How can faith communities address SGBV?

1. Commit to making the problem of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) a critical concern

  • Emphasize the teachings, practices, and organisational structures that promote the right to be free from violence, such as teachings that support equality and respect for women and girls. 
  • Develop theologically-based materials that emphasize everyone’s right to safety and support and a perpetrator’s personal responsibility for ending the violence. 
  • Adopt policies developed by religious leaders that outline appropriate responses to survivors and perpetrators of violence and educate leaders about child abuse reporting requirements, the importance of confidentiality and other safety issues.
  • Support local advocacy programs that provide services to survivors by encouraging faith communities to donate time, money and other material resources. 

2. Ensure that religious, spiritual, and faith-based communities are safe environments to allow survivors of violence to discuss their experiences and seek healing 

  • Encourage members and leaders of churches, synagogues, mosques, and other spiritual or faith-based groups to seek training on survivor experiences and on support that will restore and heal the survivor. 
  • Create opportunities for survivors to discuss their experiences and needs. Form support groups in collaboration with local sexual assault and domestic violence programs for women who desire faith- or spirituality-based healing.
  • Encourage members to discuss sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, and stalking within their faith communities in a manner sensitive to their cultures and backgrounds. 
  • Create or provide materials that address survivors’ concerns and offer informed referrals to various advocacy organisations. 
  • Encourage men, particularly leaders in the community, to speak out and use their influence to communicate intolerance for gender-based violence in all forms. 
  • Emphasize teachings and practices that promote equality and respect for both women and men. 
  • Integrate information on gender-based violence into existing activities. 

3. Develop strategies to address the needs of all those exposed to violence 

  • Include members of specific ethnic and cultural groups in discussions of community efforts addressing violence. 
  • Seek advice from various age groups within communities on ways to address violence. 
  • Organise youth ministry and leadership groups to educate young people about the dynamics, impact, and prevention of gender-based violence.
  • Inform leaders about the particular vulnerabilities of older people and people with disabilities who may be dependent on abusive partners or caregivers. 
  • Seek appropriate training and legal assistance before advising immigrant victims so as to avoid potentially compromising their citizenship status. 
  • Encourage support for a survivor’s continued inclusion in the community of her choice if the perpetrator is from the same community, including respecting emotional and physical safety considerations and no-contact orders. 
  • Consider the emotional and physical safety of survivors and any dependents affected by violence, including elderly relatives and children. 
  • Encourage youth workers to receive training on child abuse reporting requirements and local child welfare practices. 
  • Encourage congregations, religious community centres, and other religious institutions to adopt policies for employees, members, and participants who may be survivors or perpetrators of violence. 

5. Draw on the resources of secular survivor service, advocacy, and perpetrator treatment programs to enhance community responses to SGBV

  • Network with survivor service and advocacy programs to locate religious and secular allies on the local, regional, state, and national levels. 
  • Use the resources of other religious groups and existing SGBV survivor advocacy organisations to develop policies, protocols, and educational materials appropriate to specific traditions.
  • Learn about local secular community protocols for handling SGBV. 
  • Make appropriate and informed referrals to local secular programs that have the expertise to help survivors or perpetrators, including the legal community, healthcare system, and child welfare system. 
  • Collaborate with perpetrator treatment programs to hold perpetrators accountable for their violence.

This great toolkit for integrating LGBTI issues into HIV and GBV Prevention is designed to: 

  • Build knowledge and skills around the rights and needs of LGBTI, with specific reference to preventing both HIV and GBV, and reducing the risk of LGBTI people to both epidemics.
  • Be a tool for advocacy purposes to build policy and programme support for LGBTI within the HIV and GBV arena, at community, national and regional levels.
  • Inform HIV and GBV programme and policy planning, ensuring that the rights and needs of LGBTI are considered.
Read more: Toolkit for integrating LGBTI issues into HIV & GBV prevention