Alumni/ae Stories - Kristen Leslie '97 & '00


Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 1:07PM

Alumni/ae Stories - Kristen Leslie '97 & '00 Kristen Leslie ’97 & ’00, Ph.D., Professor of Pastoral Theology and Care at Eden Theological Seminary and alumna of Claremont School of Theology, was recently invited to train Navy chaplains to more effectively deal with sexual violence in the military.

Kristen Leslie ’97 & ’00, Ph.D., Professor of Pastoral Theology and Care at Eden Theological Seminary and alumna of Claremont School of Theology, recently received an invitation to train Navy chaplains to more effectively deal with sexual violence in the military.

A few years ago, Leslie published a book on acquaintance rape called, When Violence Is No Stranger. This book caught the attention of an Air Force chaplain, who was dealing with similar problems at the Air Force Academy. This led to Leslie’s invitation to consult with academy leaders regarding how to better prepare chaplains to deal with sexual violence on campus.

Acquaintance rape is a serious issue in the military. The Navy Chief of Chaplains recently requested that rape survivor care be included in the Navy chaplains’ annual training program. The Navy contracted Leslie to hold numerous six-hour training sessions on Naval bases around the world. Her sessions are designed to teach Navy chaplains to provide pastoral care to survivors of sexual assault. Leslie’s dynamic curriculum includes role-playing, case study review, and lectures. Her goal is to help chaplains bring their own theological resources to bear on the issues many survivors have to face.

According to Leslie, many chaplains in the military are not adequately trained or prepared to deal with these kinds of issues. In addition, many chaplains hold problematic theological views that could lead to distorted understandings of gender roles. Pastoral care based on these problematic assumptions could negatively affect rape survivors. For Leslie, good pastoral care takes seriously the grief and suffering of survivors in order to encourage healing. Her curriculum is designed to teach Navy chaplains to do just that.

Meanwhile, military leaders are taking steps to decrease sexual assault by introducing new regulations that will make it easier prosecute perpetrators. Leslie says many service members do not report incidents of sexual violence, due in part to the hierarchical structure of the military, which makes it difficult for lower ranking members to consider confronting high-ranking perpetrators.

Leslie believes chaplains play a crucial role in fighting sexual violence in the military because they alone have the privilege of communication. Without a clear sense of confidentiality, she says survivors are less likely to talk about the incidents, which leads to fewer reports.

Leslie began helping rape survivors as a college chaplain. This experience encouraged her to pursue a doctorate, which led her to CST. Throughout the years, she worked with many survivors, and provided training in pastoral care in different contexts. Leslie is very thankful for the training she received from CST and the friends she made here, including the current commander of chaplain school.


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