Intimate Partner Violence in the Black Church: Bridging the Gap between Awareness and Policy Development
Date of Award
Doctor of Ministry (DMin)
The perennial problem of intimate partner violence (IPV) has gained national attention due to the increased awareness efforts of advocates, law enforcement, government, education, and social service agencies. This awareness serves as the catalyst for the upsurge in legislation, law enforcement involvement, and incarceration of abusers. Although the secular community has strategically implemented tactics and policies to combat abuse, the Black church continues to experience challenges with awareness and effective stratagems to address the issue. Further, the issue of domestic violence in the Black church has significant impact on women who suffer intolerable mistreatment at the hands of their abusers. The motive for domestic abuse against women is grounded in power, control, and fear. Therefore, it is imperative for the church to examine the current practices utilized to address IPV against women.
The Black church must also analyze why women are hesitant to report and remain in abusive relationships. The outcome of the writing will emphasize training for pastors and church leaders to recognizing the signs and symptoms of IPV and empower women to report abuse. The training will also present a component on the development of policies embedded within church bylaws and the creation of a human resource department to embed domestic violence awareness and prevention within the church bylaws. The training will also equip congregants to assist in the awareness campaign and prevention efforts to increase reporting. The writing will provide a pragmatic, holistic, and collaborative partnership between the faith-based and advocate communities to build a fence around victims and survivors to provide them with resources and serves to address IPV, provide safe spaces for women not ready to report, and services to assist victims who desire to flee abusive situations.
First Lady Bonita James, affectionately known to her congregation as First Lady B., is an intelligent and compassionate woman who brings a sense of joy to any room with her contagious smile. She is a proud fourth generation Church of God in Christ (hereafter referred to as COGIC) member from the red hills of Georgia prior to her family relocating to New York City, New York in 1986. She became a Christian at the age of 15. First Lady B. has two brothers and one sister who serve in their father’s church, St. Matthew COGIC. Her younger brother Thomas serves as the assistant pastor while her sister Mary serves as the minister of music. The older brother Michael pastors his own congregation with his wife and family.
First Lady B met a handsome and debonair preacher named Delbert James, an ordained elder at a local COGIC in New York City. They soon married in a storybook wedding ceremony. The family quickly grew in size with the birth of four children in an eight year span, the purchase of a five bedroom home in an upper middle class neighborhood, and two vehicles to support the new additions to the family. After Delbert entered into pastoral ministry, church membership quadrupled in the first year – it was hailed as one the fastest growing churches in the city. However, what began as the dream of a lifetime quickly turned into a nightmare. First Lady B. had strong reservations concerning meetings her husband conducted alone with women in the church, but would usually remain silent. The issue never subsided and instead grew more intense. Her concerns escalated after a heated confrontation in which she stood her ground and after one such fight, Pastor Delbert slapped her in the face.
In the past, he had only raised his voice, however, this was the first of many times he began to use physical force. Pastor Delbert left an imprint of his hand on her face as she withdrew to her room and drenched her pillow with tears of shock and pain. The experience continued to grow worse as Delbert became more abusive and their conflict escalated through increasing confrontation, verbal arguments, threats, and abuse that was kept veiled from the children, her family, and the congregation. The family was perceived as the perfect family, always smiling and interacting with congregants, dressed impeccably, and very well behaved when attending family and church events. Pastor Delbert continued to preach every Sunday and remained faithful in addition to the sacerdotal duties of the church. Although he promised on many occasions to never hit her again, the abuse continued for the next twenty-five years and only ended when Pastor Delbert breathed his last breath.
Richard, Carlos Jermaine, "Intimate Partner Violence in the Black Church: Bridging the Gap between Awareness and Policy Development" (2015). Doctor of Ministry. 110.