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Things are Getting Better

Behold the disturbances which, for many a long year, have afflicted the earth, and the perturbation that hath seized its peoples. It hath either been ravaged by war, or tormented by sudden and unforeseen calamities. (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p.163)

Whenever another calamity happens anywhere in the world, my anxiety level goes way up.  It helps to be reminded that many of the atrocities we see in the world could be part of God’s plan, moving us towards the Lesser Peace.  As we know, the Major Plan of God is leading humanity toward maturity through the simultaneous processes of integration and disintegration.  Sometimes it’s easy to only see evidence of the disintegration.

I recently read studies which tell us that despite all the atrocities we hear on the news each day; our world is becoming less violent.  In fact, statistics show that violence is in a steady decline!  I was shocked when I first read that, but you can read about it yourself at sites such as:

As I read study after study, I realized that I had to let go of my belief that things were getting worse.  It’s hard to be able to elevate the level of discourse in the people around me, when I too am focused on only the negative.

Being reminded that Baha’u’llah’s influence is changing the world for the better, I am grateful!

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/22/world-less-violent-stats_n_1026723.html

[2] http://www.hsrgroup.org/human-security-reports/human-security-report.aspx

[3] http://hdr.undp.org/en/statistics/

[4] http://www.ted.com/talks/steven_pinker_on_the_myth_of_violence.html

[5] http://www.cidcm.umd.edu/pc/

[6] http://www.systemicpeace.org/

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Fear into Faith:  Overcoming Anxiety

 

 

Help Keep This Site Alive

Codes Of Conduct For Keeping Children Safe

 

Volunteers of the Baha’i Community of Canada are required to exercise care and wisdom in all of their efforts in service to others. The following guidelines are among those with which volunteers working with children and junior youth will be expected to be familiar, and abide by:

  • When possible, activities should be held in public places, open to inspection. If activities take place in homes, volunteers should ensure that the private space is treated as a public space in which parents of the children and junior youth should feel welcome to be present.
  • Volunteers should work with others whenever possible, to prevent the likelihood of abuse or allegations thereof. When working in isolation, judgment can become skewed, boundaries may be crossed, and abuse may be more likely occur.
  • Non-screened assistants (such as parents, assistant youth and other adults) will not be placed in positions of responsibility or charge for children and junior youth during program meetings and activities, and should always be in the presence of a screened animator or teacher.
  • Adults should not spend extended time alone with children and junior youth without consent of the child’s parent or guardian.
  • Where programs are held in facilities that are the property of another entity, the volunteer will familiarize him/herself with any terms of use and/or codes of conduct of the owners of the facility, and uphold these requirements on behalf of the National Spiritual Assembly. Any incidents that occur during the use of the facility will be reported both to the institute coordinator as well as to the facility manager, in accordance with the facility’s relevant guidelines.
  • If animators or teachers wish to hold activities in a public or rental facility, they will consult with the institute coordinator (cluster or regional) to obtain the necessary insurance coverage.
  • Children and junior youth should not be taken in any vehicle without parent/guardian permission.
  • In extracurricular events and activities such as overnight camps or field trips, every effort must be made to protect their privacy. Girls and boys must not change together and adults must change separately from the children and junior youth. Adults should not sleep in close proximity to children or junior youth. Under no circumstances should a single adult take a group of children or junior youth on an overnight trip.
  • Parents/guardians of children and youth should be encouraged to ask questions and stay abreast of the nature of the adult/child interaction. They should be encouraged to talk with their children about the programs and the volunteers they encounter.
  • It is mandatory to report known or suspected child abuse immediately or as soon as practically possible to local authorities or social services, as well as to program coordinators or supervising entity. (Baha’i Community of Canada, Code of Conduct for Volunteers and Staff working with Children and Junior Youth)

Code Of Conduct For Coordinators And Supervisors

Institute coordinators and supervisors of events and activities are to abide by the above code of conduct for volunteers, as well as to assist volunteers to familiarize themselves with and uphold these requirements and to exercise care and wisdom in all aspects of their service.  (Baha’i Community of Canada, Code of Conduct for Volunteers and Staff working with Children and Junior Youth)

In addition to the above code of conduct, coordinators and supervising entities will abide by the following:

