Trauma Informed Congregations


April 16, 2021
April 8 Sexual Assault Community of Practice Meeting Recap
The Chicagoland Trauma Informed Congregations Network recently hosted a community of practice gathering, “Faithful Response to Sexual Assault,” to commemorate Sexual Assault Awareness Month, observed in April.

Participants learned that one in four women and one in seven men have experienced sexual assault.

“We have known a sexual assault survivor whether we know it or not, said Rev. Tennille Power, pastor of Hazel Crest Community United Methodist Church, who co-facilitated the session with Anika Sterling Florez, community engagement manager with Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation. “Victims and perpetrators are in our faith communities and worship spaces. Sexual assault is an issue we cannot run away from.”

Tennille and Anika suggested we wear a teal ribbon or teal clothing to raise awareness of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

They led a discussion on the myths and facts of sexual assault, including:

Myth: Only young, conventionally attractive women are sexually assaulted.
Fact: Physical appearance plays no role.

Myth: It’s impossible for a person to rape a spouse.
Fact: Since 1993, all 50 states have laws to prosecute for marital rape.

Myth: Rape is a result of uncontrollable sexual urges and desires.
Fact: Rape is a violent act of humiliation, power, and control, not a result of sexual urges and desires.

Tennille and Anika discussed the role faith leaders play when confronted by the issue of sexual assault in their congregations. Among the points they made:

God calls faith leaders to give their best care to sexual assault survivors, even if that means referring them for care. “Clergy must ask themselves, ‘Am I getting triggered from my own past experiences?’ ‘Can I handle this situation?’” Tennille said. “If the answer is no, it is best for clergy to refer that person, so they don’t do unintentional harm.”

Honor the wishes of the sexual assault survivor. Follow what they want to do. Journey alongside them if they need support filing a police report or going to the hospital for an exam.

You can’t just forgive and forget. Spiritual forgiveness is possible, but a perpetrator must first confess and change behavior. Tennille recalled telling a congregant, “God will forgive you, but there has to be retribution, reconciliation and accountability.” She also told the perpetrator he could not be around children.

You should not push a survivor to forgive unless they are ready. “Healing occurs when there is forgiveness, but you cannot rush it,” Anika said. “A survivor has already experienced psychological and physical trauma. It is about someone breaking a boundary. Faith leaders also violate boundaries when they force survivors to forgive."

  • Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline: 888.293.2080
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800.646.4675
  • Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault: 217.753.4117 
  • Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation: 773.244.2230 or 
Sexual Assault Awareness Month Virtual Resource Fair
April 27, 2:00-4:00 p.m.

Sponsored by YWCA Metropolitan Chicago

Join us as we continue to share various community resources and valuable information for Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2021.

YWCA Metropolitan Chicago is one of the oldest and largest women's organization in the region and a leading service provider in the areas of sexual violence support services, early childhood, and child care providers services, family support services, youth STEM programming, and economic empowerment services.

Our Sexual Violence Support Service Programs include a 24-hour crisis hotline, medical and legal advocacy, counseling, case management, education, and prevention.

Register here.

Download flyer.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month
Keeping Children in our Community Safe

By Samantha Spolter, MSW, Safer Communities Coordinator and Dawn Levin, Community Liaison

It has now been over a year for many families that have been sheltering at home and spending unprecedented amounts of time together. Anxiety about health, education, and finances have been high. Many children are still in virtual or hybrid school, meaning they are not interacting with teachers, coaches, and other trusted adults who would normally notice concerns about their well-being and address red flags. At the onset of the pandemic, reports to DCFS concerning child abuse and neglect were down by 50%. Fewer calls reporting child abuse have been received since the outbreak, but that does not mean there’s a decrease in abuse. The pandemic has created the conditions for a rise in child abuse that may go unchecked.

According to a New York Times article written by Dr. Nina Agrawal, a child abuse pediatrician and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center: “When there is household dysfunction - domestic violence, parental substance abuse or mental disorder - the risk of child abuse goes up, and there’s a reason to believe all of these things will increase during this pandemic. For as long as we’re confined to our homes, many parents who are struggling with these issues will no longer have any reprieve from the hard work of keeping children fed, entertained, and educated.”

As a community, we have the opportunity to help children that may typically receive support from their teachers, guidance counselors, coaches or clergy. Teachers are trained to see physical signs of abuse or neglect. In the absence of these advocates interacting with kids in person on a regular basis, a new kind of advocate such as neighbors and friends become even more important than ever. If people are concerned about a particular family, they can help by doing small acts of kindness that may alleviate some stress. Acts of support, whether in the form of an offer to deliver food, coloring books, or to lend a listening ear, can make a huge difference to a stressed-out parent. If concerns are more serious, it is okay to ask a parent, or a child, if they need help.

