Domestic Violence: When Love Becomes Hurtful

domestiv v

Domestic Violence: When Love Becomes Hurtful

By: Rev. Arlington Pryor, M.Div. 

The Statistics on Domestic Violence Are Shocking

Domestic violence occurs in an estimated 4 million intimate relationships each year in the United States. We are now recognizing and dealing with the urgency and severity of domestic violence in cities from coast to coast. The statistics reveal that domestic violence is one of the most important public health problems in our country and it is time that we all address this issue. Consider the following findings:

  • The Surgeon General of the United States reports that domestic violence causes more injury to adult women than cancers, heart attacks, or strokes.
  • FBI statistics point out that a woman is battered every 15-18 seconds in the United States.
  • More than three million children witness domestic violence, and more than four million women are battered to death by their husbands or boyfriends each year.
  • Approximately one third of female murder victims in the United States are killed by their husband or boyfriend.

What Is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence, partner abuse, and battering refer to the physical, emotional, sexual, and psychological abuse, performed by one person against another. The abuser and the victim are involved in or have had an intimate or romantic relationship.

Who Are The Victims?

Domestic violence, including battering, happens in all socioeconomic levels, to urban or rural women, young or old, with child and childless, single, married, divorced – and within all religious, racial, ethnic groups, and geographic locations. Councils On Family Violence has designated domestic violence battering as an “Unreported Epidemic.” It is important to note, that women initiate and carry out physical assaults on their partners as often as men do, according to a 1993 study by Straus and Gelles. However, when it comes to serious physical abuse, women are still overwhelmingly on the receiving end.

The Impact Of Domestic Violence On Women:

More women are injured through domestic violence than by rape, muggings, and car accidents combined. Many pregnant women have been and may be victims of domestic violence abuse. Forced sex or marital rape is the leading type of sexual assault. Yet marital rape or forced sex maybe the most underreported and least legally punished crime of partner abuse because many victims are reluctant to report and file charges against the abuser, for various reasons. The Justice Department’s 1994 National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) found that only about half of the women who suffered domestic violence between 1987 and 1991 reported the abuse to law enforcement authorities.

Domestic Violence and African Americans

African Americans, including African American Women suffer deadly violence from family members at rates decidedly higher than for other racial groups in the United States. However, it is observed that research concerning family violence among African Americans is inadequate.

Factors such as the breakdown of families, unemployment and underemployment, poor schools, inadequate vocational skills and training, bad housing, the influence and use of drugs, and the density of liquor stores in the inner city contribute to the problem of domestic violence. All of these ingredients may compound and coalesce into a strong undercurrent of frustration that can lead to domestic violence.

A Painful Dilemma

Many Black women may find it harder to leave a battering relationship than White women. The reasons for this are unclear, but some possible explanations include the following: (1) African American women have fewer options in their search for a marital partner than do White women; (2) African American women on average, have a lower income level than that of most White women; (3) Black women are reluctant to call the police because they see the racial injustice in the criminal justice system; (4) community support systems including women’s shelters and other service programs may be less available to them and they may view the shelter system movement as something mainly to benefit White women. Unfortunately, many Black women resort to “homicide” as an answer to the violence and battering they encounter.

What You Can Do If You (Or A Friend) Suffers Domestic Violence

  • Domestic violence is a Federal crime. Call 911 immediately. This will activate the criminal justice system in regards to your domestic violence abuse and injurious claims. Experts say that women are beaten about five times before they ever dial 911.

 

  • Try to give police all available information and make certain that the police listen and write down your statements and their observations, and direct quotes of what your abuser said while attacking you.

 

  • Never refuse medical evaluations and medical services! Never clean up the house or location after a domestic violence attack, so that critical evidence of harm or injury is not removed. Keep a Polaroid or some type of camera and film on hand to photograph your injuries and any damage to property, etc. Remember, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and is a good sign of evidence.

 

  • Call domestic violence resource agencies in your community or call the National Domestic Violence hot line at (800) 799-SAFE (7233). This hotline was initiated in 1996 with cooperation from the Justice Department. Through this hotline, a woman anywhere in the United States can be connected to resources to help her get away from her violent abuser.