  • Coordinators and supervisors will instruct volunteers on the organization’s internal process and chain of command for reporting observed or suspected abuse of children and junior youth. A copy of the National Assembly’s policy on reporting abuse is attached or can be requested from the National Office.
  • Coordinators and supervisors will ensure that any incidents involving local authorities, including how they were handled and any outcomes will be reported to the Institute Board or supervising agency, and forwarded to the National Spiritual Assembly as a routine measure for their records.
  • Where programs are held in facilities that are the property of another organization, coordinators will ensure that children’s class teachers and junior youth animators are familiar with any terms of use and/or codes of conduct of the owners of the facility, and are committed to upholding these requirements as a volunteer on behalf of the National Spiritual Assembly. The coordinator will be kept abreast of all relationships with entities providing space for the activities of the Bahá’í community, and will ensure that the necessary insurance coverage is obtained from the Treasury Department of the Bahá’í National Centre.
  • Incidents (eg. damage, injury, breach of conduct, etc.) that occur during the use of the facility will be reported to the facility manager, in accordance with relevant guidelines. An incident report will be filed by the coordinator with the Institute Board for its records, forwarded to the National Spiritual Assembly.
  • Coordinators and supervisors will ensure that any incidents resulting in the loss of use of a facility due to damages or breach of conduct will be reported to the Institute Board or supervising agency, forwarded to the National Spiritual Assembly, as a routine measure for their records. (Baha’i Community of Canada, Code of Conduct for Volunteers and Staff working with Children and Junior Youth)

Code Of Conduct For Institutes And Overseeing Agencies

Any agency or institution overseeing events and activities for children and youth will orient themselves with this policy and review it on an ongoing basis, at minimum at the beginning of each term of service. Should any questions arise, they will contact the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Canada for clarification. These agencies and institutions will ensure that this policy and its implications are reviewed in detail by coordinators and supervisors of volunteers, and that coordinators and supervisors are assisted to ensure that it is conveyed to volunteers and implemented in all of its facets.  (Baha’i Community of Canada, Code of Conduct for Volunteers and Staff working with Children and Junior Youth)

Confidentiality And Privacy 

Every institution in the Faith has certain matters which it considers should be kept confidential,” the Universal House of Justice states, “and any member who is privy to such confidential information is obliged to preserve the confidentiality within the institution where he learned it:

The National Assembly is committed to safeguarding all confidential information that it or its agencies receive, in accordance with Bahá’í principles: “Every institution in the Faith has certain matters which it considers should be kept confidential,” the Universal House of Justice states, “and any member who is privy to such confidential information is obliged to preserve the confidentiality within the institution where he learned it.” This commitment requires the wholehearted support of all institutions and agencies of the Bahá’í community in Canada to the Confidentiality Policy of the National Assembly.  A copy of this policy is attached, or can be requested from the National Assembly.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

Where no confidentiality is involved the institutions must strive to avoid the stifling atmosphere of secrecy:

Circumstances in which privacy and confidentiality are not required, on the other hand, such as information regarding the progress of the Cause and contact information of agencies and institutions, should be shared in a spirit of openness, as the Universal House of Justice encourages: “Where no confidentiality is involved the institutions must strive to avoid the stifling atmosphere of secrecy.” Such a spirit of openness is intended to further encourage transparency in the dealings and affairs of agencies and individuals, and promote collaboration(NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

In general, it is important that Local Assemblies observe confidentiality in disclosing any information.  Records should be kept separately from the Assembly’s general minutes:

It is important that Local Assemblies observe confidentiality in disclosing any information, particularly in the field of mental illness or family conflicts, beyond what is needed as stated above. This includes not only the substance or fact of consultation with or about the person but also any document in which references are made to diagnosis or treatment. All such records should be protected, preferably separately from the Assembly’s general minutes. Moreover, in discussing the mental state or behavioral disorder of an individual, friends should avoid careless use of labels such as diagnosis (whether perceived or reported from a professional). This will avoid spread of rumor outside of the Assembly which may have legal consequences or would stigmatize such individuals in the community. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 23)

When safety issues are a concern,  conveying confidential information to duly authorized personnel should not be considered a violation of confidentiality:

Conveying confidential information to duly authorized personnel when safety issues are a concern should not be considered a violation of confidentiality. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 23)

Records And Document Management

  • Records about any volunteer’s private or confidential information, including all police records and Bahá’í background checks, are to be stored securely.
  • Individuals’ screening records should be stored indefinitely for future reference, and should not be destroyed.
  • Physical records are to be stored in the agency’s confidential files in a locked filing cabinet
  • Electronic files should be stored on a password-protected computer within password-protected documents.
  • Any other confidential information that is entrusted to an entity or individual for the purposes of fulfilling their service – for example, membership lists of the Bahá’í community, lists of contact information and personal information of program participants, meeting minutes and institutional correspondence, information about salaries, benefits, deputization provided to any personnel, etc. – will be kept confidential during and after any individual’s service to that entity, and deleted from their personal electronic files as soon as possible following their conclusion of service. (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

 

 

Keeping the Victim Safe from Psychological, Social and Moral Abuse

Psychological Safety

Psychological safety includes the ability to protect ourselves, to exert self-discipline and self-control, to be able to direct our minds where we want it to go, to know ourselves and feel reasonably good about our abilities and accomplishments. Trauma deprives us of this because try as we might, we could not prevent the traumatic experiences from occurring. We came face to face with our powerlessness and helplessness, which defeats a sense of psychological safety and robs us of our ability to be in control of our lives.

