SELAH: Sanctuary, Empowerment, Love and Hope

SELAH at New England Pastoral Institute has been featured on the newsletter for DomesticShelters.org!  Check it out!!

Dove SELAH Peace on Earth

SELAH. Safety, Empowerment, Love and Hope–these are the factors that transform the lives of victims of interpersonal violence to survivors, and beyond. From victims, to victors. SELAH.

“Selah” is a word found in the old testament books of Psalms and Habakkuk. There is no consensus on the meaning or purpose of the word; some believe it is a directive signifying a change in musical dynamics, while others surmise it is an instruction loosely translated to mean “weigh carefully, or reflect” on the previously written words.  In either context, this is the purpose of SELAH: to change the dynamics of lives broken by domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, child maltreatment and trafficking, and encourage the community–especially the faith community–to “weigh carefully and reflect” on how it can more effectively respond to families in crisis.

As a victim of an abuser, I had very difficult decisions to make, more than a few with life-and-death consequences if I chose unwisely.  As a person of faith, I looked to my faith community for sanctuary, for guidance and for hope–this is true for many victims.  A study titled, “Divine Intervention: The Ethics of Religion, Spirituality and Clergy Collaboration in Legal Counseling” speaks to the fact that, “…religion and spirituality are lenses through which most [people] view their problems.  For many, it is literally impossible to separate religious concerns from relational or legal ones; religion is infused with the client’s identity as an embedded framework for problem-solving.”  For many victims of family violence, their decision-making capacity is interwoven with their values and beliefs, making it necessary for spiritual concerns to be addressed before safety issues will even be considered. Unfortunately, many survivors of faith also identify that their faith communities are unresponsive to their needs.

As an advocate for victim/survivors in a traditional crisis center setting, I was troubled that I could ask service-users what their financial, medical, housing and legal needs were, but was restricted from asking about spiritual needs under “no proselytizing” mandates.  Many victims identified that they would not be able to take next steps for safety until their moral concerns were addressed, and for some, our inability to address those concerns meant that they would not access other services (shelter, support groups, etc.). Other victim needs went unsupported, as restrictions on advocacy roles decreased service accessibility.

So SELAH was born, to marry the best of what faith communities and crisis centers offer, both to individual people and to community systems and professionals. At the heart of SELAH’s mission is the recognition that every victim/survivor of family violence deserves zealous advocacy, tailored services to meet individual needs, and full support in accessing ALL potential resources for healing, both through secular and spiritual avenues.

Victims of family violence need not choose between their safety and their beliefs, values or faith. Selah.

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SELAH is committed to providing services to victims/survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, child maltreatment, stalking and sex trafficking, regardless of gender, age, health status (including HIV-positive), physical, mental or emotional ability, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, socio-economic status, race, national origin, immigration status, or religious or political affiliation.