Nancy Nason-Clark

Nancy Nason-Clark, a University of New Brunswick professor, said some places of worship are ignoring the issue of domestic violence inside their congregation. (CBC)

A so-called "holy hush" by religious leaders when it comes to dealing with domestic violence is putting the safety of community members at risk, says a professor who has studied domestic violence.

Nancy Nason-Clark, a University of New Brunswick professor who has been studying domestic violence for 25 years, said some places of worship are not dealing with the issue of domestic violence among members of their congregations.

"There's a holy hush and that holy hush permeates small churches, large cathedrals, synagogues, other houses of worship," she said.

Many people go to places of worship to take pause and reflect. But Nason-Clark's research suggests religious leaders aren't always listening in return.

Nason-Clark said there needs to be more training and education for religious leaders on how to handle cases of domestic violence.

New Brunswick church members

Nason-Clark said religious leaders need more training and education about how to handle domestic violence cases. (CBC)

She said right now their advice is sometimes causing more harm than good.

"Sometimes it's not safe to say that you've been violated because the religious leader doesn't know what to suggest," she said.

"Or worse, suggests something that would put your own physical or emotional health at risk."

Some of the women attending a public presentation from Nason-Clark on Wednesday said they had seen domestic violence being ignored in their own churches.

"It has to be addressed in the churches too, for women of faith because they feel like they're lost," said Jean Allen.

George Lemmon

George Lemmon, the former bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Fredericton, said it can be difficult for religious leaders to spot cases of domestic violence. (CBC)

George Lemmon, the former bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Fredericton, said it's often difficult to identify cases of domestic violence inside a congregation.

"I don't know if we even know it in our own immediate families. That is brothers and sisters that might be in that situation. It's hard to distinguish it," Lemmon said.

Nason-Clark said she encourages religious leaders to open a dialogue about abuse and enforce the message that it should never be accepted.