Helplessness is a learned behaviour and can be unlearned.  Overcoming it can lead to positive or negative actions. Negative actions include trying to retrospectively control traumatic past events by over-controlling people in the present. Positive actions are directed at mastery, building capacity, promoting resilience, and helping others; all of which can be learned through participation in the core activities of the Baha’i community.

To create a psychologically safe environment our Baha’i communities must:

  • provide information and resources
  • be secure from “terrorists” – those who can only manage their own overwhelming emotions by venting their rage onto others.

Baha’u’llah has given us a standard to reach for, when He says:

Beware that thou allow not the wolf to become the shepherd of God’s flock, and surrender not the fate of His loved ones to the mercy of the malicious.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p.233)

Both the threat and fear of violence must be removed before effective consultation can take place:

Addressing domestic violence has nothing to do with “resolving differences,” which implies a relationship in which all opinions are valued equally and where true consultation may occur and produce a beneficial outcome. According to guidance in the preceding passages, both the threat and fear of violence must be removed before effective consultation “animated by awareness of the need for moderation and balance” can take place.   (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 101)

Abusers are frequently successful manipulators and may seek to discredit victims or by portraying themselves as victims in the situation:

Assemblies must not allow themselves to be misled by abusers, who are frequently successful manipulators and may seek to discredit victims through accusing them of exaggeration and misrepresentation or may try to engage sympathy on their own behalf by portraying themselves as victims in the situation.   (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 105)

Rather than being taken in by manipulation, Assemblies should provide a balance of encouragement for such of their qualities as are commendable combined with firm and unequivocal guidance concerning violations of Bahá’í standards of conduct:

Rather than being taken in by such claims, Assemblies should endeavor to provide a balance of encouragement for such of their qualities as are commendable combined with firm and unequivocal guidance concerning violations of Bahá’í standards of conduct.   (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 105)

 It’s OK to stay away from those who have the power to harm you:

Such an attitude (forgiveness and insight into their actions) does not preclude your being prudent in deciding upon the appropriate amount of contact with your parents. In reaching your decision you should be guided by such fac-tors as their degree of remorse over what they inflicted on you in the past, the extent of their present involvement in practices which are so contrary to Bahá’í Teachings, and the level of vulnerability you per-ceive within yourself to being influenced adversely by them. In the process of reaching a decision, you may well find it useful to seek the advice of experts such as your therapist.  (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 9 September, 1992)

 Social Safety:

Social support has long been recognized as an important factor contributing to resilience. People who can draw strength from other people, who can establish meaningful and sustained social relationships do better under conditions of normal and traumatic stress. Although the Baha’i community is uniquely able to provide it’s members with a sense of safety with other people; we haven’t yet learned to  draw fully on these mighty forces of love and strength and harmony generated by the Faith:

Indeed the believers have not yet fully learned to draw on each other’s love for strength and consolation in time of need. The Cause of God is endowed with tremendous powers, and the reason the believers do not gain more from it is because they have not learned to draw fully on these mighty forces of love and strength and harmony generated by the Faith.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 93)

Social safety means that negative behavior in all its many forms – any violation of physical, psychological, social, or moral space – needs to be immediately confronted and responded to, but without ever humiliating or shaming the people involved.

It means bullying must be defined, mutually understood, and responded to as a sign of violence. And it means creating an overall environment of understanding, respect, and compassionate regard for the other – an environment that gives the other person the “benefit of the doubt” and that minimizes blame while still emphasizing responsibility and accountability.

