An Oral History of the Crime Victim Assistance Field
Video and Audio Archive

Anne & David Delaplane
Biography & Interview Summary

Picture from Anne & David Delaplane
Interviewees:David and Anne Delaplane;
Denver, CO
Date of Interview:February 25, 2003
Location:Sacramento, CA

David and Anne Delaplane


David and Anne Delaplane were the Co-Founders and Directors of The Spiritual Dimension in Victim Services.

Initial Involvement in the Crime Victims' Field

David and Anne Delaplane found their way to the victims' field from different paths, David as a minister and Anne as a consultant to the California Youth Authority. Over the years, they combined their energies to develop an initiative that today is known as The Spiritual Dimension in Victim Services.

Early on, Anne Delaplane remembers being struck by the relationship between child abuse and delinquency and then coming into contact with Travis Hershey's research that described a role for the religious community in the prevention of the victimization of young people. The recommendations to the ministry by the 1982 President's Task Force on Victims of Crime were an inspiration for David Delaplane, who realized that there was a role for him to play by working ecumenically with the clergy to educate them about crime victims' concerns.

Interview Summary

Context of the Era

Anne Delaplane remembers a sense of comradery and collaboration among different kinds of victim advocates in the early days-- that the sexual assault, the domestic violence, the child abuse, and the elder abuse professionals and volunteers worked well together. She points out that when the funding sources changed, it made it more difficult for people focused on advocacy for specific kinds of victims to collaborate.

When he began to speak to faith-based groups about victimization, David Delaplane found that the clergy and the congregations did not understand the plight of crime victims.

"I discovered within the churches that a whole lot of them were unaware of the issue of what happened to crime victims, to abused children, to domestic violence victims, to rape victims and to elder abuse victims. They really didn't recognize it even though they were in a prime position to see a lot of it. They just seemed to be overlooking it, and there seemed to be a lot of denial."
-- Reverend David Delaplane

Anne Delaplane remembers that there was strong resistance among victim service providers to involve the churches in their efforts to assist crime victims. They made such comments as, "Forget the church, they are the problem," or simply "they are not going to be helpful."

David Delaplane cites a book written by Dr. Richard Hammer called Pastor, Church and Law, that deals with the legal issues involved in the mishandling by churches of child abuse and neglect and domestic violence. Hammer influenced his ways of approaching clergy to alert them to crime victims' concerns.

Greatest Challenges

One of the greatest challenges for David Delaplane was the fact that certain forms of religious doctrine and theology offer no support to victims of abuse and, in a counseling situation, he was advising people to stay in harmful situations.

"I remember counseling a woman who obviously was a domestic violence victim and I said. "You just simply need to be a better wife. You can't leave him because the Bible says that you have to stay in the relationship...... All these unwise thinks that I did before I got into this movement."
David also pointed out that 20 years ago, the clergy was concerned about repercussions within their congregations. They did not want to make waves so they tended to keep silent about the abuse they were aware of among their congregation members.

Anne Delaplane remembers that the victim assistance movement offered the church community "a whole new way of looking at things." Sometimes, people that she met from congregations already volunteered in correctional facilities conducting prison ministries, and some of them were appalled that the Delaplanes "would come in here and talk about crime victims when there were offenders sitting on death row." An education process was needed for volunteers from the faith community so that they understood why it was important to assist crime victims.

Successful Strategies

The first significant strategy that David Delaplane developed was the neutral, non-religions approach in their outreach efforts. It was easier to gain the attention of congregations if they represented a neutral secular organization from the U.S. Department of Justice than it was to represent a specific faith.

Next, they encountered a far greater variety of faiths to which they needed to reach. With a grant from the Office for Victims of Crime, they conducted a denominational survey and discovered the existence of well over 100 denominations in the country. They also realized that they should stick to "content" rather than try to discuss crime victims' issues in the context of religion to avoid losing track of the key points in debates over religious issues. For example, if they were discussing child abuse, they spoke about the impact of the crime and available victim services.

"You do sometimes hit the hot buttons that actually deal with their theology and with their Biblical perspectives. Some churches believe in beating their children; they believe the wife should stay at any cost; and they believe when someone is a survivor of homicide, they should forgive right away, and then talk about it. Those are major mistakes and we just have to confront them sometimes."
--Anne Delaplane

All the same, Anne Delaplane remembers that the neutral approach does not always work. Another important tactic was in-depth advanced planning They would network in a city before they visited to pull together a balanced, representative audience. They would identify and invite members of the conservative faith groups, as well as the liberal social-action faith-based groups, and the representatives from the faiths from ethnic minorities.


David Delaplane explains that "a lot of our failures we more in process than in content." In the early days, the Delaplanes "tried to do it all ourselves and, as we went along, we found that great success came from using the service providers in various aspects" of training. They also express frustration at not being able to reach greater numbers of clergy members and denominations.

Greatest Accomplishment

David Delaplane cites the passage of the Victims of Crime Act, as well as constitutional amendments in 33 states, as the field's greatest accomplishments. For Anne Delaplane, the President's Task Force on Victims of Crime and, in particular, its recommendations for the ministry in its Final Report, are the greatest accomplishments.

Continuing the Field's Growth and Professionalism

The Delaplanes stress the importance of "partnerships, partnerships, partnerships!". In addition, they feel strongly about the need to share information and promising practices so that effective victim assistance programs, training curricula and protocols can be replicated in communities nationwide.

In their specific area of the victim assistance field, seminary training is needed to "get to the masses."

"I think that every seminary should have as part of their regular curriculum, not as a special class....something that gives them the basic information about all forms of victimization."

Anne Delaplane advises newcomers to the field to get to know other people, and initiate relationships with the religious community. Her husband concurs, and adds that he "would encourage pastors, churches and congregations to join victim assistance organizations.....go to every conference, go to every training, and learn everything they can about it."

Vision for the Future

David Delaplane's vision for the future "is a society where every church, every pastor, every priest, ever imam, every temple, every synagogue would be well informed involving his or her congregation, (and be able to) provide assistance to crime victims and protection of those children and adults." Anne Delaplane envisions a future where "the religious community as a social institution will allow no victim to remain without assistance, and no perpetrator to remain unexposed." They both "envision more emphasis on restorative justice, rather than punitive justice."

Greatest Fear

Anne Delaplane fears simply

"that people will lose the vision. "We're concerned that the religious community is still the greatest source of volunteers in this nation. And yet we do not see the increase in numbers of people working with crime victims as volunteers."

For David Delaplane, "division within the ranks" is his greatest fear:

"One agency competing with another instead of cooperating at every level. Political agendas over-riding human needs, and continued total unawareness in some segments of society, or sometimes the continued coverup, circling the wagons......when an issue arises."