How Can I Love You If You Tie Up Both My Hands?

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The National Black Church Initiative will feature blogs written by Reverend Dr. Aleese Moore- Orbih, CEO and founder of Front Line Consulting and The Lighthouse. Reverend Aleese has more than 10 years experience in family violence advocacy and leadership training. Equally important, she is a Black Christian woman who loves our African American communities and churches.

The first blog will call your attention to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), more specifically Domestic and Situational Violence with the backdrop of the current economic environment. The second blog for the month will provide an understanding of the impact of Domestic and Situational Violence on youth and it’s linkages to juvenile deliquency, disease, disability and early mortality.  Please share your feedback and questions about the issues raised for our communities and the Black Church. We look forward to the dialogue.

 Reverend Dr. Aleese Moore-Orbih

“How Can I Love You If You Tie Up Both My Hands?”                                                              The Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin

It’s 2011 and October is still Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Are we still talking about that in the Black communities? What is up with that? I thought it was understood that we don’t experience domestic violence in our communities. We may fuss and fight when times are extremely hard, but we don’t have domestic violence. Ain’t that right?

October remains Domestic Violence Awareness Month because women are still safer on the streets than in their homes.  In 2011 we are still talking about domestic violence in the Black community because Black women are still murdered at a 2.5% higher rate and experience intimate partner violence at 35% higher rate than White women. We continue to talk about it because African Americans account for almost 1/3 of the intimate partner homicides.  We can’t stop talking about it because the largest population of victims/survivors are African American girls/young women ages 14-24 years. We can’t stop talking about it because more and more Black women are leaving the Black Church and  community because they did not receive the support and protection they needed from their own. We will continue to talk about domestic violence in the Black Church because the church’s mission is to bring the good news of liberation, healing and wholeness to our communities.

Domestic violence or intimate terrorism is a pattern of assaultive and coercive behavior used to maintain power and complete control over an intimate partner. Situational violence is abuse and violence that occurs between intimate partners when situational stressors, i..e., poverty, social issues, and/or medical conditions,  cause disagreement that turns to anger and escalates into violence.  Michael Johnson, Ph. D, stated in his research
that “situational violence can be mild or severe, and although often this is an isolated incident in a relationship, some couples have a recurring pattern of such violence that is
extremely dangerous. Although this type of violence is almost as likely to be
perpetrated by women as by men, men do more serious damage and their violence
is more likely to introduce fear into a relationship and get the authorities involved.” Although domestic and situational violence are technically different, they can have the same impact on the victim, family and community.

But interpersonal violence is not the only type of violence that continues in 2011.  Our communities are still subjected to the constant violence of discrimination, injustice, and
health and economic inequities. While unemployment among the general
population is about 9.1%, it’s 16.2 % for African Americans and even higher forAfrican
American  men specifically. When you connect those realities with the fact that 40% of African American women live below the poverty line and are employed at.62 cents to every dollar that men are paid for the same work, couples could very well be sitting on stress-filled time bombs with short fuses.  Our communal and individual oppression and burdens have the capacity to make us blow a fuse and hurt the ones who love and trust us.

In the Black community we like to think of ourselves as mostly experiencing “situational violence,” not domestic violence. This line of thinking allows us to justify abuse and violence in our families and intimate relationships by blaming the behavior on external pressures.  I believe it’s easier for us, as a community, to think that  the “Devil” or oppression and discrimination makes our Black men harm and murder their wives and
girlfriends than to face up to the facts.

The co-occurrence of stressors like racism, discrimination, substance abuse, and poverty may plague our communities for many more years, maybe generations.  These adversities do not cause a person to become abusive, although they may exacerbate the abusive
behavior.  But when men and boys abuse, brutalize and murder women and girls, they do so out of choice, because they can. Some Black men believe they have the right to be abusive because they have learned, from the dominant culture, that women and women of color specifically, should be controlled and a woman’s submission somehow is a reflection of a man’s masculinity.  These men completely ignore the fact that to quote a Black gay rights and feminist activist, “In a white-racist patriarchal society, the black man may be promised patriarchal power, but the fact that he is both man and black denies him the chance to fully benefit from that promised patriarchal power. Black men may chase patriarchy, but they will always slam into the wall of white supremacy which associates them with ‘other,’ and not man.”  The proof of this statement is in our prisons.

The fact of the matter is, whether it’s situational or domestic violence, the Black community and  Church must collectively address situational and domestic violence and its impact on African American women and girls, communities and families.

How long will we hide the abuse of women and girls behind handicaps of injustice within our community? How long will it be acceptable to cover and protect Black men and boys who abuse and murder Black women and girls? How much longer will women and girls be sacrificed for the injustices Black men experience from mainstream society?

For those of us in leadership ministry, I ask the question another singer posed. Rachelle Farrell penned these words: “How can we heal the wounds of the world if we cannot heal our own? Where does peace on earth begin if not in the home?” My brothas’ and sistahs, can we learn to love one another, more than perceived power, and to hold each other rather than hurt each other through stress and conflict?

This Domestic Violence Awareness Month let us do some deepsoul searching, and practice some self-reflection and collective appreciation.  We are better and stronger
together and, yes, we can end violence and abuse in Black families and intimate
relationships. But it will take all of us.

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