spiritual and material needs of victims of crime.
Consistent with the mission of the Justice Department's Task Force
for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, OVC continues to reach
out to faith-based organizations and groups to encourage their participation
in OVC programs. We hope our partnership with them will result in
better and more complete services for crime victims.
1. H.P. Chalfant,
P.L. Heller, A. Roberts, D. Briones, S. Aguirre-Hochbaum, and W.
Farr, 1990, "The Clergy as a Resource for Those Encountering
Psychological Distress," Review of Religious Research 31(3):305-313.
2. J. Verhoff,
R.A. Kulka, and E. Douvan, 1981, Mental Health in America, New
York: Basic Books.