SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Law enforcement officers, prevention advocates and pastors came together as faith leaders Monday at the Caddo coroner's office to try to combat sexual violence.
"Every 98 seconds, someone's being sexually abused. I mean, that speaks volumes. I mean, that speaks volumes for itself," said Angela Henderson, assistant executive director of Project Celebration.
The Many-based sexual and domestic violence prevention nonprofit co-hosted the roundtable summit along with the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault and FaithTrust Institute.
The training focused on Christian tradition and Scriptures and how faith communities can respond to sexual violence in a pastoral manner.
"It's really based on understanding the strengths that religious communities can bring in this fight and also understanding the ways that Scriptures and traditions have been utilized in the past to not be so supportive of survivors and how we can really engage leaders in prevention," said Jessie Nieblas, the foundation's education and prevention director.
The Rev. Lydia Mulkey, minister of education at First United Church of Oak Park in Illinois, helped lead the summit during which pastors discussed the distinguishable characteristics of physical sexual violence and child abuse while also being trained to recognize the signs of nonviolence in a relationship or marriage.
Discussion also turned to the role of faith leaders as mandatory reporters of child abuse.
According to Louisiana law, members of the clergy are enumerated as mandated reporters; but that privilege is limited to "pastoral communications."
"A communication is 'confidential' if it is made privately and not intended for further disclosure except to other persons present in furtherance of the purpose of the communication."
While a person may say things to pastors in confidentiality, the pastors are called to encourage that person to report the abuse to the proper authorities.
"Our pastors are some of the people we talk to first, even before our family or friends. So it's important that they know what to expect and what to say," Henderson told KSLA News 12.
Pastors can begin the fight against sexual violence by tackling obstacles every parishioner's relationship or marriage may face before it turns violent, said Sam Hubbard Jr., pastor of New Bethany Baptist Church in Oak Ridge.
"We're talking about finances, right? Debt would cause bad relationships. Quickly. Sometimes it causes splits."
Summit organizers hope beginning the conversation now will help any possible victims in the future.
"With all the hooplah, what's going on in Hollywood, there's a lot of survivors coming out!" Henderson said.
"We're really trying to make sure that, when they do, they're met with support and that they're believed," the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault's Nieblas added.