Courses on crime victimization and crime victim assistance should be established in clergy educational institutions and theological seminaries,including both worship and pastoral counseling courses.” “New Directions From The Field”
U.S. Department of Justice;The Office for Victims of Crime
Mitchell R. Morrisey, District Attorney
Mitchell R. Morrissey
Denver District Attorney

In 1998, the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Victims of Crime, released a landmark study of crime victim care in the United States. The study, “New Directions from the Field”, focuses on the spiritual needs of victims of crime following a traumatic event. The study recommends that victims of crime benefit from increased training of spiritual leaders in issues relevant to victims as well as increased participation in victim services and crisis response by the faith community.

“New Directions from the Field” reported that victims processed traumatic experiences with greater efficiency when surrounded by a network of support, including assistance from a faith community representative. The study determined that victims who lost significant relationships as a result of criminal acts, are five times more likely to turn to a member of the clergy for support over other emotional support options. The study concluded that the spiritual impact of crime is among the primary concerns expressed by victims. The study recommends that curriculum coursework focus on victim care and support be made available to graduate theological students across the country. This curriculum will help prepare clergy and faith-based counselors to work with crisis situations and crime victims within the context of their role as a spiritual leader.

The Denver District Attorney’s Office and Denver Victim Assistance and Law Enforcement Board (VALE) entered into a partnership with the Office for Victims of Crime to address this study’s recommendation. Bill Ritter, the former Denver District Attorney, supported and embraced the concept of partnering with faith community representatives in providing effective victim care. When current Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey took office, he expressed his strong support of FCPEI. Steve Siegel, the Director of Program Development in the Denver District Attorney’s Office, developed the goals of the collaboration and currently provides overall direction. Denver Theological Seminary, Denver, Colorado and Oblate School of Theology, San Antonio, Texas were enlisted as faith community partners to form the Faith Community Professional Education Initiative (FCPEI).

This initiative offers a strategic opportunity for graduate theological schools to meet the need expressed by crime victims and victim service providers across the United States, to train faith community representatives to provide meaningful support to victims of crime.

The "Faith Community Professional Education Initiative" (FCPEI) attempts to address the need expressed across the United States that clergy and faith-based counselors be trained to assist crime victims. FCPEI is a non-sectarian initiative open to interested graduate theological schools regardless of educational structure, size of student body, or theological tenants.

FCPEI focuses on inaugurating a newly developed post-graduate curriculum, Victim Care: Issues for Clergy and Faith-Based Counselors, into existing theological programs. The material may be utilized for professional continuing education credit. This two-credit hour course offering is intended to augment an institution’s existing course electives. The curriculum is available without charge for interested seminary schools. Schools are asked to provide a professor to teach the course, collect tuition kept by the participating school, handle normal grading procedures, and return student feedback on the value of the course along with any critique that may assist in the refining of the curriculum. Although the curriculum is most effective if presented as its own course, the material can also be adapted to fit into existing courses.

The curriculum has been accepted and taught at Denver Theological Seminary, Oblate School of Theology and at Eastern Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and other institutions. Students who have completed the course have diverse denominational, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds. Student evaluations rated the course outstanding as to content, skill development, and practical application. Students have expressed confidence that the course prepared them for the diverse issues and emotional complexity required when working with victims of crime. Students indicated that they will be able to utilize the information and skills gained from the course to contribute in a significant way to the healing process of crime victims. The curriculum has been produced in Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish versions to accommodate the varying theological institutions and beliefs.