Child Abuse in the Arab Chicagoland Community

By: Suhad Tabahi, PhD, and Itedal Shalabi, MSW 

Any form of violence against children is a worldwide social problem and one that continues to negatively impact families from every culture. Child abuse in the Arab American community has not received the attention warranted to restore healthier childrearing practices and promote stronger families. While the U.S. census classifies persons of Arab ancestry as White/Caucasian, there is a considerable difference between the collectivist values often found in Arab and Arab American culture and the individualist values which characterizes Western culture.
Because child abuse takes many forms such as physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, and/ or neglect, many do not realize that common cultural practices or phrases may be considered some form of abuse in the U.S. Further, the central role of family in Arab culture, particularly in maintaining familial harmony and preserving familial honor, plays a part in discouraging discussion of any form of child abuse and treats it as private family matter to be resolved internally. While no religion, culture or geographic region is immune from experiencing child abuse, the prevalence, prevention and intervention varies depending on services provided and community awareness and education around the issue.
Arab American Family Services (AAFS), a non- profit that provides accessible and effective social services to communities in the Chicagoland area is committed to empowering and enhancing the well- being of Arab Americans and their families through a variety of services such as violence prevention and awareness. As one of the only culturally sensitive social service providers contracted with DCFS, AAFS has taken the charge to not only work with mainstream systems to address child abuse, but also work with the local community in education around cultural practices, policies, laws to help families understand how to maintain healthy cultural practices while keeping children and families safe. There are however, challenges experienced in addressing child abuse in the Arab community such as: (1) A difference in how abuse and neglect are defined and understood in Arab and Western cultures, (2) Social equity factors and representation of Arabs, (3) Parental fears and concerns such as language barriers, fear of DCFS, lack of understanding of parental expectations, (4) Lack of or misrepresentation in the courts and legal systems, (5) Limited opportunities for culturally appropriate, trauma informed and linguistically available parenting classes, and, (6) DCFS workers and Guardians ad litem ill equipped and trained in working with Arab and Muslims families.
Become a Neighbor to Neighbor Vaccine Champion!
Training date: April 20, 3:00-4:00 p.m. or 6:00-7:00 p.m.

Spanish training details coming soon!

Join Advocate Aurora Health in addressing vaccine hesitancy in the community by becoming a Neighbor to Neighbor Vaccine Champion!
In efforts to increase vaccination rates and address challenges and concerns about the vaccine, Advocate Aurora Health is offering the Neighbor to Neighbor Vaccine Champion Program to community partners. The program will provide COVID-19 education and resources to grassroots community organizations, leaders and organizers. We will be hosting the initial Neighbor to Neighbor Vaccine Champion training virtually in English and Spanish. Additional details regarding the training and program are listed below.
Neighbor to Neighbor Vaccine Champion Summary: This program will provide grassroot community organizations, leaders and organizers with COVID-19 vaccination facts and materials to empower them to address concerns and discuss the COVID vaccine in the community. The training will also include a clinical expert to answer questions. AAH will provide a Resource Library to support Vaccine Champions in their work. In addition, AAH will hold regular check-in sessions to address additional questions, concerns and barriers identified by the Vaccine Champions as they work in the community. Incentives will be provided to individuals who complete the training and outreach activities in the program.
If you are interested in attending the April 20 training and becoming a Vaccine Champion, please register here
If you have any questions about the program, please contact Jeanne Ang at or Nichole Edmonds at
May 20, 10:00-11:30 a.m.

May Community of Practice Meeting on Human Trafficking

Upcoming Events
The Practice of Companionship - Preparing for the Future One Step at a Time

April 18, noon
April 19, 6:00 p.m.

Sponsored by Faith Community Church, Itasca, IL, and Pathways to Promise

As we prayerfully and patiently seek God during this Lenten season, we are excited to launch a two-part online series focused on Companionship. Companionship is a practice of presence and is rooted in our natural capacities as humans to act on our concern for another person.

  • Companionship is a relational response to isolation and distress, supportive of healing and recovery.
  • Companionship is not about “fixing” but instead welcomes the stranger, building a circle of care with individuals who are facing emotional and mental health challenges.

A fee of $49 covers the cost of materials. Questions? Contact Pastor Darryl Jenkins.

April 24, 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

Sponsored by the CommUNITY Diversity Group of La Grange, Lyonsville Congregational United Church of Christ, and The LeaderShop.

Join us for an anti-racism conference with multiple virtual and in-person workshops for all ages: adults, teens, kids, caregivers, parents and families together! Topics include anti-racism in: literature, raising kids, school culture, poetry, microaggressions, educating ourselves, history, a community art project and more.

April 25, 10:00 a.m.

Sponsored by March of Dimes

March for Babies is your entry into making a visible difference in the lives of families now and for generations to come. Step up to create positive change and help us take care of our Chicagoland families dealing with premature birth and infant mortality in the midst of a devastating pandemic.

Download flyer.

April 26 and May 10, 3:00-4:00 p.m.

The second and fourth Monday of each month, 3:00-4:00 p.m.

