Thursday, October 25, 2012

Restorative Justice Efforts

Hello all,
Been thinking a lot these days about ways to interrupt the cycles of violence that are so prevalent in our society.
 I am the survivor of a homicide victim.  My son Joel was murdered when he was "just 19".  I have met with two of his killers.  They have both served their prison time and are back out in our community.  I have asked each of them to make committments to stay clean and sober; get a job and earn an honest living; talk to young people about their mistakes and to cause no more harm to self, family and community.  They are keeping those committments.  They both say that if they had not had this restorative encounter; they have no doubt that they would be back to a life of wrong-doing; back in prison or dead themselves.  They are no longer doing dirt or causing harm to our community.  We, in community benefit from them living a "good life".
Restorative Justice is about understanding, about human relationships, about restoring balance when things go wrong.  It is about the needs of someone who has been harmed and the obligation of the person who caused the harm to meet those needs.  When you think about it in terms of domestic violence; people get scared.  People are afraid of the power and control dynamic tha t indeed does need to be acknowledged.  People are afraid of the re-victimization of the partner who has been repeatedly hurt.  All of these are legitimate concerns. 
Understanding those who batter as people who were most likely victimized themselves in their life brings a more compassionate perspective to who they are and to how to reach them in a way that could end their own cycle of violence.  Even if someone who is being abused leaves their offending partner; that partner will most likely go on to abuse somebody else.  This is not to excuse their actions; it is to understand them and to help them to understand their actions; so that they are able to change their way of being regardless of whether they stay, return to this relationship or begin a new one.
 So many times, love being the strong emotion that it is, people in domestic violence situations return to their partners.  If restorative justice practices were in place to those families who are going to get back togehter again anyway and who are willing to search their soul and try something different; there is an opportunity to put safety measures in place. (Safety mapping:Signs of Safety by Andrew Trunnel).  There would need to be preparation with both parties separately and preparation with all family members, extended family and close friends willing to be part of this.  This network would act as a community of support and accountability.
The person who caused the harm would hear from all involved the impact their actions have had on all members of the family and the larger network. Through the process they would own their responsibility and make agreements for future accountability.  The network of family and friends would help to hold them accountable to these agreements and offer support to both parties to stay on track.
Another situation where restorative justice practices could be positively instrumental is in situations when a couple has children even if they are not going to get back together again.
These processes and safety measures can help make for smoother, less conflicting transitions as children go from one parent to another.
Restorative Justice and Domestic Violence may not at first seem like they go together.... but it is worth reflecting upon.

Janet Connors is a restorative justice practitioner in the Boston area.  She works with Mothers for Justice as well as schools and community centers throughout the city.  She can be contacted at

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Presidential Proclamation, Oct. 2012

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

Presidential Proclamation -- National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, 2012

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For far too long, domestic violence was ignored or treated as a private matter where victims were left to suffer in silence without hope of intervention. As we mark the 18th anniversary of the landmark Violence Against Women Act, authored by Vice President Joe Biden, we reflect on how far we have come. We have made significant progress in changing laws and attitudes, providing support to survivors, and reducing the incidence of domestic violence. But we also know that we have not come far enough, and that there is more work left to be done. During National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we stand with all those who have been affected by this terrible crime, recognize the individuals and groups who have stepped forward to break the cycle of violence, and recommit to putting an end to domestic violence in America.

Despite considerable progress in reducing domestic violence, an average of three women in the United States lose their lives every day as a result of these unconscionable acts. And while women between the ages of 16 and 24 are among the most vulnerable to intimate partner violence, domestic violence affects people regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, race, or religion. Tragically, without intervention, children exposed to such violence can suffer serious long-term consequences that may include difficulty in school, post-traumatic disorders, alcohol and drug abuse, and criminal behavior.

My Administration remains committed to getting victims the help they need, from emergency shelter and legal assistance to transitional housing and services for children. We are also working to stop violence before it starts. Last year, agencies across the Federal Government held town hall meetings nationwide to promote men's roles in ending violence against women. Through Vice President Biden's 1is2many initiative, we built on that progress earlier this year by releasing a public service announcement that features professional athletes and other role models speaking out against dating violence. This April, I directed leaders throughout my Administration to increase efforts to prevent and combat domestic violence involving Federal employees and address its effects on the Federal workforce. Since August, the Affordable Care Act has required most insurance plans to make domestic violence screening and counseling available as a preventive service for women -- without co-payments, deductibles, or other cost-sharing. And most recently, we developed a new initiative to reduce domestic violence homicides through high risk screening and linking victims with services. Moreover, my Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to strengthen and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

While government must do its part, all Americans can play a role in ending domestic violence. Each of us can promote healthy relationships, speak out when we see injustice in our communities, stand with survivors we know, and change attitudes that perpetuate the cycle of abuse. We must also ensure that survivors of domestic violence know they are not alone, and that there are resources available to them. I encourage victims, their loved ones, and concerned citizens to learn more by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE, or by visiting
This month, let us renew our efforts to support victims of domestic violence in their time of greatest need, and to realize an America where no one lives in fear because they feel unsafe in their own home.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 2012 as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I call on all Americans to speak out against domestic violence and support local efforts to assist victims of these crimes in finding the help and healing they need.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.


