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We can never feel safe if we are in danger of physical or sexual harm. It’s important that communities examine their potential for risk, and put measures in place to protect everyone.  Obviously, a large program, engaging hundreds of children and youth in its activities will present higher degrees of risk than a smaller program, composed primarily of individual initiatives with children, junior youth and youth already known through a network of family, friends and acquaintances.

To this end, the National Spiritual Assembly in Canada has developed a child protection policy which covers all volunteers working with children in programs under the supervision of any agency or institution of the National Assembly, including children’s classes, junior youth groups, and programs for children and junior youth at events such as seasonal schools and conferences. If you haven’t seen it, contact your Baha’i Council.

When someone is being abused

No one should allow others to be the object of cruelty and transgression:

As they do not allow themselves to be the object of cruelty and transgression, in like manner they should not allow such tyranny to visit the handmaidens of God.  (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 24 January, 1993)

There is no obligation on a wife, who is being beaten by her husband, to continue living with him:

There is no obligation on a wife, who is being subjected to beating by her husband, to continue living with him; she has the freedom to leave him and to live in a separate domicile if she feels it necessary to do so.  (Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia, dated April 12, 1990)

At these times, it’s entirely appropriate for her to turn to the Local Spiritual Assembly for advice and guidance:

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…  (Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia, dated April 12, 1990)

Bahá’ís are strongly encouraged to seek any protections available under civil law, particularly in matters pertaining to personal safety:

Individual Bahá’ís, including Assembly members, are strongly encouraged to seek any protections available under civil law, particularly in matters pertaining to personal safety. (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 54)

Male victims need immediate protection from domestic violence as well:

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).

They have a harder time seeking or accepting assistance:

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)

Abuse or rape would gravely jeopardize the continuation of the marriage, and could well lead to a condition of irreconcilable antipathy:

If a Bahá’í woman suffers abuse or is subjected to rape by her husband, she has the right to turn to the assembly for assistance and counsel, or to seek legal protection . Such an abuse would gravely jeopardize the continuation of the marriage, and could well lead to a condition of irreconcilable antipathy.  (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 24 January, 1993)

Before approaching an alleged abuser, the Assembly should (in consultation with the abused and with advice from domestic violence professionals and the National Assembly), attempt to assess the risk of any proposed approach and take care to ensure the safety of everyone involved before carrying out any actions:

It is essential that the Assembly be cautious in any contact with the abused party concerning the matter. Furthermore, before approaching an alleged abuser, the Assembly should, in consultation with the abused and with advice from domestic violence professionals as necessary, attempt to assess the risk of any proposed approach and take care to ensure the safety of everyone involved before carrying out any actions. In any situation in which the Assembly has exhausted its local advisory resources and is still uncertain how to proceed, it should seek guidance from the National Spiritual Assembly.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 81)

When the alleged abuser or relative or close friend of the alleged abuser is a member of the Assembly, it is suggested that the Assembly member receiving the report contact the National Spiritual Assembly for guidance rather than conveying the report directly to the Local Assembly:

In situations where the alleged abuser or relative or close friend of the alleged abuser is a member of the Assembly, it is suggested that the Assembly member receiving the report contact the National Spiritual Assembly for guidance rather than conveying the report directly to the Local Assembly.   (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 77)

Where consultation between abuser and victim is impossible, Baha’i institutions can meet with each party separately to provide protection, guidance, assistance, and corrective measures:

In domestic violence situations, where consultation between abuser and victim is often inherently impossible, the principle of consultation is likely to be most useful when applied between each party and the institutions, civil and/or Bahá’í, which provide protection, guidance, necessary assistance, and corrective measures.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 101)

For more information:

When Marriage Becomes Abusive

A Guideline for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence

When someone is suicidal: 

When the Assembly is aware of suicidal thinking, it may have the person sign a contract with the Assembly agreeing not to commit suicide and to seek other assistance whenever suicidal thoughts occur:

When the Assembly is aware of depression and suicidal thinking in an individual, it may, as a preventive measure, have the person sign a contract with the Assembly agreeing not to commit suicide and to seek other assistance whenever suicidal thoughts occur. Commitment to the Faith and respect for the Assembly, together with the sense that it cares and is paying attention, may serve as stabilizing influences for the person.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 15)

For more information:

Suicide

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