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The need for assistance in a variety of forms will vary; and may continue over a prolonged period of time:

It can be difficult to understand what to do to help families or individuals in distress. Families already separated by domestic violence will need a different kind of assistance than families struggling to hold themselves together in spite of it. When attempting to assist families, the Assembly should bear in mind the particular circumstances and needs of each family. The experiences of every family are different and the experiences of each person in a family differ from one another. Each member of a family affected by domestic abuse needs age appropriate support for her or his own particular experience. The Assembly should be aware that the need for assistance in a variety of forms may continue over a prolonged period of time.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 123)

 Pray with and for them

If you’ve ever had the bounty of consulting prayerfully in groups, then you already know how valuable the role of the Holy Spirit is. You know about that seemingly magical experience of coming into a meeting, turning to God to help in facing what seems to be an insurmountable problem, that is easily resolved when you consult together – when something emerges out of your group interaction that cannot be explained solely on the basis of individual contributions – those moments when the whole is actually greater than the sum of the parts.

Madness, incurable otherwise, can be cured through prayer.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London, 1982 ed. p.65)

You can render your assistance by praying for him and at the same time helping the physicians to treat him.  (Shoghi Effendi, Health and Healing, p.31)

The one who is sick may be in the East and the healer in the West, and they may not have been acquainted with each other, but as soon as that holy person turns his heart to God and begins to pray, the sick one is healed.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, cited in Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, p.109)

Help them ground themselves in the “here and now”

If you see someone feeling disoriented, confused, or upset, you can ask them to:

  • Look around and pick six objects that have red or blue; or ask them to see 3 things; hear 3 things; feel 3 things; and smell 3 things. This should allow them to feel in the present, more grounded, and in their body. Notice how their breath gets deeper and calmer.
  • go outdoors and find a peaceful place to sit on the grass; allowing nature to ground and nurture.

Establish Clear Boundaries:

If the person’s problems are affecting the community, the Assembly may wish to establish clear boundaries regarding his or her behavior in relation to itself, the community and, if necessary, to particular individuals within the community, with explicit consequences for violating the boundaries. If that approach is used, care should be taken to establish boundaries that are reasonable and consequences that are appropriate. If possible, this should be done in consultation and cooperation with the individual involved.

The Assembly may find it helpful to put the boundaries and consequences for violating them in the form of a written contract at the time of the agreement so that both the individual and the Assembly will have a copy. If possible, the actual wording should be agreed upon by both the individual and the Assembly. This will help to reduce confusion and minimize individual differences of perception in recalling what was decided when referring to the agreement in the future. Once consequences are specified, if the predetermined boundaries are violated, the Assembly must act to impose the consequences. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 11-12)

Visit them 

Visiting is a real healer; and has greater effect than the remedy itself:

We should all visit the sick. When they are in sorrow and suffering, it is a real help and benefit to have a friend come. Happiness is a great healer to those who are ill. In the East it is the custom to call upon the patient often and meet him individually. The people in the East show the utmost kindness and compassion to the sick and suffering. This has greater effect than the remedy itself. You must always have this thought of love and affection when you visit the ailing and afflicted.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p.204)

Visits revive the spirits:

When at the bedside of a patient, cheer and gladden his heart and enrapture his Spirit through celestial power. Indeed, such a heavenly breath quickeneth every moldering bone and reviveth the spirit of every sick and ailing one.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá., p.151)

 Ask what they need 

The best way to find out how you can assist someone is to ask. This may be something that develops over time as the person may not be aware of limitations until he or she runs into them. An open dialogue about how you can assist would be helpful from the beginning. Some people will feel embarrassed to admit they need help, so it is important to keep asking without being overly persistent and aggressive.

Take care of them

To look after the sick is one of our greatest duties:

To look after the sick is one of the greatest duties. For every soul who becomes sick, the other friends should certainly offer their lives [in service] with the utmost kindness.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, cited in Lights of Guidance, p.281)

Provide Assistance

It may be very hard for a traumatized person to ask for help; so when they do, find a way to give it to them:

Deny not My servant should he ask anything from thee, for his face is My face; be then abashed before Me.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Arabic 30)

It helps them; and it helps you too!

Remember the saying: ‘of all the pilgrimages, the greatest is to relieve the sorrow-laden heart.’  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p.92)

That may mean help with collecting groceries or housework, for example, or simply being available to talk or listen.

