Millions of Americans call upon clergy and religious leaders for spiritual guidance, support, and information in times of personal crisis.1 One 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' needs.
See the box at the right for detailed information about OVC's initiatives
in this area.
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.
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