Helping Victims of Sexual Violence Find Healing and Hope

 
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Rev. Dr. Sarai Crain-Pope Brings Ministry to Victims of Sexual Violence, Human Trafficking and Domestic Abuse

By Ellen Chamberlain

Rev. Dr. Sarai Crain-Pope (DMin 2016) chose to earn a Doctor of Ministry at SFTS because its Pastoral Care and Counseling Program offers clinical orientation, theological leaning and pastoral education, which together fully prepared her for the work she always dreamed of—that of a Pastoral Counselor.

Crain-Pope found her way to ministry unexpectedly. While studying psychology as an undergraduate, she spent her junior year in Ghana, a place abundant in worship and prayer. One day out of the blue she heard a clear and powerful voice, which she knew to be a call to join hands with the Lord.

When she returned home from West Africa, she entered a minister-in-training program, and at the age of 24, was a certified and ordained minister, focused on pastoral and clinical counseling, with a strong desire to help victims of sexual violence.

While acts of sexual violence occur frequently, victims often remain in the shadows, minimizing the perceived seriousness of the crime. 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be victimized, yet an alarming 60 percent of sexual assaults go unreported.

In 2003 Crain-Pope became certified as a California Sexual Assault Counselor through an organization called Bay Area Women Against Rape (BAWAR), the first rape crisis center in the nation. BAWAR offers rape and incest survivors counseling and advocacy, coupled with community education about sexual assault. She currently acts as the agency’s Executive Director.

“The starting point when working with a survivor is to let them know, unequivocally, that ‘I believe you. What happened to you SHOULD NOT have happened and you are NOT to blame.’ Then I strive to dispel the myth that sexual assault is sexual in nature—it is not. Sexual assault is an act of violence, with a perpetrator and a victim,” said Crain-Pope.

Victims often feel that God has forsaken them, believing that ‘bad things don’t happen to good people.’ Crain-Pope espouses that God loves them and has a desire for them to be whole. She also encourages victims to express their anger, ministering that “God can handle your doubts, frustration, grief and disappointment.”

Crain-Pope is hopeful that more members of the clergy will acknowledge the prevalence of sexual violence, and learn how to minister to a congregation that likely includes silent victims. “I ask male clergy to rethink that this is a woman’s issue. Many boys and men are victims, so this is truly a human issue, deserving of our deepest understanding, compassion and love,” she added.

For information about sexual violence and opportunities to train as a Certified Sexual Assault Counselor, please visit BAWAR.org.

 

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