Protestant Pastors Survey on Sexual and Domestic Violence

June 2014

Sexual and domestic violence inflicts deep emotional, physical, and spiritual harm on the individuals who endure it. It also inflicts long-term damage to communities by reinforcing discriminatory social, economic, and political dynamics that disfigure social and familial relationships and rob people of opportunity, safety, and peace.
Curious about the Protestant Christian community’s understanding of and response to this violence, Sojourners and IMA World Health (on behalf of WeWillSpeakOut.US) commissioned a survey of Protestant pastors’ views on sexual and domestic violence.
The Survey, perhaps the first of its kind in the U.S., reveals an unrealized potential within churches for the prevention of and response to sexual and domestic violence. It begins with awareness: an overwhelming majority of the faith leaders surveyed (74%) underestimate the level of sexual and domestic violence experienced within their congregations, leading to infrequent discussions of the issue from the pulpit as well as a lack of appropriate support for victims. Additionally, only 56% of pastors are adequately familiar with local resources that specifically address sexual and domestic violence, creating missed opportunities for victims to access services. And distressingly, the survey also found that even pastors who have handled incidents of violence may not be offering appropriate advice to those who are suffering, potentially doing more harm than good.
Though this Survey showed that churches are currently falling short of their potential, there was encouragement:
81% of pastors said they would take appropriate action to reduce sexual and domestic violence if they had the training and resources to do so—revealing a great opportunity to turn this uncertain and unprepared group into powerful advocates for prevention, intervention, and healing.

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