VA Chaplain Service is a vital part of VA Medical Centers. They address religious, spiritual, moral, and ethical concerns of patients and their families.
They also help Veterans and family members who have witnessed or experienced, or are at risk of, domestic violence and intimate partner violence.
“People come to clergy and chaplains because they trust them,” said Roosevelt Brown, chief chaplain at the Hampton VA Medical Center and Certified Family Therapist. “Chaplains provide individual, couples or marriage counseling. It can get very complex working with couples. They come to tell their story and deal with personal and serious issues.”
The VA Chaplain Service works alongside VA’s Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program (IPVAP) to help Veterans and their family members understand what constitutes a healthy relationship. They know what can be considered unhealthy or potentially dangerous behavior and what to do if domestic violence occurs in their relationship.
How do you identify unhealthy behavior within your relationship?
“We go through comprehensive screening to see if there is something going on,” said Denise Greenwood, Hampton VA Medical Center Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program Coordinator. “In our population of Veterans, employees, caregivers and family members, there may be other contributing factors feeding into their behavior, and we want to get to the core of those things.
“A lot of times I work with the caregiver program and the caregiver is experiencing abusive behavior. We want to be proactive. We don’t want to wait until the relationship becomes physically abusive. We want to talk to people about safe behavior and relationships. If it seems to be drifting over to unsafe territory, we want to have a conversation about that and provide the services for prevention.”
Are Chaplain Services limited to certain religious or spiritual affiliations?
Chief Brown explains that Chaplain Service care is available to everyone regardless of their religious or spiritual affiliation.
“We see spirituality as bigger than religious organizations,” he explained. “There are things that inspire and bring light to people. We help them identify how they can use spirituality to lighten their lives. We open our doors to everyone to discuss their struggles but also for a place to celebrate.”
Chief Brown adds that everybody deserves a healthy, safe relationship and we don’t always know what that means or how to accomplish it. VA Chaplains provide wraparound services so individuals seeking guidance have access to chaplains, mental health therapists, community resources and more.
“Let’s talk about what’s getting in the way of having the relationship of your dreams,” said Greenwood. “What is a healthy or unhealthy relationship? Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a great opportunity to say this is about more than abuse. It’s about evaluating your relationship and understanding what the best path forward is for you.”
Individuals who are interested in speaking with a chaplain or learning more about the services available can visit National VA Chaplain Service – Patient Care Services.
Who should I contact to learn more or request services?
If you or someone you know experience domestic violence, contact your local Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program Coordinator. You can also find help in the community by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or TTY 1-800-787-3224.