All faith communities (i.e. spiritual or religious communities) experience domestic violence at the same rates. However, for women in faith communities, the faith community may play a critical role in responding to abuse in her life.
Who are Newcomer Women in Faith Communities?
Newcomer women in faith communities are immigrant, refugee, temporary foreign worker, or non-status women who identify as belonging to a faith community any sect or denomination of Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, or Indigenous Spiritualities. They may actively attend a specific congregation or events, and be connected to a community of other people identifying with their particular faith.
How is Violence Against Newcomer Women in Faith Communities Distinct?
This section will cover the specific experiences of violence that newcomer women in faith communities may face. Please add this information to what you learned in the sections on violence against women, the types of violence and the warning signs of domestic violence.
In addition to other abuse tactics, abusers can use the faith community as part of their violence. For example:
- The abuser may restrict or try to control spiritual or religious practices or beliefs
Example: a senior immigrant woman’s family refuses to allow her to practice specific rituals, uses degrading language to describe her practice, or forces her to convert or practice against her will
- The abuser may not allow participation in a faith community
Example: the partner of a refugee woman refuses to allow her to attend religious gatherings at the local temple
- The abuser may manipulate a faith to justify his abuse
Example: an abuser tells a non-status woman that God gives him the right to have sex with her whenever he wants
How Can Faith Communities Respond to Abuse?
Since faith communities may play an important role in newcomer women’s lives, it is important that they are able to respond to situations of abuse. Some examples of how a faith community can respond in a positive and helpful way are:
- A faith leader notices that a newcomer woman appears to be dealing with violence or abuse, and reaches out to her to offer support
- A faith leader affirms that violence, abuse and forced marriage is not allowed within their faith
- A faith leader does not make excuses for the abuser and does not ask the woman being abused to stay with her abusive partner or be “patient”
- A faith leader gives lectures/talks that discuss domestic violence and how it is not acceptable – there is no silence about this issue
- A faith leader has built relationships with women’s shelters and Partner Assault Response Programs in the community
- A faith community gathers around a newcomer woman to support her as she heals from a violent or abusive situation
- A faith community leads a public awareness campaign about violence against women