Issues of food, nutrition, health and shelter are central to the challenge of providing an adequate standard of living for all members of the human family. …While individuals must do their utmost to provide for themselves and their dependents, the community must accept responsibility, when necessary, to help meet basic needs. (Bahá’í International Community, February 18, 1998, “Valuing Spirituality in Development”)

It might even mean giving money or other resources if you have them to give:

They who are possessed of riches…must have the utmost regard for the poor, for great is the honour destined by God for those poor who are steadfast in patience. By My life! There is no honour, except what God may please to bestow, that can compare to this honour.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p.202)

O Ye Rich Ones on Earth! The poor in your midst are My trust; guard ye My trust, and be not intent only on your own ease. (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words., Persian 54)

There are many stories told of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá when He would even take off a garment He was wearing and give it to a shivering man in rags:

There are also the situations in which an individual Bahá’í or a Spiritual Assembly is confronted with an urgent need which neither justice nor compassion could allow to go unheeded and unhelped. How many are the stories told of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in such situations, when He would even take off a garment He was wearing and give it to a shivering man in rags.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p.122)

Understand that that the alleged offender is also in need of emotional and spiritual support:

The Assembly should be aware that the alleged offender, as well as the abused party, is in need of emotional and spiritual support. In its role as loving shepherd of the community, the Assembly should provide reassurance of its love to everyone involved and provide not only guidance but also a support network in the realization that frequent counsel and encouragement may be needed for all parties.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 69)

Do things together

They need love and fellowship:

Now is the time to cheer and refresh the down-cast through the invigorating breeze of love and fellowship, and the living waters of friendliness and charity. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p.7)

Encourage active participation in Baha’i teaching and community events:

The House of Justice advises you to persevere in your efforts to secure good medical assistance, from psychiatrists or others, and to follow the advice of these specialists. It also suggests that through daily prayer, and specially by observing the daily obligatory prayers, through study of the Writings, through active participation in teaching efforts and in the activities of the community, and through constant effort to sacrifice for the Faith you love so well, you will obtain a spiritual counterpart to the professional help you will receive from the experts. (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 26 July, 1988)

Assist them to attend the Feast

As to the Nineteen Day Feast, it rejoiceth mind and heart. If this feast be held in the proper fashion, the friends will, once in nineteen days, find themselves spiritually restored, and endued with a power that is not of this world.     (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections From the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p.91)

…it is incumbent upon every believer, unless ill or absent from the city, to attend each of these Feasts… These meetings may be regarded as the very heart of our Bahá’í community life. When properly conducted, and attended by a Bahá’í community which fully appreciates their importance, the Nineteen Day Feasts serve to renew and deepen our spirit of faith, increase our capacity for united action, remove misunderstandings and keep us fully informed of all important Bahá’í activities, local, national and international in scope.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, Bahá’í Meetings, The Nineteen Day Feast, pp.23-24)

To ensure that feasts are held properly; and are safe places, please see Checklist to Ensure the 19 Day Feast is Held Properly

 Advocate for their needs

Tell the rich of the midnight sighing of the poor, lest heedlessness lead them into the path of destruction, and deprive them of the Tree of Wealth. To give and to be generous are attributes of Mine; well is it with him that adorneth himself with my Virtues.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words., Persian 49)

Help them to find work 

Hard work has always been recognized as playing a vital role in a person’s recovery from trauma.

To engage in some profession is highly commendable, for when occupied with work one is less likely to dwell on the unpleasant aspects of life.   (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p.175)

Help them find courage

Help them find courage to do what needs to be done:

May you be a source of courage to the affrighted one.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace., p.425)

Attend to their children: 

Find tutors and mentors:

The Assembly may also wish to suggest tutors or mentors for abused children or youth. Mentoring helps young people rediscover trust in others and a sense of value in themselves, as well as providing role models for responsible and spiritual behavior. If suitable mentoring resources are not available within the Bahá’í community, they may be found through national or local organizations . . . (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 129)

Provide transportation to needed services and Baha’i activities:

The single parent may suffer from inadequate material resources, lack of skills and confidence, and the emotional support of a partner in parenting. The Assembly may wish to assist by encouraging access to whatever counseling or support services may be available, by ensuring that transportation to needed services or Bahá’í activities is available.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 130)

When possible, elders in the community should be actively engaged in participating in the life of the community, their skills and experience recognized and valued in service. In many cases, it will be necessary to provide transportation for elders to participate in community activities. (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 131)

Provide them with a monthly allowance:

In one of His Tablets, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states that “if a person is incapable of earning a living, is stricken by dire poverty or becometh helpless, then it is incumbent on the wealthy or the Deputies to provide him with a monthly allowance for his subsistence…”  (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ‘Notes’, p.193)

Provide scholarships to Baha’i conferences and summer schools:

The Assembly may wish to assist by . . . offering scholarships to Bahá’í conferences, schools and workshops.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 130)

Avoid Gossip and Backbiting:

The Assembly must also be aware of the potentially divisive effects the situation may have upon the community and urge believers to contain any discussion of the matter to its duly appointed representatives.   (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 69)

Seek advice from outside agencies: 

Know when to ask for outside help:

If the individual’s behavior seems to be so extreme that immediate assistance is required, the Assembly or its liaison may wish to contact a mental health crisis intervention unit or the police, as seems appropriate to the situation.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 12)

