FAITH IN VIOLENCE FREE FAMILIES
SEMAH participated in inter-faith Faith in Violence Free Families (FIVFF), Building Partnerships for Change project which was funded by the California Department of Public Health, Epidemiology and Prevention for Injury Control Branch (EPIC). The FIVFF project was managed by transforming Communities: Technical Assistance, Training, and Resource Center (TC-TAT), which is part of the Marine Abused Women's services. SEMAH co-founder, Reshma Inamdar was a facilitator for several years and SEMAH co-sponsored and facilitated workshops for four years through the project. We continue to help disseminate the information through our website and ongoing community workshops and meetings.
The project's focus was on prevention and on educating faith leaders to address domestic violence in their congregations.
The project was based on the philosophy of prevention highlighted through the following story found in the FIVFF workbook:
There is a classic story that illustrates the concept of public health prevention. A fisherman/fisherwoman was on the bank of a river. Just as he/she was about to cast his/her line, a drowning person came floating downstream. The fisherman/fisherwoman leapt into the water and rescued the drowning person. Every time the fisherman/fisherwoman started to fish, another person in trouble came floating down the river. After several rescues, the fisherman/fisherwoman decided to go upstream and see why these people were ending up in the river.
"Going upstream" represents primary prevention—preventing an adverse event from ever occurring in the first place. While we want to save those who are in the river of family violence, we also want to set in place strategies that will prevent this violence from ever occurring. Faith leaders and domestic violence prevention advocates are important partners in this work. We thank you all, from whatever professions you come, for being here today and encourage you to "go upstream" with us. Together we can make a difference.
Why Build Alliances With Community Professionals?
An important part of prevention is working together with others for change. Beyond the level of reaching out to individuals and families lies the community at large, and in the community, you will find many like-minded individuals that support peace in the home.
Collaboration with community professionals opens up doors to violence prevention activities that are not easily seen or accessed by the individual faith leader. And there is an added bonus for the community. The presence of a faith leader in a prevention effort is synergistic. So consider walking through that door. You will find a plethora of prevention activities within your community.
Those who work with families affected by violence realize that it takes the collaborative effort of many individuals to help an affected individual or family heal and take up a new, peaceful life. It is not a job you can do alone. Faith leaders and community domestic violence advocates need each other, for the following reasons.
Faith professionals are sometimes ill-equipped to address abuse because they may:
Lack of basic information about family violence prevention and intervention.
Be in denial that abuse could happen in their congregation.
Misinterpret their own sacred texts, and therefore give poor guidance.
Conversely, family violence professionals are sometimes ill-equipped to deal with religion because they may:
Lack of training in religious issues.
Lack personal religious experience, or even feel biased against religion.
Working together with community professionals promotes understanding, fosters new alliances, and ultimately benefits those affected by family violence.