Adventist Summit on Abuse: Second Day Training First Responders
by Monte Sahlin
The End It Now campaign to stop violence against women and girls convened a Summit on Domestic Violence May 1-4 at the offices of the General Conference (GC) of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination in Silver Spring, Maryland. Adventist Today sent an editor to cover this event.
By Debbonnaire Kovacs, May 3, 2014
During the second day, a team from Southern Adventist University, including Dr. Renee Drumm, Laurie Cooper, Tricia Foster, and Stephanie Sheehan, led a complete Christian Abuse Response Education (C.A.R.E.) training seminar. This is a seven-hour interactive workshop which results in certification as a first responder. All the attendees who were here for the whole day will receive a certificate which shows that they have enough training to help their churches create a domestic violence prevention team that is effective and safe.
For this story I have chosen to showcase a mnemonic device we were taught for responding to abuse. Important caveat: This article gives a very small taste of the training. Do not take this information and try to provide intervention!
PRAY is a way of remembering what one needs to get ready to respond to abuse situations.
P is for Prepare to be an effective first responder. This means training such as the C.A.R.E. curriculum provides, gathering local resources as well as national and online sources, and additional preparation. With certification and proper preparation you can identify yourself in your church and community as someone who has enough information and training to be a first responder and especially to be a visible and vocal advocate for ending violence now. If someone is known to be a visible advocate, a person in trouble is far more likely to come forward and break the silence about their terrible secret.
R is for Respond appropriately to disclosures of abuse. The advocate must always take the person very seriously, believe, listen, affirm that all abuse is always unacceptable, and refrain from judging or trying to “fix” the situation. Attendees were given helpful statements to practice, such as, “I’m so sorry to hear that this is happening to you.” And, “No one deserves to be abused.” We were also taught how to help the person assess present safety, thus determining when they simply need to connect with a domestic violence team and when they need emergency shelter.
A is for Act: Build and grow a response team. This team creates a resource center at the church (or other organization), develops resource information, and keeps it current. It also should meet at least monthly, assess its functioning, and develop funds for survivors and to support the team.
Y means Yes, you! A person who has gone through this training, or better yet, a complete End It Now Campaign event, is then prepared to respond proactively to people who are vulnerable or in danger.
I cannot recommend this training highly enough. Although it includes a great deal of information delivered in the traditional way, from the podium, it also includes video presentations of the story of a courageous abuse survivor, plenty of interactive discussion, and geographically organized break-out sessions in which groups can actually build teams to go forward. There is also role-playing practice of how to respond to someone who tells you she is being abused. We were amazed how difficult these role plays could be, even though they were “only pretend.”
To arrange for the team to come to your church or community center or school or metropolitan area or conference, contact Southern Adventist University Care Project at (423) 236-2629.