Assemblies are encouraged to seek advice from local mental health professionals, including social service agencies, and qualified non-profit organizations concerning specific situations and to draw upon these resources in deciding upon any course of action.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 11)

Provide resources:

In cases of mental disorders, the Assembly should make its decisions first in consideration of the benefit and welfare of the whole community and then in finding resources for the individual. Assemblies are encouraged to seek advice from local mental health professionals, including social service agencies, and qualified non-profit organizations concerning specific situations and to draw upon these resources in deciding upon any course of action.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 11)

Encourage people to find a good therapist:

Failure to encourage an appropriate healing remedy for an emotionally or psychologically traumatized member of a family is likely to adversely affect the future happiness and well-being of every member, for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states, “The injury of one shall be considered the injury of all.”   (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 60)

If need for a therapist is indicated, the Assembly may wish to suggest that the person get a referral from his or her primary physician, if they do not already have someone they are seeing or would like to see.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 12)

Suggest that the person get a referral from his primary care physician:

If need for a therapist is indicated, the Assembly may wish to suggest that the person get a referral from his or her primary physician, if they do not already have someone they are seeing or would like to see. If the individual’s behavior seems to be so extreme that immediate assistance is required, the Assembly or its liaison may wish to contact a mental health crisis intervention unit or the police, as seems appropriate to the situation.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 12)

Include the elders: 

Use their skills and experience:

The Assembly should cultivate an awareness and habit in the community of ensuring that its elders are fully welcomed into its life, that their skills and experience are utilized to the extent possible in consultation and service, and that means of including them are made available on an outreach basis.   (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 131)

Help with transportation, visiting, shopping, home repairs, gardening, maintenance chores and more:

Many older people will not ask for assistance but may appreciate being picked up and taken to community events, having regular visitors and companionship, assistance with home repairs, gardening, maintenance chores, and transportation to and from appointments and shopping, if their independent means are limited. These services are especially important if they have no family nearby who are attentive to their needs and could be a rewarding area of service for youth and others in the community. (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 131)

Provide regular phone support:

The Assembly may also wish to provide a mechanism for ensuring that regular telephone calls are made to elderly members of the community to decrease isolation and provide a regular means of checking on their well-being.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 131)

Build up the Institutions 

The greatest gift that we can give to the poor and the down-trodden is to aid to build up the divine institutions inaugurated in this day by Bahá’u’lláh as these institution, and this World Order when established, will eliminate the causes of poverty and the injustices which afflict the poor.  (Shoghi Effendi,  Lights of Guidance, p.124)

The following things are NOT helpful:

One of the least helpful things anyone can say is “get over it” or “all you need to do is pray”.  Many people feel a lot of guilt or shame around PTSD because they’re often told to “just get over it” and they can’t.

The House of Justice has told us:

Advice given by well-meaning believers to the effect that you should seek to transcend psychological problems does not qualify as competent advice on what is essentially a medical issue.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1985 Dec 02, Child Abuse, Psychology and Knowledge of Self)

Prayer is of course important, but by itself, it’s not enough:

There are two ways of healing diseases, the material and the spiritual way. The first is the remedies of the physicians; the second prayers and turning one’s self to God. Both must be practiced and followed.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v3, p. 653)

It’s also not helpful to say “everything you need to heal is found in the Baha’i Writings:

It is possible for a man to hold to a book of medicine and say, “I have no need of a doctor; I will act according to the book; in it every disease is named, all symptoms are explained, the diagnosis of each ailment is completely written out, and a prescription for each malady is furnished; therefore, why do I need a doctor?” This is sheer ignorance. A physician is needed to prescribe. Through his skill the principles of the book are correctly and effectively applied until the patient is restored to health.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 248)

Or “you should just forgive and forget”:

Although individuals are admonished to forgive one another on a personal level, this does not imply a right on the part of one individual to excuse another from the consequences of serious misconduct or criminal behavior. Judgment in such matters, whether involving violation of Bahá’í laws or violation of civil laws, can only be provided by duly constituted institutions.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, pp. 51-52)

For more information on this topic, please see Learning How to Forgive

You should also not tell them they have a mental health issue – as you are likely not qualified to make that determination:

If the Assembly becomes aware of a problem that might be an indicator of mental illness or other disorder it should avoid suggesting that there might be a mental problem, as it is not qualified to make such a determination.  Depending on the circumstances, it may wish to suggest that the person undergo a medical evaluation through his or her primary care physician or other health care practitioner.   (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 11)

Don’t assume the role of therapist:

In every aspect of offering assistance to families or individuals, the Assembly must always bear in mind that it cannot, and must not, try to assume the role of therapist for which it is neither mandated nor equipped. It may be helpful, in some circumstances, for the Assembly to provide general information to a therapist about the teachings of the Bahá’í Faith and its guidance on domestic violence.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 124)

What’s been your experience in trying to help the victims of trauma?  Post your comments below!