A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Abuse - role of the Assemblies

An Assembly should be careful not to minimize an allegation of “date rape” or of rape by a spouse. Sexual abuse or assault involving a person under a certain age (the age varies by state) is a crime regardless of whether consent is given or force is used. Assemblies should be aware of the laws applicable in their state.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 99.)


Assemblies must not allow themselves to be misled by abusers, who are frequently successful manipulators and may seek to discredit victims through accusing them of exaggeration and misrepresentation or may try to engage sympathy on their own behalf by portraying themselves as victims in the situation. Rather than being taken in by such claims, Assemblies should endeavor to provide a balance of encouragement for such of their qualities as are commendable combined with firm and unequivocal guidance concerning violations of Bahá’í standards of conduct.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 105).


Assemblies should be aware that some situations of domestic abuse will not resolve favorably even after all avenues for protection and remediation have been explored. Threats may continue to exist over extended periods of time and family members may be faced with continuing uncertainty, apprehension, and fears for safety. Among the ways to strengthen individuals to deal with such situations is to encourage and assist them to do whatever is realistically possible to remedy the situation according to the guidance in this supplement, and then to turn their hearts to God and trust in Him for, in the end, the lives of all people are in God’s hands.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 131).


Assemblies should not underestimate the depth of emotional attachment of which teens are capable. Because the teenage years are a time when young people normally initiate the process of establishing independence, they may be reluctant to seek help, may feel that they have no one to turn to for help, or may be embarrassed or afraid to admit to anyone that they are in trouble.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 99).


Be sensitive for the possibility of prior exposure to severe violence, such as a personal or family history of trauma from torture, mutilation, war atrocities, gang rape, arson, bombings, lynchings, or other extreme forms of violence. Prior exposure to other forms of violence may exacerbate the effects of domestic violence.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 94)


Be sensitive to the person’s perception of authority figures. For example, some people may have experienced violence and atrocities in their homeland at the hands of government authorities, making them fearful of accepting government services. Others may have experienced abuses of power by police and may be reluctant to report abuse to the police since they fear maltreatment either of themselves or of the abuser by the police.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 94)


Explore the meanings of abuse and battering to the persons involved since culture, race, and ethnicity influence how these terms are defined. For example, in some cultures, various forms of abuse are tolerated or have not been considered abuse and may even be regarded by both genders as rightful forms of discipline or as expressions of caring. Nevertheless, cultural acceptance does not render abusive behaviors harmless or legal.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 93).


If an Assembly becomes aware that a Bahá’í is mistreating another person, it has a responsibility to use its collective will to counsel that individual about his or her actions. If its counsels are not accepted, the Assembly should not hesitate to implement stronger measures, such as the recommendation that administrative sanctions be placed on the believer.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p.66.)


In applying this principle to cases of domestic violence, the Assembly should use extreme care not to take any action (such as contacting the alleged abuser) that it or the abused person feels might further endanger anyone. However, if the alleged abuser is a Bahá’í, the Assembly may be obligated to intervene whether the abused party wishes it to do so or not, as long as such intervention does not endanger anyone further.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p.70).


In coming to decisions concerning any situation of domestic violence brought to its attention, an Assembly should bear in mind that it is required to serve as a loving shepherd and also to administrator justice. Cases involving abuse are always distressing and sometimes polarizing within the membership of the Assembly itself. The Assembly must conserve its detachment and sense of justice to meet its responsibility to assist with the protection and spiritual development of all the souls under its jurisdiction, regardless of their attainments or shortcomings. While its first responsibility is to protect the abused, it must also seek to address the spiritual condition and behavior of the offender.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p.68.)


In every aspect of offering assistance to families or individuals, the Assembly must always bear in mind that it cannot, and must not, try to assume the role of therapist for which it is neither mandated nor equipped. It may be helpful, in some circumstances, for the Assembly to provide general information to a therapist about the teachings of the Bahá’í Faith and its guidance on domestic violence.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 124. )


In matters which affect the Cause the Assembly should, if it deems it necessary, intervene even if both sides do not want it to, because the whole purpose of the Assemblies is to protect the Faith, the Communities, and the individual Bahá’í as well.
(Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 58).


It can be difficult to understand what to do to help families or individuals in distress. Families already separated by domestic violence will need a different kind of assistance than families struggling to hold themselves together in spite of it. When attempting to assist families, the Assembly should bear in mind the particular circumstances and needs of each family. The experiences of every family are different and the experiences of each person in a family differ from one another. Each member of a family affected by domestic abuse needs age appropriate support for her or his own particular experience. The Assembly should be aware that the need for assistance in a variety of forms may continue over a prolonged period of time.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 123).


