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’

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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.