Consider Obtaining A Protective Order Against Your Abuser

A protective order can be issued by civil and criminal courts against anyone who is a threat to your safety. The 1994 Federal Violence Act against women specifies that protective orders are recognized and enforced from state to state and includes Indian Tribal Reservations. Call the various domestic violence organizations and agencies for information and advice about a protective order.

How Can We As A Community More Effectively Address This Problem?

We must all work together to fight against domestic violence. Churches, corporations, hospitals, and individuals in general must be vigilant about increasing the awareness that domestic violence is a major problem facing our communities. Churches should present sermons, workshops and provide information about domestic violence and sexual violence including rape, child incest and child molestation, and conjugal battery.

Churches should also keep a file of references of therapists who work with victims of domestic and sexual violence and of medical, law enforcement, social services, and other resources that offer help and support. The Church needs to be open and forthright about the reality of domestic and sexual violence and not be silent on these subjects.

Additionally, hospitals and health care providers must be more vigilant in screening for domestic violence. The American Medical Association (AMA) advises doctors and nurses to routinely observe and screen patients in the emergency rooms for signs of domestic violence, and report their findings to proper authorities.

Empowerment Points

  • Domestic and sexual violence is a vicious malady that the African American community must confront, reduce, and eliminate from our lives.

 

  • The ancient Chinese proverb says that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

 

  • You are taking the first step by being informed and aware that domestic violence is a hard reality and no laughing matter for Black women.

References:

Hot Line

African American Domestic Violence Fact Sheet

Web Sites:

 

Books

 

  • Maria Hong, “Family Abuse, A National Epidemic”, Springfield, NJ: Enslow Publishers, Inc., 1997

 

  • Cynthia L. Mather, “How Long Does It Hurt?”  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1994

 

  • Susan Murphy-Milano, “Defending Our Lives”, New York: An Anchor Book, published by Doubleday, 1996

 

  • A.E. Sadler, book editor, “Family Violence”, San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1996

 

  • Jan Berliner-Statman, “The Battered Woman’s Survival Guide”, Dallas, TX: Taylor Publishing Company, 1995

 

  • Karin L. Swisher, book editor, “Domestic Violence”, San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1996

 

  • Karin L. Swisher and Carol Wekesser, book editors, “Violence Against Women”, San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1994

– See more at: http://www.blackwomenshealth.com/blog/domestic-violence-when-love-becomes-hurtful/#sthash.cOIlEzLB.dpuf

A Black Feminist Comment on The Sisterhood, The Black Church, Ratchetness and Geist l The Feminist Wire

A Black Feminist Comment on The Sisterhood, The Black Church, Ratchetness and Geist

January 28, 2013

By 

Unknown-1There’s been much talk about TLC’s new show The Sisterhood, a reality show about the lives and struggles of Ivy Couch, Domonique Scott, Christina Murray, DeLana Rutherford, and Tara Lewis, five pastor’s wives in the Atlanta area.  While some critics are threatening to boycott the show, and others are framing it as evidence of black [male] preachers loosing their way (which I guess is synonymous with the Black Church loosing its way, but that’s another issue), millions of others, myself included, a former “first lady” and black feminist scholar of religion, race and media, are flocking faithfully to the television screen on Tuesday nights with popcorn and bottled water in hand.

And let me be clear: like many, I’m “sick and tired of being sick and tired” of the operative mediation of the global racist and sexist imagination through black women’s corporeal realities.  I’m tired of mass mediated notions of “black womanhood” being both the adjective and the noun that modifies and constricts space, time and meanings. I’m tired of black women consistently serving as—through both overdetermination and consent—televisual artifacts for establishing white, black and other “normalcy.”  And yes, I’m sick and tired of black women functioning as cultural mediums for soothing primal fears, representational tropes for suckling the collective fascination with black female sexuality, and work horses for demonstrating a mastery of unscrupulousness and otherness.  I’m tired.

SisterhoodAnd yet, I’m also admittedly drawn in to this show and others like it, week after week.  Like so many others before them, Ivy, Domonique, Christina, DeLana, Tara and many other reality TV women, inspire all kinds of repulsions, attractions and anxieties.  However, they also satiate [some of] our ratchet taste buds.  Can we have a moment of honesty?  The Sisterhood is a hit show.  And this isn’t because no one’s watching it.

