Gender-Based Violence and Faith: Toward a Faith Sensitive Approach

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75 Minutes

Originally Aired
April 19, 2022

Cortney Fisher
Cortney Fisher, JD, PhD
Principal, Finch Strategies and Professor
University of Maryland

Too often, when victim advocates, social workers, and therapists begin their work with victims of gender- and power-based violence, we assess the survivor and the case using a standard needs assessment format. When a victim/survivor tries to tell us about abuse and violence, they frequently leave out some of the most traumatic incidents because they are convinced, we won’t understand them – and they are right. The use of spirituality to maintain control over a victim/survivor is not unique to any one faith, but it is discounted by many (or most) system professionals. Victim advocates, social workers, human service workers, law enforcement and prosecutors discount spiritual abuse because we don’t understand it and we don’t know how to address it. 

This session will help professionals assess clients for spiritual abuse, work with them to dismantle the stigma associated with the abuse (particularly among marginalized religions) and help law enforcement and other professionals use evidence of spiritual abuse to make their case in administrative, civil, or criminal proceedings.


As a result of this webinar, participants will be better able to:

  • Identify examples of spiritual abuse specific to Catholicism, Judaism, and Islam. 
  • Modify standard needs assessments in campus-based, systems-based, hospital-based, and community-based environments to identify spiritual abuse in a culturally sensitive manner.
  • Classify all evidence of spiritual abuse into a more comprehensive case presentation for administrative, civil, and criminal proceedings. 
  • Explain the ways in which offenders use spirituality to maintain power and control over victim-survivors. 

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