Navy Chaplain Corps Hones its Pastoral Care Capabilities in Cases of Military Sexual Assault
WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Navy chaplains and religious program specialists met with Chaplain Corps leadership for a professional development training course validation at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling Oct. 29-31. The training, hosted by the Naval Chaplaincy School and Center, focused on pastoral care for sexual assault victims with a particular emphasis on confidentiality and the role chaplains play in the healing and recovery process.
Article originally published here: www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=77487
by Christianne M. Witten, Chief of Chaplains Public Affairs
WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Navy chaplains and religious program specialists met with Chaplain Corps leadership for a professional development training course validation at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling Oct. 29-31.
The training, hosted by the Naval Chaplaincy School and Center, focused on pastoral care for sexual assault victims with a particular emphasis on confidentiality and the role chaplains play in the healing and recovery process.
While chaplains already receive training in sexual assault reporting procedures, this year's training will represent "the first time the Chaplain Corps has focused on specialized training in pastoral care for sexual assault victims," said Lt. Cmdr. David Thames, a Navy chaplain and deputy executive assistant to the chief of Navy chaplains, who helped coordinate the training.
The purpose of the multi-day validation was to fine-tune the training course before it is rolled out next January across the Chaplain Corps worldwide.
"Sexual assault in our military is a critical issue that can have a devastating impact on our people and the command. As chaplains and religious program specialists, we are in the unique position of being first responders when these critical situations arise," said Chief of Chaplains Rear Adm. Mark L. Tidd during his opening remarks.
"The role we play in helping victims and the accused is crucial to the healing and recovery process for the individual service members, their units and their families," Tidd added.
"Our people have the right and privilege to confidential communications with us, as chaplains. This complete confidentiality is a critical resource for those we serve and our leaders, since it is this confidentiality that encourages victims to take the steps to become survivors who regain a sense of wholeness and hope in times of deepest human need. We must do all we can to uphold and protect this sacred trust placed in us," Tidd said.
Teresa Scalzo, deputy director for the office of the judge advocate general corps' trial counsel assistance program, was among the subject matters experts in attendance to address how religious ministry teams can support victims as they navigate the legal process.
"Chaplains are truly partners in the justice process. Very often we forget that there are two important goals in military justice: one is victim health and wholeness and the other is offender accountability," said Scalzo.
"We are far more likely to achieve both goals if we seek both goals. In other words, if we are able to support a victim and help a victim heal, they are far more likely to want to cooperate in the process, to testify, to be able to get through the stresses and trauma of the military justice system. The chaplain can help the victim by empowering and supporting the victim, recognizing the pressure points in the process, and providing pastoral care to help the victim get through those trying times," she added.
When asked about the complete confidentiality one can have with the chaplain, Scalzo went on to say, "confidentiality, in the context of the chaplain, is a privilege. The chaplain is the one person the victim or the accused can go to and speak freely in the context of receiving spiritual guidance."
In addition to covering the reporting process and the legal aspects associated with military sexual assault cases, attendees also learned about the psychology of trauma and the psychological impact of sexual assault on a victim.
The final day focused on best practices for providing pastoral care to both the victims and the accused. Dr. Kristen Leslie of Eden Theological Seminary and Dr. Marie Fortune of the Faith Trust Institute were contracted as subject matter experts to help chaplains learn how to better "care for those who pursue healing; to assist in lending an articulate vocabulary to those who've lost their voice due to the trauma of sexual assault," said Capt. Kyle Fauntleroy, a Navy chaplain and commanding officer of the Naval Chaplaincy School and Center.
Throughout her training, Leslie emphasized the ability of chaplains to bring "healing where there is brokenness; to be a safe place for victims to be heard and understood."
She described how the chaplain's presence, combined with their ethical and theological framework, can help bring healing and hope to those who are struggling and hurting.
"Chaplains offer compassion when being present with people who are suffering. They help them to make sense of what has happened to them emotionally, physically and spiritually," Leslie said.
"Chaplains help victims navigate through grief and loss and serve as a reminder that they are deserving of attention, not only by a chaplain, but also by God. That there are deserving of justice," she added.
For more information on the Navy Chaplain Corps and complete confidentiality, visit www.chaplain.navy.mil and www.navy.mil/local/crb/.