Reducing Intimate Partner Violence among Older Women: Response Readiness in a Rural Faith-Based Community
Roberto, Karen A.
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Faith leaders and lay clergy are natural sources of support for their parishioners. Clergy members are likely to be aware of family relationship problems and are equipped to provide emotional and spiritual support. As their foundation of trust builds with church members, they are better situated to offer sanctuary (physical, mental, and spiritual) to victims of violence and their families. However, interviews with clergy and lay clergy on their preparedness to respond to intimate partner violence (IPV) against older woman revealed that they do not feel adequately prepared to identify the signs of abuse, talk about the abuse, or identify a range of viable community support options. Furthermore, some clergy held ageist attitudes and lacked basic knowledge of age-related issues (e.g., health benefits), life transitions (e.g., retirement), or interpersonal issues (e.g., why a woman would prefer to divulge abuse details to another woman), which impacts their ability to respond to victims appropriately. Moreover, clergy expressed uncertainty about how to address violence in a manner that is consistent with the pastoral counseling model based on benevolence i.e., God is love, love one another, God forgives our sins, etc.), taught in seminaries. Future work on IPV with the faith-based community should include strategies to raise awareness of IPV, educate clergy and lay clergy on how to refer and work with other community providers, and include references from holy texts to guide pastoral responses.