Programs concerning domestic violence should seek to reach every age group and ethnic population within the Bahá’í community through a variety of age appropriate and culturally sensitive delivery systems.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 138).


The Assembly may also wish to suggest tutors or mentors for abused children or youth. Mentoring helps young people rediscover trust in others and a sense of value in themselves, as well as providing role models for responsible and spiritual behavior. If suitable mentoring resources are not available within the Bahá’í community, they may be found through national or local organizations …
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 129).


The Assembly should assist the person who abuses to obtain appropriate anger management counseling and/or join an offender treatment program. Good counseling programs assist abusers to become accountable and responsible for their behavior through confrontation and support for change with the assistance of trained facilitators, peers, and professional therapists in a safe and confidential environment. In cases of abuse involving addictions, including sexual addiction, treatment by specialists in behavioral addictions may be advisable.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 113)


The Assembly should be aware that the alleged offender, as well as the abused party, is in need of emotional and spiritual support. In its role as loving shepherd of the community, the Assembly should provide reassurance of its love to everyone involved and provide not only guidance but also a support network in the realization that frequent counsel and encouragement may be needed for all parties. The Assembly must also be aware of the potentially divisive effects the situation may have upon the community and urge believers to contain any discussion of the matter to its duly appointed representatives.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 69).


The National Assembly encourages Local Spiritual Assemblies to research and identify resources available in their area and to incorporate strong institutional support for programs of civil or criminal intervention in domestic violence. Such intervention, together with effective offender treatment programs, has been shown to curb violence and protect the abused, as well as help offenders improve their behavior. Tolerating, ignoring or denying domestic violence is a grave disservice not only to the abused but to the Bahá’í community and society at large, as well as to the offender, who must not be allowed to continue violating Bahá’í and civil law.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 21)


The single parent may suffer from inadequate material resources, lack of skills and confidence, and the emotional support of a partner in parenting. The Assembly may wish to assist by encouraging access to whatever counseling or support services may be available, by ensuring that transportation to needed services or Bahá’í activities is available, and offering scholarships to Bahá’í conferences, schools and workshops.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 130).


There are instances when the victim of domestic violence is male rather than female. In such cases, the Local Assembly must act immediately to protect, in the same way it would for a female, with respect and sensitivity to issues that may be relevant from the perspective of male victims. Fear of embarrassment and ridicule due to cultural stereotypes, lack of skill in expressing emotions, lack of support in the criminal justice system and fear of reprisal may contribute to reluctance on the part of male victims to seek or accept assistance.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 97).


Violent or abusive behavior is a serious violation of Bahá’í law. Depending upon the circumstances, the National Spiritual Assembly may apply the sanction of removing an offender’s Bahá’í administrative rights.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 115).


When a Bahá’í wife finds herself in such a situation [of domestic violence] and feels it cannot be resolved through consultation with her husband, she could well turn to the Local Spiritual Assembly for advice and guidance…
(Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia, dated April 12, 1990)


When possible, elders in the community should be actively engaged in participating in the life of the community, their skills and experience recognized and valued in service. In many cases, it will be necessary to provide transportation for elders to participate in community activities. The Assembly should cultivate an awareness and habit in the community of ensuring that its elders are fully welcomed into its life, that their skills and experience are utilized to the extent possible in consultation and service, and that means of including them are made available on an outreach basis. Many older people will not ask for assistance but may appreciate being picked up and taken to community events, having regular visitors and companionship, assistance with home repairs, gardening, maintenance chores, and transportation to and from appointments and shopping, if their independent means are limited. These services are especially important if they have no family nearby who are attentive to their needs and could be a rewarding area of service for youth and others in the community. The Assembly may also wish to provide a mechanism for ensuring that regular telephone calls are made to elderly members of the community to decrease isolation and provide a regular means of checking on their well-being.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 131).


While individuals are enjoined to be forgiving and forbearing, Assemblies, parents, and other responsible parties cannot afford to be na´ve, foolish, or anything less than continually vigilant with regard to the protection and safety of vulnerable members of the community entrusted to their care.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 52).


… every Assembly should have an emergency response plan for referring crisis calls and handling domestic violence reports. It should maintain an up-to-date resource list of local protection and support services and how to refer people to them. The Assembly should be aware that in actual crisis situations, time is of the essence and there should be no delay in seeking protective assistance, if the abused party wishes it.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p.75.)


… if an Assembly finds itself unable to function effectively concerning a case of domestic violence, due to the fact that the alleged abuser is an Assembly member or for any other reason, it should contact the National Assembly.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 68.)