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In any situation of trust the potential for abuse exists:

Whereas the purpose of the programs and activities offered revolve around the development of capabilities for service and rectitude of conduct, it is recognized that in any situation of trust the potential for abuse exists.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Canada, Screening Policy Statement)

Everyone needs to be protected from abuse so all staff or volunteers need to be:

  • screened for the service they are offering
  • trained to create environments that are:
    • safe
    • empowering
    • free from oppression
    • avoid abuse or the appearance of abuse to others

It is further recognized that every human being, particularly children, youth and other vulnerable people, are to be protected from abuse and that those whom the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada either directly or through any of its Institutions and/or agencies accepts as staff or as volunteers need to be screened for the service they are offering and trained to create environments that are safe, empowering, and free from oppression and which avoid abuse or the appearance of abuse to others.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Canada, Screening Policy Statement)

It is necessary to protect people from all forms of oppression and abuse, including, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, physical abuse, emotional abuse, abuse of authority, financial abuse, bullying and cyber-bullying:

It is necessary to protect people from all forms of oppression and abuse, including, but not limited to:  sexual abuse, sexual harassment, physical abuse, emotional abuse, abuse of authority, financial abuse, and bullying, including cyber-bullying.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Canada, Screening Policy Statement)

Healthy adults can be vulnerable because of recent life tests or experiences:

The term “vulnerable person(s) or people” as used in this Policy refers not only to people who are typically recognized as vulnerable, such as children, youth under the age of 18, elderly, those coming from an abusive relationship, and the mentally and physically disabled, but also to those otherwise healthy adults who are vulnerable because of recent life tests or experiences.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Canada, Screening Policy Statement)

As we’ve learned, loss of trust is a big outcome of trauma.  Many of those who’ve been traumatized are attracted to the Faith because of its focus on love and unity; and hope that they will find safety in the Baha’i community.

Our communities must protect everyone’s rights:

…the communities must protect the rights of man.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions., p.271)

When it comes to protecting the vulnerable members of our community, we can’t afford to be naïve, foolish, or anything less than continually vigilant:

While individuals are enjoined to be forgiving and forbearing, Assemblies, parents, and other responsible parties cannot afford to be naïve, 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; and should maintain an up-to-date resource list of local protection and support services and how to refer people to them:

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.   (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p.75)What would “safety” in the Baha’i community look like?

In actual crisis situations, time is of the essence and there should be no delay in seeking protective assistance:

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)

Tolerating, ignoring or denying domestic violence is a grave disservice to everyone:

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)

We’ll look at the concept of “safety” to include physical, psychological, social and moral safety in future articles, so stay tuned!

Overcoming domestic violence requires:

  • developing an environment in the community in which abusive behavior is not tolerated
  • in which individuals are sensitive to the warning signs of abuse
  • in which no individuals or families are so isolated that they have no one to turn to in times of difficulty
  • in which there is a spirit of loving encouragement and support to families

Overcoming domestic violence requires developing an environment in the community in which abusive behavior is not tolerated, in which individuals are sensitive to the warning signs of abuse, in which no individuals or families are so isolated that they have no one to turn to in times of difficulty, and in which there is a “spirit of loving encouragement and support to families…”  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 119)

Some situations of domestic abuse will not resolve favorably even after all avenues for protection and remediation have been explored:

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.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 131)

 

Sometimes all we can do is to encourage and assist; pray; and then leave it in God’s hands:

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)

Conclusion

So from all of this we learn:

  • in any situation of trust the potential for abuse exists
  • every human being, particularly children, youth and other vulnerable people, are to be protected from abuse including all forms of oppression and abuse such as

sexual abuse

sexual harassment

physical abuse

emotional abuse

abuse of authority

financial abuse

bullying and cyber-bullying

  • staff and volunteers need to be screened for the service they are offering
  • staff and volunteers need to be trained to create environments that are safe, empowering, and free from oppression
  • The term “vulnerable person” refers to

Children and youth under the age of 18

Elderly

those coming from an abusive relationship

the mentally and physically disabled

those otherwise healthy adults who are vulnerable because of recent life tests or experiences

  • Assemblies, parents, and other responsible parties cannot afford to be naïve, foolish, or anything less than continually vigilant with regard to the protection and safety of vulnerable members of the community entrusted to their care
  • Every Assembly should have an emergency response plan for referring crisis calls and handling domestic violence reports
  • Every Assembly should maintain an up-to-date resource list of local protection and support services and how to refer people to them
  • in actual crisis situations, time is of the essence and there should be no delay in seeking protective assistance
  • 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
  • tolerating, ignoring or denying domestic violence is a grave disservice to

the abused

the Bahá’í community

society at large

the offender, who must not be allowed to continue violating Bahá’í and civil law.

Overcoming domestic violence requires:

  • developing an environment in the community in which abusive behavior is not tolerated
  • individuals to be sensitive to the warning signs of abuse
  • no individual or family should be so isolated that they have no one to turn to in times of difficulty
  • a spirit of loving encouragement and support to families

For more information:

Encouraging Universal Participation

How Do We Create a Climate of Encouragement?

Why Do People Resign from the Baha’i Faith? 

Feeling safe, respected, and valued by members of the Institutions increases loyalty and makes it possible for traumatized individuals to participate in the goals of the plan.

How has this helped you understand this issue?  Post your comments below!