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Spirituality and Victims Services Initiative

In 2003, Sidran Institute was selected by the Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center to receive a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Victims of Crime, to develop the Baltimore Spirituality and Victim Services Initiative (SVSI). SVSI is one of five Collaborative Response to Crime Victims projects around the country charged with creating systems of services that link faith-based organizations and victim service programs in urban neighborhoods.

Because of Sidran’s trauma and mental health focus, our Baltimore site emphasizes the mental health and substance abuse aspects as well as traditional crime victims’ services.

The vision of the Baltimore Initiative collaboration partners was that service providers (health, mental health, substance abuse, and victims’ services), faith-based organizations, and the community-at-large would work together to promote the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of survivors of crime victimization trauma in Eastern Baltimore City. Project partners included

  • churches,
  • organizations devoted to
    • mental health,
    • substance abuse,
    • domestic violence,
    • sexual assault,
    • child abuse, and
    • community support
  • state’s attorney’s office,
  • bereavement center,
  • schools,
  • hospitals, and
  • clinics.

The community that was chosen for this project is extremely diverse in many ways, including race, ethnicity, religion, language, economic status, educational level—which added to the challenges of collaboration building.

The goals were to:

  • Build trust, relationships, and partnerships among all service providers, both secular and faith-based.
  • Convene agencies and individuals to learn about each other through discussions, exchange of information, focus groups, training sessions, and cross-training.
  • Develop a network of support with multiple, well-linked points of access to services for victims of crime/survivors of trauma.
  • Sustain the network of support for victims through implementation of a collaborative framework among all service providers, both secular and faith-based.
  • Encourage individuals, organizations, and service providers to cross-refer, providing victims/survivors access, as needed, to a variety of resources for addressing spiritual, psychological, and physical well-being.


In order to achieve these goals

  • clergy, lay community leaders, and secular service providers learned about:
    • The effects of crime and trauma on victims
    • The spiritual needs of victims and the role that spirituality can play in their healing, and
    • How to make more successful referrals that address victims needs holistically.
  • Faith-based and secular helping professionals had opportunities to:
    • Visit each other’s work places
    • Learn about each other
    • Teach each other from their own areas of expertise, and
    • Form working partnerships.
  • A core group of faith leaders and churches representing a diversity of religions created and implemented a confidential, community-based network called the Virtual Healing Network. This consortium of Congregational/Community Health Ministries, Victims Service Ministries, Parish Nurses, and Pastoral Counselors assess, support, and refer victims of crime.
  • Volunteers recruited through church congregations and community groups have been trained to serve as Victim Advocates/Companions.
  • Peer support groups (for victims and families of victims) were sponsored by and housed in faith and community institutions.
  • A comprehensive Resource and Referral Guide for use by providers of faith-based and secular services was prepared, in a collaborative process with a diverse group of clergy, secular providers, and the Office of the State’s Attorney.


A collaborative, community approach is especially important in response to traumatic crimes having to do with interpersonal violence.

  • Because sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse flourish in secrecy and isolation and foster continued isolation among victims, we believe they must be healed in a connected community.
  • Because abuse, trauma, and the related physical, emotional, social, and spiritual effects are complex, a complex response is required.

If victims’ services organization, mental health and substance abuse treatment providers, and faith communities work together from a single conceptual framework, the result can be holistic and congruent support of the body, mind, and spirit of trauma survivors.

Sidran’s Risking Connection® framework teaches service providers and faith leaders to work in collaboration with survivors to provide trauma-sensitive services, and it has been the cornerstone of the Baltimore Initiative. A well-designed collaboration of service providers, beyond simply coordinating services, can model for trauma survivors the healing power of a relationship and the processes of a healthy, functioning family. In a parallel process to the Risking Connection framework, services collaboration participants strove to develop and maintain RICH relationships with the provider group—Respect, Information (every participant is a teacher and a learner), Connection (the active ingredient in healing), and Hope.

Today this trauma-based project of stakeholders who are providing services to those suffering trauma includes representatives of clergy, community, mental health, health care, and established supportive agencies.

The SVSI provides training opportunities for the target communities’ stakeholders that allows them to interact, share information, and gain a greater understanding of each other. These interactive opportunities come in different forms—formal interactive training, focus groups, and cross training—and they have allowed the participants to understand that they are all service providers and that they all have much to offer those they serve as well as each other.

To strengthen the work of the SVSI, a triage component of Parish Nurses and Pastoral Counselors were added for coordination of services assisting both the stakeholding service providers and those suffering from the effects of trauma.

For more information, contact:
Elaine Witman elaine.witman@sidran.org 410-825-8888 x211

About Sidran Projects
Spirituality and Victims Services Initiative
Risking Connection
Faith in Health
The Shofar Coalition
Healing Self-Injury
Sidran's Speakers Bureau
Archived Past Projects
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