The Need for Collaboration
In many ways, communities of faith are well equipped to offer support to victims in the aftermath of a terrible crime. Because faith leaders already have the trust of their parishioners, they are in the unique position of working directly and immediately with victims of crime and their families. Furthermore, religious leaders can quickly mobilize resources, and many are increasingly involved with emerging issues such as clergy abuse, mass victimization, child abuse, cyber crime, and human trafficking and can use their extensive resources and services to benefit victims of crime in their congregations.
One area in which clergy have provided invaluable service is in offering faith-based support to inmates. Prison ministries, prayer groups, and offender reentry programs represent just some of the ways that congregations have expressed their missions of social justice. These offender-centered activities are well established and draw upon other models of institutional pastoral work (such as college, hospital, or military chaplains). Clearly, both the need and the opportunity exist for clergy to support victims—as well as offenders—who are members of their faith communities.
Yet despite these experiences, many religious leaders lack the particular expertise that veteran victim service providers have acquired. The VS 2000 Initiative in Vermont sought to redress that lack by implementing a model network of victim resources and training opportunities for faith communities.
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