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This last segment on faith community/church leadership role is taken from one of 26 sidebars in my book Redeem the Silence; an Unintended Journey.

A person in a pastoral role or other faith community leadership can offer information on community resources, inform the survivor what the community might be prepared to offer, and make clear what the limitations on that might be.  Ideally, there could be a mutually-developed cooperative approach between leadership, the congregation membership, and community resources.  One thing that can really be helpful for a pastoral leader to do is simply initiate checking in with the survivor on occasion, particularly on ‘anniversary’ dates of past SV for the survivor.  To have this kind of support, maybe up to a couple of years, really offers support as a spiritual guide, and someone important who realizes that ‘anniversary’ dates really offer an opportunity to provide rare but essential support (I have written more on anniversary dates in the book).  A survivor’s family has been traumatized too.  Husbands, wives, children, even extended  family, will need help, whether they think so or not.  It is your job to offer it, you cannot do anything about whether they will accept it.  You don’t need to do it all, but you will have an opportunity to play a pivotal role in minimizing unnecessary suffering.

One source of caution to all faith leaders:  even supportive touch such as placing your hands on the shoulders of a survivor may be threatening to her.  Reassurance and support may best be communicated in nonphysical ways.  Any use of touch must occur only with direct permission from the survivor, whether the support person is male or female. 

Confidentiality is of the utmost importance; never speak of a survivor’s story or allude to her experience to anyone else, regardless of how harmless that might seem to you.  Violation may cause a further trauma for the survivor.  Inform her of the requirements to report to authorities if she is under 18 and tells you that someone in her environment is abusing her, even if the perpetrator is well-respected in the congregation and a big financial donor.  The under-age-18 person must be protected at whatever the cost.  Most states require a report if the perpetrator has access for children–even if the abuse was in the past.  It is better to risk offending/hurting the feelings of an adult in the role of protecting a child rather refuse to ‘rock-the-boat.’  God will bless doing what is right in His economy, not ours.

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