For more information, you may find this helpful:

Mental Health is at Risk when Love and Justice are Absent

Disruptive Behaviour

When someone is being disruptive in a Baha’i Community, it’s best to not judge and condemn.  We have to learn to accommodate and assist those who, may or may not be mentally ill but, nonetheless, have negative, unpleasant or disruptive personalities:

The institutions as well as individual believers will have to learn to accommodate and to assist those persons who, may or may not be mentally ill by medical definition but, nonetheless, have negative, unpleasant or disruptive personalities.   (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 24)

For more information please see:

Dealing with Borderline Personality Disorder in the Baha’i Community

Being of Service Even When People Drive you Crazy

Understanding our Tests at the Hands of Other Baha’is

Disruptive behaviour can be caused by heredity, environment, nourishment and our own treatment of them:

Our appetites and inclinations are strongly influenced by the condition of our physical makeup, and our bodies are in varying degrees of health, depending upon factors such as heredity, environment, nourishment and our own treatment of them. Genetic variations occur, producing conditions which can create problems for the individual. Some conditions are of an emotional or psychological nature, producing such imbalances as quickness to anger, recklessness, timorousness, and so forth; others involve purely physical characteristics, resulting not only in unusual capacities but also in handicaps or diseases of various kinds. (Universal House of Justice, 11 September 1995, to a National Spiritual Assembly)

It may be due to the effects of illness or disease:

In some cases, disruptive behavior may be due to the effects of illness or disease. The person’s behavior may become extremely unpredictable, over-emotional, even aggressive, regardless of his or her normal personality.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 23)

It may be due to an adverse reaction to prescription medication, drug interaction with other substances, environmental exposure to harmful substances that produce biochemical imbalances in the body, allergies and food intolerances:

In some cases, problems in behavior may be due to an adverse reaction to prescription medication, drug interaction with other substances, or environmental exposure to harmful substances that produce biochemical imbalances in the body. Other medical conditions, for example certain allergies and food intolerances, may also result in mood or behavior problems, some of which may be mistaken for mental disorder, substance abuse, or deliberate abuse of others, especially if the condition is undiagnosed and occurs repeatedly. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 23)

Assemblies have 3 responsibilities:

  • Suggest a thorough evaluation by a competent physician
  • minimize the negative aspects and protect the community from disruption and divisiveness
  • help them face their challenges and develop their God-given spiritual potential

It is often appropriate to suggest that someone with a behavior problem be thoroughly evaluated by a competent physician. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 23)

When a believer has emotional or psychological problems which render him incapable of behaving responsibly, the Local Assembly must, to safeguard the welfare of the community, consider what it can do to minimize the negative aspects of the person’s influence and protect the community from disruption and divisiveness. On the other hand, it must endeavor to help such persons face their challenges in life, which may be considerable, and develop their God-given spiritual potential. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 24)

 If the Assembly suspects that someone may be in danger because of the psychological problems of a believer, it can appoint a representative to contact a mental health crisis unit, adult or child protective agency, and/or the police about its concerns:

If the Assembly suspects that someone may be in danger because of the psychological problems of a believer, it can appoint a representative to contact a mental health crisis unit, adult or child protective agency, and/or the police about its concerns.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 23)

Moral Safety:

Harder to define, a climate of moral safety is an environment within which Baha’i Institutions model the very behavior that they want believers to emulate. It’s about “walking the talk”, being sure that our words and deeds are consistent. It is a climate within which it is safe for people to have discussions and disagreements about ethical dilemmas, right conduct, and value systems, all within the framework of the Baha’i Writings.

Creating a climate of moral safety, is more challenging than creating any other kind of safety because it drives us to confront the heart of the matter – even where we come together to plan, execute and reflect on the elements of the core activities and the framework for action.

It compels us to examine our motives and actions; to confront our own hypocrisy and define the kinds of communities we want to develop.

Great vigilance is required on the part of the institutions, to monitor their responses when providing guidance to believers:

Assemblies should also recognize that it may be challenging for members of the institutions to maintain a proper perspective in dealing with the behaviors of individuals with mental disorders. Members of Spiritual Assemblies are not exempt from the influences and dysfunction of present day society and are, for the most part, inexperienced in dealing with matters of mental disorders. Therefore, certain behaviors of some believers may provoke inappropriate responses from members of the Assembly. Great vigilance is required on the part of the institution itself to monitor its own responses when providing guidance to believers.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 23)

Trauma survivors need environments that are safe and compassionate in every way and that can tolerate and contain emotional expression; that promote belonging, participation and involvement; that encourage empowerment, personal responsibility, achievement and social commitment; and that place an emphasis on resilience, mastery, and productivity.

A safe culture is one within which

  • painful emotions of anger, grief, shame and guilt can be tolerated, managed, and redirected rather than suppressed, ignored, denied or punished
  • negative behavior is confronted and conflicts resolved before they escalate into any form or perception of violence
  • there is consistency; and people can be counted on to do what they say they will do

For those who’ve experienced trauma to feel truly safe again they will have to experience all four levels of safety – physical, psychological, social and moral safety.

How has this been helpful?  Post your comments below!

 

Keeping the Victim Physically Safe

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

 How has this helped increase your understanding of this issue?  Post your comments below!

 

Introduction to Keeping the Victim Safe

 

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!