The leader of the RAVE Project team, Dr. Nancy Nason-Clark has recently been recognized for her research at the intersection of religion and domestic violence. In the spring of 2017 she was awarded the University of New Brunswick’s (UNB) President’s Medal for outstanding service to the university throughout her career. And just last weekend, she and I traveled to Winnipeg, Manitoba where she was inducted as a Fellow into the Royal Society of Canada – the highest academic honour in Canada. Nancy certainly didn’t set out to win awards for her work, but as her colleague and former graduate student, it sure was nice to see her get the recognition that she deserves for unwavering dedication to better understanding the complexity of domestic violence and creating practical resources for change. It was wonderful to celebrate Nancy’s successful career since she will retire from UNB at the end of this year.
Celebrating success is an important part of the process of social change, whether that be in the university or in a faith group. The RAVE Project is based on almost 25 years of action-oriented research. Every research project has addressed specific questions concerning religion domestic violence. Different methods of data collection have been used with people who are impacted by and respond to abuse in families of faith. Multiple projects have involved religious leaders, religious survivors, congregations, shelter workers, DV advocates, therapeutic professionals, criminal justice workers, and religious men who have acted violently. Analysis of the data has resulted in numerous books and journal articles as well as conference presentations, workshops and professional development training, including the resources found on this website. The results of any individual research project provide some answers to our questions, but they also lead to more questions which inform the next stage of the research. This is essentially what is known as the research cycle. Nancy has always insisted that we celebrate our success when we reach big or small milestones. This might involve going out for dinner after a long day of focus groups and interviews. Or it might mean taking time to share coffee and a muffin and celebrate the acceptance of an article for publication. Whether it is a research goal achieved, a kind note from a survivor who found the website helpful, or an invitation to communicate what we’ve learned to a new audience, all of these milestones are times to celebrate. Times of celebration are opportunities for reflection.
We encourage congregations to become part of their particular local community response to domestic violence. This can begin by becoming more familiar with the latest research by using the online training resources on the RAVE website. Getting to know the people in your local community who provide professional services for survivors and perpetrators of domestic violence is another good place to begin. Taking the first step, however small, helps in moving forward. Knowledge is powerful and can lead to further opportunities for change in individuals and churches. We encourage you to reflect on what you are learning and how you can put it into action. Everyone has a role to play. Celebrating successes along the way, no matter how small, is important.
Members of the RAVE Project team are often asked if our work on addressing the problem of domestic violence in families of faith has made any difference. Nancy was recently asked this question during an interview with CBC radio. The work has definitely deepened our own understanding of the complexity of domestic violence. Through the contributions of researchers and activists, it is more acceptable today to talk publically about the issue of domestic violence than ever before. We know that religious leaders and members of faith communities are accessing the resources via the RAVE Project website in order to learn and respond to situations in their communities. We know that public service providers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of including religious groups as part of a collaborative response to domestic violence.
The RAVE Project has played a role in these changes thanks to Nancy’s extremely competent, reliable and consistent leadership of a long-term, social science research program. Of course, there remains much to be done before every church is a safe place in which to disclose domestic violence and every shelter is a safe place to talk about religion, but there are many opportunities to celebrate success as we work towards those goals.
Cathy Holtmann, November 30, 2017