Sponsored by Advocate Aurora Health

All are welcome to the Southland Gratitude Room on Zoom. We gather virtually each month to:

Learn about the benefits of gratitude (there are many!)
Support one another and pray together
Share creative and fun ideas on how to live a more grateful life
Enjoy one-on-one conversations and group discussions on a range of topics, such as:

  • the meaning of gratitude
  • how to create sacred spaces for quiet time or meditation
  • the power of living of grateful life

Each Gratitude Room session includes a time of centering/meditation and an opportunity to explore what our sacred texts say about gratitude and living a more grateful life.

April 29, 7:00-8:30 p.m.

The new criminal justice reform law includes significant possible changes but may not cover the scope of needed accountability. Our expert panel will sift through this complex law, so that we all better understand the gains we've made and areas that still require advocacy. Q & A will follow.

Expert Panel: 
  • Chris Welch 
  • Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly-Foxx 
  • Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart 
  • Sharone Mitchell 
  • John Maki 
  • Reverend Dr. Janette C. Wilson 

  • Tues., April 27 and May 4, 11:00 a.m. -1:00 p.m.
  • Wed., April 28 and May 5, 6:00-8:00 p.m.
  • Sat., May 1 and May 8, 10:00 a.m.-noon

Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) is providing opportunities for Participants who have completed at least THREE previous Racial Healing Circles to continue the healing process.

Solidarity circles are an opportunity to create and build trust between participants and communities that will often serve as the foundation for other work related to racial equity and healing – e.g., changing inequitable and systemic laws and policies. Each circle consists of both group interactions and smaller, more intimate conversations between two partners. The circles are led by two TRHT trained racial healing practitioners.

May 7, 8:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Sponsored by College of DuPage Human Services Program

This virtual symposium will focus on trauma, resistance and addictions. Keynote Speakers:

  • Christine A. Courtois, PhD, ABPP, is a leading expert in the treatment of trauma will provide an overview of complex trauma and its complex aftereffects and provide trauma focused strategies.
  • Fred Hanna, PhD, author and international speaker will provide tools for managing client resistance during these uncertain times. Learn innovative, easily applied, evidence-based, published techniques that have remarkable change potential in resistant clients.
  • Jim Scarpace is the Executive Director at Gateway Foundation in Aurora, Ill. Jim has over 28 years of experience in the mental health, substance use disorder and criminal justice field. Jim will be discussing the COVID pandemic and its implications for those who suffer from a substance use disorder.

This conference will include, at no cost CEUs for LSW/LCSW, LPC/LCPC and CADC

May 12, 7:00-7:45 p.m.

Sponsored by Advocate Aurora Health

Caregiver Laura Townsend will tell her story about how her favorite hobby—scrapbooking—gave her the emotional care she needed while caring for her late husband Brad. This self‐care became Albums of Hope, a local nonprofit that lifts spirits and inspires hope. Laura will share self‐care tips and give you a sneak peek at her Caregiving Planner. A time to engage and share.

May 20, 10:00-10:45 a.m.
Meets on the third Thursday of the month

Sponsored by Advocate Aurora Health

The Partners For Faith & Health Network was created by Advocate Trinity Hospital and South Suburban Hospital to bring together leaders of all religions, community members, and people in the health field.

We want to work together to advocate and promote lifestyles and activities that prevent and/or support the management of chronic disease in the Southland community. Together, we learn about health topics and discuss how we can improve the health of the people in our community.

Begins May 25, 1:00-3:00 p.m.

Six Monthly Sessions on the 4th Tuesday of the Month, from 1:00-3:00 p.m.
(May 25, June 22, July 27, Aug. 24, Sept. 28, Oct. 26)

Sponsored by Advocate Aurora Health

Let’s face it. It’s been a tough year. You may be questioning what it means to be a religious and spiritual leader during times of stress and crisis. You may feel like you are being asked to walk on water, lead through a wilderness and do the impossible.

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Educators from Advocate Aurora Health invite you to an opportunity to reflect on our times and what it means to be a leader. Sessions will allow you to reflect on your practice as a faith leader, get ideas and input, try something new and continue learning, feeling and moving into these issues thoughtfully and safely.
This program will use the CPE model of action, reflection, and adjustment, but previous CPE experience is not required.

  • Wednesdays, through December 29
  • 6:00-7:00 p.m.

Sponsored by Advocate Aurora Health

“What’s Next?” is a weekly resilience program that combines evidence-based scientific studies with encouragement from faith-based resources. Participants will gain tools to:

  • build resilience amid the difficulties of life
  • learn from their experiences
  • use the knowledge they gain to nourish themselves and the world around them

Attend any or all sessions. LaShondria Purnell, RN, a faith community nurse with Advocate Aurora Health, facilitates "What's Next?" and looks forward to learning alongside you.

Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30-9:00 a.m.

Sponsored by Advocate Aurora Health

The Prayer Support Line allows us to come together in unity to release our burdens, receive comfort and express our gratitude to God for holding us close during this pandemic.

The Prayer Support Line is a place where we can join with others in prayer for health, healing and spiritual care with the expectation that God will meet us and provide us with encouragement.
We welcome your submissions for future issues of the Chicagoland Trauma Informed Congregations Network newsletter.

Please contact Cindy Novak if you have an event, resource or story you'd like to share. Thank you!