SAN ANTONIO – It is common for domestic violence victims to go to their faith leader for help before family, friends or agencies. That reality became apparent when more than 100 local faith and community leaders joined together Tuesday to discuss what they could do to serve those survivors.
“As a clergy member, we are the trusted people. So people come to us with all different things, and domestic violence is one of those,” said Rabbi Marina Yergin with Temple Beth-El.
Rabi Yergin spent over three hours Tuesday morning alongside other religious leaders, learning how to identify domestic violence and offer help to those who ask.
The event was called Love Should Not Hurt in our Families and Faith Homes. It joined leaders from many different faiths with San Antonio Metro Health’s Violence Prevention department, Family Violence Prevention Services, and other community agencies like the P.E.A.C.E Initiative, SAPD, NAMI, SACRD, and more.
The tough conversations at the event forced dedicated faith leaders to look inward.
“I think we have the stereotype that this doesn’t happen in the Jewish community, that domestic violence is not something that we deal with, and that’s a fallacy,” Yergin said.
Especially as a female faith leader, Yergin wants her congregation to know, no topic is off limits, and no one will be judged.
During the event, questions were put on the screen, posing conversation topics for the leaders sitting at each table to discuss and debate.
“Different people have different ways of doing things. All the ways are welcomed,” said Family Violence Prevention Services CEO Marta Prada Pelaez.
Pelaez said differences of opinion and background made the event so successful. She said there are many ways to go about domestic violence prevention and assistance.
“We need to work on more prevention so that they don’t have to go to a shelter,” she said.
Pelaez said many of the organizations at the event have already toured the Battered Women and Children’s Shelter to learn more about it and domestic violence as a whole. She was approached by others who want to set up tours and meetings.
Pelaez spoke at the event, telling the faith leaders that it’s difficult to disseminate lifesaving information about abuse without first educating themselves about what domestic violence is, how it starts, and what can happen if it’s not addressed.
The conversations yielded many great ideas, including:
- building support teams within congregations
- visiting abuse shelters
- leading by example without judgment
- distributing the correct resources
“At Temple Beth El, we have in all of our restrooms stickers that -- if you are dealing with domestic violence, here’s a number you can call and resources,” Rabbi Yergin said.
Similar stickers were dispersed at the event, so other places of worship could do the same.
“Now, moving forward, what do we do with that? Remains to be seen. But I’m not going to just leave here today and check off a box. This continues.”
You can call the Family Violence Prevention Services at (210) 733-8810 or visit their website. FVPS operates the shelter and offers wrap-around services including legal, casework, and counseling.
The Bexar County Family Justice Center also offers wrap-around services and can be reached at (210) 631-0100 or on their website.
The Domestic Violence help line is available 24/7. You can call (800) 799-7233, text START to 88788, or chat with an expert anonymously on the website.