Retrieved from

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Poem

In the face of the overwhelming struggle presented by intimate partner violence, I often find myself looking to poetic connection. Words that convey the concurrence of pain and hope, and look to a day where we all land together in healing.

From an Atlas of the Difficult World – Adrienne Rich
I know you are reading this poem 
late, before leaving your office 
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window 
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet 
long after rush-hour. I know you are reading this poem 
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean 
on a grey day of early spring, faint flakes driven 
across the plains' enormous spaces around you. 
I know you are reading this poem 
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear 
where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed 
and the open valise speaks of flight 
but you cannot leave yet. I know you are reading this poem 
as the underground train loses momentum and before running 
up the stairs 
toward a new kind of love 
your life has never allowed. 
I know you are reading this poem by the light 
of the television screen where soundless images jerk and slide 
while you wait for the newscast from the intifada. 
I know you are reading this poem in a waiting-room 
of eyes met and unmeeting, of identity with strangers. 
I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light 
in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out, 
count themselves out, at too early an age. I know 
you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick 
lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on 
because even the alphabet is precious. 
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove 
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your 
because life is short and you too are thirsty. 
I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language 
guessing at some words while others keep you reading 
and I want to know which words they are. 
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn 
between bitterness and hope 
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse. 
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else 
left to read 
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.

Stephanie Edwards is a Grants Program Specialist at the Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance.  She also attended Boston University's School of Theology  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


When will we recognize that we are all connected?

At Renewal House our staff, interns and volunteers work together to provide those who live with us and those in the community who attend our groups a safe place to be. And within that safety it is also our hope that these individuals and families can also build and create community together. It doesn’t always happen. It isn’t always easy. And yet, the experience we have when we see a survivor sharing his or her story with another – and building relationship out of pain and challenge – it is as if we can see the healing taking place right before our eyes. It is a wonder to behold – and yet it is the simplest of acts – talking, sharing, listening, crying, laughing – and then doing it all over again.

On Tuesday nights our shelter families gather for house meeting. And following the discussion of logistics and supply needs and chore assignments – we offer a moment.
A moment to reflect
A moment to be
A moment to share
A moment to delight in the light of a candle
A moment to pray
A moment to dream
A moment to wish
A moment to honor who they are
A moment to connect
It is in these moments when the folk around the table, light a candle and share what is on their heart and mind – staff and interns and volunteers included – that we begin to see – even just dimly – the ways that we are connected. Even just through our very basic humanness we see that we all have pain, we all have joy, we all make mistakes, we all want a better world, we all want children to have it better than we did, we all yearn for connection, we all want to be seen and known for who we are.

Sometimes in the conversations I share with residents in our shelter, the tough conversations where I have to address an issue or acknowledge a breach in confidentiality or safety, the resident will say to me – “how did what i do affect anyone else here?” – and the answer is the same – “when one person is affected we all are affected.”

In a society such as the one we live in, we believe that we are isolated beings on the journey to somewhere – when in fact we are inextricably connected to one another. And yet and until we can acknowledge this critical fact, the violence and abuse that is happening “over there” will never end – because it does not matter to us. It is when we can recognize and acknowledge that one abusive incident to any one in the world, to anyone in our community, to anyone in our congregation and to anyone in our home – deeply affects us – that we will be motivated (even inspired?) to end abuse and violence for good.

Rev. Susan Chorley is Director of Renewal House, a domestic violence shelter located in Roxbury, MA and sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry.  Susan is also a Baptist minister.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Shift in Response

From Dr. Nancy Nienhuis, Dean of Students and Community Life and a faculty member at Andover Newton Theological Seminar (ANTS) in Newton Centre, MA.  Dr. Nienhuis is a participant in Partners in Faith and teaches the course "When Home is a War Zone: Pastoral Care and Theological Issues in Domestic Violence".

The theological responses of religious leaders to abuse are often a critical factor in victims’ willingness to leave abusive relationships, and thus in their ability to survive. Yet too many religious leaders act as roadblocks, reinforcing beliefs and theologies that encourage victims to stay in abusive relationships. When a pastor encourages a victim to “pray harder,” or “be a better wife,” or “don’t make him mad,” these responses blame the victim for the violence and make it her responsibility to change it.  These responses encourage victims to stay in dangerous situations.  But the influence of pastors can be a powerful source of healing for survivors as well, in fact, their responses can even set victims free to leave abusive relationships. A few years ago I was teaching a class on domestic violence with a colleague.  A woman in the class told us how she had repeatedly gone to her priest seeking help from her husband's abuse. The priest told her that marriage was a sacrament, and she was bound to it. Eventually a new priest came to her parish, and she somehow gathered the courage, once again, to go and ask for help. This particular priest told her, "The first time your husband hit you, he violated the marriage sacrament and you were no longer bound by it." The woman looked at us and said, "It was like he opened my prison door and I walked through." That's the kind of power faith leaders can have for victims of violence.

