Author Brenda L. Thomas gave an unflinching look of domestic abuse in her 2008 book, Laying Down My Burdens: A Memoir. Brenda shared her personal story of the twelve years of abuse she endured at the hands of her then husband, Russell. Her book includes accounts of her being beaten, by Russell, with everything from a fist, to a dog leash, to a wire clothes hanger, to an Adidas sneaker.
Domestic abuse is a huge problem affecting 1 in 4 women, according to purplepurse.com. One writer and domestic abuse survivor, Beverly Gooden, identified with Janay Rice (wife of NFL player, Ray Rice). The focus in the media seemed to turn away from Ray’s behavior to ask a simple question to a complex situation: “Why did she not just leave?” Beverly knew why she had married a man who had hit her. It was because she loved him and wanted to protect him. She was thinking of him and not herself. She also believed there were a lot of others out there who could also identify with being in a similar situation. She was right. Use of the campaign she started, #WhyIStayed, and the companion one #WhyILeft, have led to a flood of responses, over 100,000 in the first two days. Beverly is hoping that responses to the campaign will help change the tone of the conversation.
In addition to physical and sexual violence, ncadv.org lists what might be some lesser-known examples of abuse, which also exhibit the power and control dynamic which operates in abuse situations (this list is not to be considered exhaustive and the gender-specific language is not to indicate that only women endure domestic abuse).:
- “Emotional Abuse - Putting her down. Making her feel bad about herself. Calling her names. Making her think she’s crazy. Playing mind games. Humiliating her. Making her feel guilty.”
- “Isolation - Controlling what she does, who she sees, and who she talks to, what she reads, and where she goes. Limiting her outside involvement. Using jealousy to justify actions.”
- “Economic Abuse - Preventing her from getting or keeping a job. Making her ask for money. Giving her an allowance. Taking her money. Not letting her know about or have access to family income.”
- “Using Children - Making her feel guilty about the children. Using the children to relay messages. Using visitation to harass her. Threatening to take the children away.”
In author Brenda L. Thomas’ case, in spite of having parents and siblings who were actively involved in her life, Brenda still felt too trapped to reach out to them for help. Not only were the beatings holding her captive, but her mind was in captivity, as well. And, as I read Brenda’s memoir, it almost seemed that her culture was passive about the abuse. That makes me question the culture in our churches. Are we able to see the evidence of abuse? Are those who suffer abuse in a relationship able to share what is happening without being blamed or judged? Do we take this issue seriously enough? Do we hold those who abuse accountable and seek professional help for them? Do we understand the complexities of domestic abuse, or do we minimize it, asking simple questions such as: “Why does she not just leave?”
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