Workshop addresses domestic violence

Published 7:19 pm Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Haven House Family Shelter held a full-day workshop Tuesday for faith leaders, advocates and community leaders to address domestic and sexual violence with a goal of teaching how to improve support for victims.

The workshop was led by the Safe Havens Interfaith Partnership Against Domestic Violence, which conducts workshops all across the country.

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One of the biggest goals of the workshop was to address faith and the clergy’s role in helping these victims.

“This is kind of unusual,” Georgia Grodowitz, the Executive Director of the Haven House, said. “We usually have training for domestic violence victims and we have training for churches and spiritual things, but very rarely do they intersect, and this is a great opportunity to intersect that.”

The Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence originally contacted Haven House and put them in touch with Safe Havens.

“They approached us about doing this because we were realizing that you were always looking for a way to get in touch with victims of domestic violence, to someway make a connection,” Grodowitz said. “So many people go to their pastor or someone in their church when they’re experiencing abuse, and they seek out help from a pastor or someone who they respect in the church.”

This is where Grodowitz finds this intersection so important to not only help the victims, but also the clergy and Haven House.

“That is a whole section of people that we are not reaching out to,” Grodowitz said. “So what Safe Havens is doing is trying to train faith leaders to understand domestic violence, to know how to respond to somebody who comes to them with domestic violence, because typically clergy may not have the kind of training like we have,” she said.

“Clergy sometimes, when somebody comes to them, they try to help them spiritually, but also they don’t know what kind of resources are available,” Grodowtiz continued. “What we’re hoping is we can let churches know we’re here. Our purpose is to inform, to give people a safe place to go, to understand the seriousness of danger that exists with domestic violence, and that how it’s handled is extremely important.”

Alyson Morse Katzman, associate director of Safe Havens, wanted to make clear there shouldn’t be a divide with the church and family or women’s shelters.

“Our byline is that no one should have to choose between faith and safety,” Katzman said. “You should be able to be faithful and safe in a relationship.”

Grodowitz agreed with that sentiment.

“If pastors can get trained on domestic violence, they’re at least more informed, and they can also refer people to us to help with the basic stuff,” Grodowitz said. “We provide shelter, we provide being able to go into the courts and act as an advocate … There’s so many things we can do without that aren’t contrary to religion. It would be an assistance. There’s a danger element there that pastors and anyone who is helping with domestic violence situation needs to be aware of.”

Grodowtiz hoped to see more cooperation between her organization and the clergy in the future.

“We want to be a team, not exclusive of each other,” she said. “Really, a lot of people need both of us, but we both need to be well informed. That’s what we’re hoping happens.”