Preventing and Responding to Intimate Partner Violence within Faith Communities

A screengrab of Anna and Charlotte during the interview

Anna Del Castillo (she/her/hers) is a Mississippian, Peruvian-Bolivian American, and faith-rooted activist for justice. She is pursuing a Master of Divinity as a Dean’s Fellow at Harvard Divinity School where she studies at the intersection of public policy, racial justice, and healing. She is also an Interfaith America Racial Equity Fellow


In the United States, one in four women and one in ten men will experience intimate partner violence.1 Pastors can reasonably assume their congregations contain both those experiencing and those using violence in their intimate relationships. While 81% of surveyed U.S. protestant pastors reported being faced with a situation of abuse, only half reported having received formal training in responding to it.3

Charlotte Zelle, a third year Master of Divinity Candidate at Harvard Divinity School, believes that faith leaders hold tremendous capacity to drive healing and social change. Charlotte spent her final year of graduate school researching and creating a workshop designed to train future ministers and lay leaders on how to approach the issue of domestic violence. Charlotte deepened her understanding of intimate partner violence while working for Harvard’s Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response and the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence. She now volunteers with REACH, a Massachusetts-based domestic violence organization and looks forward to continuing her career in gender-based violence response and prevention through individual support and empowerment, community-building, and social change work.  

I sat down with Charlotte to talk about her research, her workshop, and how faith leaders can both prevent and respond to issues of intimate partner violence. Some of the topics in our interview can be triggering as we discuss intimate partner violence and sexual assault. Please take care of yourself as you listen to the conversation. If you are experiencing intimate partner violence, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.SAFE (7233), 1.800.787.3224,

After listening to the interview, check out these organizations and resources that Charlotte references. To contact Charlotte about her workshop, please reach out to her via LinkedIn:

Referenced resources and organizations:

Safe Havens :

FaithTrust Institute:

Peaceful Families:

Sojourners sermons-- webinar:



1Smith, Sharon, et al. “The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2015 Data

Brief – Updated Release.” Department of Health and Human Services: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention. Atlanta, GA, November 2018,

2“Religious Landscape Study.” Pew Research Center: Religion & Public Life, 2014,

3IMA World Health, Sojourners, & We Will Speak Out U.S. Broken Silence 2.0: pastors’

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

As the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. echoed Theodore Parker, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ Let’s bend it together.
In both my work as an interfaith leader and a dancer, rethinking is all about opening our minds, asking questions, and having conversations.
Some U.S. churches have been reckoning with this activity for years through ceremonies, apologies and archival investigations, while others are just getting started.
A global study of the communication patterns of 1.3 million workers during the global lockdown showed the average workday increased by 8.2% during the pandemic, and the average number of virtual meetings per person expanded by almost 13%.
Across Missouri, hundreds of pastors, priests and other church leaders are reaching out to urge vaccinations in a state under siege from the delta variant. Health experts say the spread is due largely to low vaccination rates — Missouri lags about 10 percentage points behind the national average for people who have initiated shots.
The solution, said Chris Palusky, president and CEO of Bethany Christian Services, is “the loving care of a family, not another orphanage.” He pointed to Scripture passages that say God sets the lonely in families and call on Christians to care for those who have been orphaned.
The following interview features Debra Fraser-Howze, founder and president of Choose Healthy Life, an initiative that fortifies community infrastructure to better address the pandemic in Black communities. The interview was conducted by Shauna Morin for IFYC; it has been edited and condensed for clarity.
The seven monks have been clearing brush from around the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center and running a sprinkler system dubbed “Dharma rain,” which helps keep a layer of moister around the buildings.
Over 800 Muslim Americans are expected to attend the family-focused event at the Green Meadows Petting Farm in Ijamsville, Maryland, making it one of the larger such gatherings around the country in the era of COVID-19.
Besides demanding equitable distribution of vaccines, the Interfaith Vigil for Global COVID-19 Vaccine Access called on the World Trade Organization to waive intellectual property rights for vaccine manufacturing in order to enable more countries to produce COVID-19 vaccines domestically.
Eid al-Adha, or the “Feast of Sacrifice,” is typically marked by communal prayers, large social gatherings, slaughtering of livestock and giving meat to the needy.
Our Lady of La Vang is said to have appeared in a remote rainforest in the late 1700s to a group of Catholics fleeing persecution in Vietnam.
This article is part of a series called Faith in the Field that explores responses to Covid-19—including vaccination efforts—within different faith communities. 
Yet the debate about the vaccine in Tennessee is not solely a debate about science. Rather, I believe the vaccine debate is also a referendum on our public capacity to embrace vulnerability.
The study found that while there are many promising signs that students perceive support for their RSSIs on campus, there is also considerable room for improving welcome, particularly for students whose RSSIs are a minority.
Coronavirus deaths among clergy are not just a Catholic problem, said Andrew Chesnut, chair of Catholic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, with faith leaders across denominations having elevated exposure rates as “spiritual front-line workers” ministering to the sick and dying in hospitals and nursing homes.
Legislation legalizing human composting has encountered religious resistance from the Catholic Church.
From the 26th of November, 2020, a farmers protest has been in existence on the outskirts of Delhi, India’s capital city. For the past eight months, farmers in the tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, have been fighting three laws that threaten the future of agriculture in the country.
Sivan and I feel that it is crucial to work for increased vaccination rates, particularly with more transmissible and potentially more deadly variants emerging across the country and throughout the world.
We made calls to friends, disseminated flyers, engaged in social media marketing, partnered with faith-based communities, and engaged the local health department to encourage members of our community to come to our upcoming clinic and get vaccinated.
"It’s not about accepting other’s beliefs and pushing your own away - it is about being respectful, while still having the freedom to express your beliefs"

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.