Visit for a variety of faith responses to Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and DV Awareness Month!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

October Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  Sponsored by the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, there are lots of educational and awareness-building resources produced that we at Partners in Faith encourage you look at and invest in (check out

More importantly, however, is the reminder that needing a month to raise awareness about domestic violence as well as sexual assault and violence is a sad reality in our country.  As social service agencies, providers, advocates, supporters, clergy, academics, and people of all faiths, it is our shared responsibility to let survivors know they are valued and to let perpetrators know there is always another way besides violence.  May this be a month of awareness raising so that perhaps next year, we can say that domestic violence is a reality but one that is slowly fading.  Please continue checking this blog for thoughts, readings, and prayers related to domestic violence and sexual assault. 

A Franciscan Blessing for all:

May God bless you with discomfort. Discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart. Amen

May God bless you with anger. Anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace. Amen

May God bless you with tears. Tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy. Amen

May God bless you with foolishness. Enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done. Amen

And the blessing of God, who creates, redeems and sanctifies, be upon you and all you love and pray for this day, and forever more. Amen

- Beth Gillispie,

Friday, February 5, 2010

The White House’s Commitment to Combating Violence Against Women

Following Monday’s release of the President’s FY2011 Budget Request, we thought you might be interested in reading this recent blog post by the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, Lynn Rosenthal. To read more about the White House’s commitment to combating violence against women nationwide in the budget, click here:

The White House’s Commitment to Combating Violence Against Women

Lynn Rosenthal, February 2, 2010

For six months now, I have held the first-ever White House position dedicated to combating violence and sexual assault against women and continuing the important work of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Every morning when I’ve walked into the White House, I’ve brought with me the stories of the many survivors I have worked with over the years. I’ve focused on raising the profile of violence against women issues across Federal Agencies, states, tribal communities, and localities; coordinating interagency collaboration on these issues; implementing victim assistance programs; and integrating these issues into Administration-wide programs such as the White House Fatherhood Initiative, the White House Council on Women and Girls, HUD’s fight against homelessness, and the Justice Department’s recent effort to better combat disproportionate violence in tribal communities.

Yesterday, I met with a group of 16 leaders of organizations that combat violence against women, provide resources for women who face domestic violence and sexual assault, and advocate for victims. During this meeting, I shared with these leaders the same information I am sharing with you -- information on how the White House, through the President’s FY 2011 budget, is making combating violence against women a real priority.

Violence Against Women Act as a Budget Priority

The FY 2011 budget will provide a record total of $730 million to combat violence against women -- a $130.5 million increase in funding from the previous fiscal year. The VAWA, passed in 1994, already provides thousands of victims with life-saving services, improvements in the criminal justice system and increased public awareness. The President’s FY 2011 budget not only continues this strong response, but bolsters current funding and responds to the emerging needs of communities.

Crime Victims Fund

The budget provides a $100 million increase from the Crime Victims Fund, specifically for emergency shelter, transitional housing, and other local services for domestic violence and sexual assault victims. By focusing on both immediate safety and long-term housing assistance, we can help ensure that victims don’t have to choose between living with abuse or becoming homeless. Furthermore, the Crime Victims Fund does not consist of a single taxpayer dollar; it is self-sustaining and supported by criminal fines, forfeited bail bonds, and penalties for Federal offenders. In addition to a fund increase from the Crime Victims Fund, the FY 2011 budget provides $140 million for battered women’s shelters and services, an increase of $10 million from the previous fiscal year.

Victim Resources and Legal Support

The $730 million also provides vital funding for victim resources. The National Domestic Violence Hotline and Teen Dating Violence Helpline are receiving increased funding of $4.5 million to ensure every call is answered. The budget also provides $30 million in VAWA funding for victims of sexual assault -- a $15 million increase from the previous year -- which will be utilized by the Sexual Assault Services Program to provide crisis intervention, advocacy within the criminal justice system, support during forensic exams, and other related assistance.

The FY 2011 budget bolsters legal support for domestic violence and sexual assault victims by providing $50 million in VAWA funding for legal assistance for victims, a $9 million increase from the previous year. The Civil Legal Assistance Program will use this funding to help victims more easily obtain protective orders and other assistance available through the court system.

To build upon the above improvements in the criminal justice system, the budget also provides $188 million in STOP grants that provide better training, improved data collection, specialized law enforcement and prosecution units, and courts specialized for domestic violence and sexual assault cases.

Support Across the Board

Ending domestic violence and sexual assault is a priority for President Obama and Vice President Biden. I’ve written about numerous fund increases and initiatives that are testaments to this fact. In my meeting yesterday, the White House’s commitment to violence against women issues was clear -- we are increasing support for women across the board.