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Sacred Solace? Faith community responses to domestic violence

Susan Linn Wortmann, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This project qualitatively explores how a diverse group of Eastern, New Age, Jewish, and Christian faith leaders and contact persons in a Midwestern metropolitan community provide domestic violence solace. Examining how leaders perceive domestic violence incidence in their communities, how they respond to consultation, and how they coordinate this response with the broader community, this study also analyzes how leaders are institutionally organized to address domestic violence as evidenced by their national websites. Policy recommendations for local, intermediary, and national organizations are included. Data sources include face-to-face interviews with forty-three respondents, participant observation at four community events, and content analysis of twenty-seven national religious organizations' websites. ^ Respondents' domestic violence perceptions center around three themes: “Our beliefs protect and strengthen,” “It must be happening,” and, “Our beliefs, practices and structure bring people in.” While many think their communities have some domestic violence, most do not incorporate outward indicators of this awareness. When consulted, diverse leaders typically say: “We enlist good outside help,” or “We handle it ourselves.” Three objectives underlie these external and internal responses: victim-focus, philosophical congruence, and cultural congruence. ^ Content analysis reveals that national religious websites provide mixed institutional support. Most websites address domestic violence, but quality of information varies as evidenced by presence of policy statements, feminist insights, and resource links. ^ This study concludes that while faith leaders offer responses informed by theological understandings, their responses are also mediated by the following: social structural factors; culture; and national support as evidenced by websites and leader training. ^

Subject Area

Women's Studies|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

Recommended Citation

Wortmann, Susan Linn, "Sacred Solace? Faith community responses to domestic violence" (2003). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3098177.