For better or worse; the faith communities’ response to domestic violence


Everyone enjoys the beauty and heartfelt exchange of vows in a tearful wedding; no one at that moment imagines the newlyweds heading toward a path of violence, especially those who are part of the faith community. The early years of marriage may represent the period in which marital conflict is the most frequent and most intense. Because a couple’s ability to manage marital conflict and reconcile differences may be an important determinant of marital satisfaction and stability, the early years of marriage may represent a critical phase. (Gottman1979; Markman, Floyd, Stanley, & Storassli 1988)

A study of newlyweds done by the Journal of Family Psychology asserts “…one of the most surprising things was how many couples who are in love are hitting, pushing and slapping each other. These are couples who report that they are happy and do not fear for their safety, and both men and women engaged in the physical aggression. Another study called “I believe you: sexual violence in the church” found that 65 percent of Pastors have spoken one or fewer times about domestic or sexual violence, 22 percent said they mentioned it annually and 10 percent never taught on it.

Dr. Oliver Williams, Executive Director of the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community ( and a professor in the U of M School of Social Work, was the keynote speaker at the Women Advocates October – Domestic Violence annual luncheon and said, “amongst the places people go to get support is through our faith communities and we need to be able to look at that as secondary prevention and for people to be able to reach out to those communities because that’s where they go first, when they have a crisis of faith. We have to figure out ways where domestic violence programs and battered womens’ programs engage collectively.”

Rhonda Hollingsworth, a retired Advocate of Union Gospel Mission and a member of Shiloh Temple International Ministries (1201 West Broadway Ave. N), shares her memories of seeing domestic violence growing up in Chicago and her passion for helping women that find themselves homeless due to escaping violent relationships. “Shiloh Temple has opened the doors of the church for battered women and families during the cold winter months and we provide a support group every Monday at 7 p.m. This group is confidential and a big help for women to express themselves and brake through barriers. Battering is universal and takes place in all communities. You can’t let people abuse you and call it love, you must seek God, I think God is the answer to all things,” says Hollingsworth.

As we approach the start of the holiday season, it’s not uncommon for women to leave the shelters to normalize things in a relationship, to be close to family or faith community, according to the National Domestic Hotline/1-800-799-7233. Holidays involving alcohol consumption often see an increase in domestic violence. Statistics show domestic-related emergency calls spike 22 percent on Thanksgiving ( Alcohol, drugs, heightened emotions and the wrong combination of family members are often contributing factors for violent holiday explosions.

If you end up in an unsafe setting this Thanksgiving keep these in mind: Identify easy exits; establish code words with children who can run to neighbors for help; and don’t hesitate to leave the gathering earlier than planned.

“Denial can always work wonders, but it will always quit working”

Written by Niema Broadnax