How do you handle cases of domestic abuse that come to your attention?
Answer: One of the committees of
the nine local elected representative of the Bahá’í community (Local
Spiritual Assembly) is called the Counselling Committee. Its mandate
clearly covers cases of domestic abuse. In serious and rare cases, the
assembly will handle a case itself. The counsellors will remind the
believer(s) of the spirit and letter of the Bahá’í teachings and laws
covering the case in question. If necessary, they take disciplinary
action. The process takes place in strict confidence to protect the
dignity of all persons involved.
Fact-finding is the first step. Representatives will meet with the
parties concerned — often in separate meetings — to verify the facts.
Remedies cannot be offered without knowing, to the extent possible,
what has actually taken place. In cases of lesser marital dispute, the
Counselling Committee reminds the parties of the spiritual principles
involved and offers advice. The fundamental spiritual principle(s)
pertaining to each and every case are outlined. Where it is warranted,
professional counselling is recommended. Although the committee does
not usually consist of professional counsellors, it has developed a
list of professional counsellors who are familiar with Bahá’í teachings
In a case of domestic violence, because one or more persons is facing
psychological abuse/and or bodily harm, the committee and Local
Spiritual Assembly will take immediate action to: First, inform the
endangered person of his/her legal rights and the services that are
available to safeguard the well-being of the individual(s); Second, if
necessary, immediate action is taken to provide a temporary haven for
the endangered party. This action precedes the contacting of the social
services and any possible judicial remedies that may be sought. Joined
to any legal measures or social agency intervention, the Local
Spiritual Assembly may recommend to the National Spiritual Assembly of
the Bahá’ís of Canada the removal of the individual’s “administrative
rights.” This removal includes the right to vote in Bahá’í elections.
This step, while it does not carry the radical step of expulsion from
the community, carries serious spiritual penalties. In summary, the
process of intervention in domestic abuse includes: fact-finding,
informing, counselling, warning, legal and social intervention and the
possible removal of the individual’s administrative rights.