So what’s the draw?  The Sisterhood creates a conflict between public politics, private realities and personal taste.  However, this war between the emperors’ coat of high culture and the everydayness of his nakedness is nothing new.  This ongoing juxtaposition highlights the ever increasing tensions between the “cultured” and the “ratchet;” the former drawing attention to so-called taste, tact, refinement, civilization and genius, and the latter calling attention to the so-called vulgar.  While the former is purported to arise out of the Geist – the intellectual inclinations – of our times, the latter is purported to spring forth from the worst of black culture.  However, what better communicates the spirit of the time than the ratchet?  And no, I don’t mean the ways that ratchet gets deployed to project a collage of derogatory meanings onto black women’s bodies.  I’m referring to the ways that ratchetness often undergirds the ricocheting of raw emotions and missiles of unfiltered truths.

The-SisterhoodTo uncritically bash The Sisterhood is to toe the expected party line.  To demonize the show is not only an attempt to maintain a position of moral superiority, but an assay to construct and limit meaning for the audience—an audience that may in fact connect with the human qualities of the ratchetness therein.  And trust me, I get the critiques regarding black female representations in media.  This needs to be called out everyday all day—but not while asphyxiating black women’s complex identities with mythological notions of black women’s heroic genius.  In short, binary oppositions don’t work.  They set up “us” versus “them” politics, which are both totalizing and reductive.  I think a better suggestion might be to think about the heroic qualities of black women’s genius, that is if you buy this argument, as at times being a bit ratchet. Identities and tastes shift in shades of grey, not monochrome.  That said, we don’t need another schemata.  And we damn sure don’t need another exceptionalist social fiction to cancel out our complex subjectivities, which can neither be packaged nor wholesaled, by the way.

images-3The Sisterhood isn’t “hurting the church image…[or] giving God a bad name.” Religious people have already done that.  Neither is it “abominable and offensive to the Christian/African American communities.”  I can think of a few other things, all ending with “isms” or “phobia,” to fit that bill.  And finally, it’s not evidence of black [male] preachers or the historical Black Church loosing its way–I haven’t even mentioned how the eve/gender politics here are troubling at best.  And to be sure, I’m not saying wether the Black Church or the black [male] preacher has lost their way or not.  That’s an entirely different conversation.  For starters, I think I’d first need to know what the “way” once was or imagined to be.  And truly, The Sisterhood isn’t even a representation of the Black Church.  As far as I can see, there are only two wives from historical black churches (hold this thought) on the series–whose church would likely define themselves in such a way, Ivy and Domonique.

The Sisterhood is evidence of our obsession with brown women’s lives and our pornotropic desire to lift their curtains and see everything.  In addition, it’s evidence of the fluidity between religion and culture, and the myriad ways that each cross-pollinates the other, thus broadening, limiting and confusing all kinds of meanings.  An example of this is the construction of the “first lady” concept for the show, a Black Church conception structured in both politics of respectability and patriarchal dominance, aimed at constructing alternative identities–distinct from the hypersexual/sexual savage trope–for black women, particularly during the early twentieth century.  As with the FLOTUS, it’s a title of respect for wives in religious contexts that are often theo-socially hostile to women in general.  With regard to black women, there’s a long history here apropos race, gender, sex, sexuality, respectability and wifehood.  However, I’ll save the politics of race, ladyhood and wifedom for another day.

images(Side note: background, I’d be interested to see how the “first lady” title operates for Christina, a Dominican woman married to a black new wave evangelical pastor, and DeLana, a white southern woman who, akin to her co-pastor husband, seems to fancy all things “plantation” (27:56 mark) and soft Christian rock.  I’d be even more interested in seeing how this works for Tara, a black body builder married to a Jewish Christian former pastor, both of whom appear to be working with a different set of gender politics.  But this, again, is another story.)

