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Serving Victims' Spiritual Needs

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.26

The path to spiritual healing from sexual assault is unique for each individual. It may mean victims need to find new definitions and a new understanding of their beliefs within the context of the assault. Yet, in some jurisdictions, representatives of the religious community go to court or prisons to comfort and assist the accused but have not developed programs to assist victims.

The faith community has a unique role in sexual assault victims' lives. The Vermont Victim Services Faith Community Initiative (VS 2000) strongly recommends that victim assistance providers reach out to local faith leaders, invite them to participate in trainings and conferences, and invite them to collaborate so they may effectively serve victims who look to them for comfort and spiritual care.27 Faith-based providers on SARTs can help the team develop and publish policies and protocols that include intervention and prevention initiatives specific to individual's spiritual needs.28 For example, VS 2000 set out to address the lack of specialized training among clergy through a pilot project in Chittenden County, where more than one-fourth of all Vermont residents live. Their initiative included program startup, relationship building, and sustainability for faith-based programs.29

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