The community’s reaction to police and gang violence falls within tacit boundaries that do not include intimate partner abuse. Why is it that the violence perpetrated upon Black women and girls, by their significant other, is still considered a nonissue? Why do the myths about intimate partner violence; i.e., that women choose to remain in violent relationships continues to overshadow enlightened action on the part of elected officials, clergy, educators, [Black] media and celebrities? Why won’t community activists engage in “antiviolence triage” by intervening on behalf of those wounded by family violence, whether in Darfur or on Decatur Street?
Brooklyn is both the borough of churches and the borough where more Black women are murdered by their intimate partner; the latter, a finding of the New York City Department of Health. Why isn’t the Black church in the forefront of this salient health concern? Rev. Dr. Doretha Custis is the founder of Precious Lambs Ministry Consultants and a survivor of domestic violence. She frequently leads workshops and presentations before members of the faith community. During those addresses and particularly to the women, she reminds them, “You know, every shout is not a shout of joy”.
The need for more pastors to have an unconditional commitment to a ministry that addresses this formidable challenge to Black families is clear. This is not about pitting Black men and women against one another or choosing one’s “pain” over the other. To the contrary, this is about the entire community addressing an issue that EVERYBODY knows about.
The American Bar Association reports that domestic violence is America’s fastest-growing silent epidemic, and this finding is no more evident than in the Black community. The “silence” maintains myths like, “She must like it. She keeps going back.” The “silence” results in a girl having a one in three chance of being in a violent relationship by the time she’s graduated from high school. The “silence” increases the risk of a girl becoming promiscuous or of a boy following a life of crime.
The failings of Black youth have gotten a lot of media attention in the last few years. During that time, teen dating violence increased at an alarming rate, yet none of the, “What’s wrong with Black youth” brigade has taken that into account while railing against youthful indiscretions.
J. Robert Flores is the administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention for the United States Department of Justice and has made the following observation:
“Teen dating violence is a growing problem and a sad reality for many teenagers… Our research has consistently demonstrated that teens exposed to or victimized by abuse are at increased risk for delinquency…”
Paul Mooney, the sharp-tongued comic, frequently uses the phrase, “It is too late in the day.” It is too late in the day to continually repeat the laundry list of uninformed excuses like “I’m minding my own business”, for ignoring the suffering of Black women and girls because breaking the cycle of family violence is everybody’s business.
Let us consider a few facts:
Domestic violence occurs regardless of skin color, age, socioeconomic status, educational attainment, cultural or religious identification, or gender preference.
70% of child abuse cases occur in homes where family violence occurs.
An abuser’s public face is often different from his private face.
Isn’t it time to break the silence and the cycle of domestic violence? Isn’t it time to stop explaining away abusive behavior with statements like: “but he’s a great athlete; but he’s a member of the clergy; but he’s a great educator?” His contribution to the arts, to culture, to anything must not eclipse the damage he may have done to the spirit of his partner or to the future of his children.
If you agree that it’s time to stop domestic violence, begin by:
Getting informed. Stop repeating statements that under gird intimate partner violence;
Getting involved with and supporting groups and organizations that are committed to preventing family violence;
Encouraging your circle of family and friends to join you in your efforts; particularly, in your place of worship;
Establishing a zero tolerance for jokes, music, videos, literature and language that objectifies women and girls.
So, if the Black community is serious about ending violence, why won’t it start at the beginning; in the home? It truly is too late in the day for ANY form of violence to get a free pass; regardless who the perpetrator is. It’s time to stop domestic violence; no “buts” about it!
Roslyn Bacon is the Executive Director of JONAH VILLAGE, INC.; a non profit, youth leadership organization dedicated to the prevention of domestic violence. Contact: 347-432-4617 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.jonahvillage.org