images-1

Ultimately, The Sisterhood is evidence of not only our obsession with brown women’s lives, the constant interpolation of religion in culture and vice versa and the static nature of meanings in our society, but our very own and ever expanding frailties, contradictions and complexities as human beings.  These women represent the thorny nature of our inner selves, particularly when situated in hostile, novel, and/or uncomfortable environments.  Sure.  Ivy, Domonique, Christina, DeLana, and Tara aren’t really sisterly (or are they?) and they argue like the women in the Basketball Wives and Real Housewives franchise.  But wouldn’t you if pimping your story on reality television somehow became a necessity, or if you found yourself in the midst of a group of others who were geographically, theologically, racially, economically, politically, contextually, and socially different than you?  Would you not have differences of opinions and take up, forcefully at that, different positonalities?  Seriously.  Are we above drama and contradictions?  Have we never been pushed to the edge to the point where we want to or choose to take it there?  Are our lives without mistakes, conflict, struggles, pain, stresses and moments of dehumanization?  Show me a person devoid of these realities and I’ll show you a straight up liar.  Yes.  That simple.

UnknownThe bottom line for me is this: these women are human.  They are women with problems from autonomous churches that differ, at minimum, theologically.  And like it or not, for Christians and others, theology shapes how people understand themselves in the world. Yes, it shapes both Tara’s unyielding “prayerbush” (s/o to Birgitta Johnson) at the 37:18 mark of the 4th episode and Domonique’s ongoing quest to live out and within her own truth.

Consciously or not, theology re-appropriates politics and ways of seeing by constructing a veil that recolours reality with simultaneous taken for granted notions of truth, hope, transcendence, capitalism, injustice and intolerance.  Moreover, the “first lady” position often serves as a protective shield against disagreement.  That is, Ivy, Domonique, Christina, DeLana, and Tara are likely used to participating in discourses where their politics and ways of seeing go unchallenged, especially within their congregations.

images-2But what happens when removed from that context?  Basically, shit goes awry—just as it would with any other group of strangers with different theo-political-socio-cultural-historical backgrounds and value systems.  My favorite on the show is Domonique. Not simply because she keeps it all the way real and clearly isn’t afraid to get it poppin with her co-stars, but because her struggle between the politics of respectability, the structures of dominance that frame her sexual past, and her quest for financial independence and selfhood are real.

Wherever we land in terms of this show being good or bad or something in between, it’s pretty significant to see a reality TV show centered on people of faith who are flawed with real issues.  Perhaps we might interpret The Sisterhood  not as an “abomination,” but as an imperfect, yet useful intervention–for the Black Church, black popular culture and black folk living in various communities.  These ladies disrupt the monolithic image of the puritanical (and irrational) religious person on one hand, and the exemplary religious heroic genius on the other.  These tropes are death-dealing.  No one can live them…or live up to them.  Let’s face it, we are messy inter-subjective beings with troubles, longings, complications, and inconsistencies–just like Ivy, Domonique, Christina, DeLana, and Tara.

And this is why we watch—and yes, with popcorn and bottled water in tow.  Because, unlike the black [male] mega church prosperity gospel preacher constantly being shoved down our throats (pun intended) as the symbol of black churches U.S.A, these folks—these women, are trying to make it and make sense of their messy lives—just like us.  And hey, like so many others in academe, the Black Church and without, they want to do it on TV.  That said, perhaps we’ve all lost our way.

 Dr. Tamura Lomax is an OUR COMMON GROUND Voice. She was guest in our “Black Women in the Prism” series

11-13 Lomax

CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE & TRAUMA IN THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY

See on Scoop.itOUR COMMON GROUND News Board •● ☥●• The Third Eye Parenthesis

ROYAL CIRCLE FOUNDATION

PRESENTS IN ASSOCIATION WITH

BLACK PSYCHIATRISTS OF AMERICA, THE OFFICE OF MINORITY AND NATIONAL AFFAIRS

(AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC ASSSOCIATION)

&

THE BALTIMORE BLACK MENTAL HEALTH ALLIANCE

A National Conference

CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE & TRAUMA

IN THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY

(The Shame, The Blame & The Solutions)

MARCH 22-23, 2013

Hilton Baltimore

OUR COMMON GROUND Omnibus‘s insight:

For students, activists, scholars, parents, teachers and victims.

The Shame, The Blame & The Solutions

See on www.royal-circle.org