Religion has been defined as a personal or institutionalized system grounded in the belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe. Relatedly, spirituality has been defined as thinking about one’s self as part of a larger spiritual force or the personal path of the soul consciousness. And along similar lines, one’s faith can be defined as confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of religion or spirituality.
As domestic violence victims search for means of coping with, living with, or leaving an abusive partner, many turn to their religious institutions and religious families for strength, comfort, and support. Research has found that many survivors of domestic violence identify spirituality and their identity within their faith community as integral components of their identity and experience. Many identify their God or spirituality as a source of strength or comfort for them and report attending religious services. As a result, many survivors view both their experience of abuse and recovery from abuse as occurring within the context of their faith. Survivors have expressed feelings of spiritual anguish in the midst of the abuse.
Many abused women, especially those in closed religious or ethnic communities, are more likely to disclose their experience of violence within their religious communities. Some of these communities have minimized, denied, or enabled the abuse. Others have provided much needed social support, practical assistance, and spiritual encouragement. Some abused women find that other women within these communities discreetly and informally provide them with much needed forms of support. Social support from religious institutions (e.g., churches, synagogues, mosques) has been found to be a key factor in many women’s abilities to rebuild their lives and family relationships. Unconditional love and acceptance from their supreme being (i.e., God) and the desire for a loving religious family is an expressed need for many survivors. Those women with a welcoming, caring religious experience have reported feelings of hope for healing after an abusive relationship. Spiritual healing groups, therefore, have been identified as a need for those who are survivors of family violence. Researchers have concurred that because of the importance of spirituality in the lives of many victims of family violence and the spiritual distress that can be caused by victimization, spiritual healing is necessary in order to restore one’s sense of meaningfulness of and power over their lives.
- Gillum, T. L., Sullivan, C. M., & Bybee, D. (2006). The importance of spirituality in the lives of domestic violence survivors. Violence Against Women, 12, 240–250.
- Nason-Clark, N. (2000). Making the sacred safe: Woman abuse and communities of faith. Sociology of Religion, 61, 349–368.
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