Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Breaking the Cycle of Domestic Violence

The first week of my field education with the Department of Chaplaincy Services at the Division of Prisons I attended the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence Biennial Conference with Chaplain Betty Brown. I was privileged to listen in on conversations between workers from the Department of Social Services, Child Protective Services, the Division of Mental Health, and various domestic violence programs and shelters. The most interesting workshop that I attended was entitled “Domestic Violence and Children: Survival and Transcendence” led by Kit Gruelle and Lisa Floyd. Kit is a domestic violence survivor and an advocate for battered women and children. As the conference manual states, Lisa’s “voice and experience of calling 911 as a 6 year old girl, one night many years ago (the Lisa tape), has been used since then to educate thousands of people about domestic violence and the impact on children.” Listening to Lisa call 911 on this particularly horrible night was a heart-wrenching experience. While listening to her stepfather beat her mother, she continually used the word “please” when asking the dispatcher to send the police or hold on a minute and repeatedly voiced her concern for her “very delicate” baby brother and her little sister.

Several years ago, Kit was working with the police department and asked someone, “I wonder what this little girl is doing now. I wonder if we could find her and see how she’s doing.” The police were able to locate Lisa, and Kit’s knock on Lisa’s door was the beginning of a very meaningful friendship. Kit discovered that Lisa was in an abusive relationship of her own, but since they have met, Kit has helped Lisa walk through the process of ending that relationship. Lisa says that when she got pregnant with her second child something in her just snapped, and she knew she had to get out because she did not want to end up like her mother.

Lisa had no idea that her tape was being used to educate people about the effects of domestic violence on children. She only vaguely remembers signing away her rights to this tape, and no one ever told her why exactly they wanted it. Now as a twenty four year old woman, she still cannot listen to the tape because of all the pain she fears would surface. She wonders why they picked this particular tape since she called the police hundreds of times. Through her tears, she shared with us that her mother had not changed, that her older brother was in jail, that her sister was getting into trouble, and that she feared for the future of her little brother. She pleaded with the Child Protective Service (CPS) workers in the room to always be mindful of the child victims of domestic violence. The reality of her life and the lives of her siblings is a great testimony to the effects of domestic violence on children. Lisa told us that there were twenty-three documented cases of CPS coming to her house and that she nor her siblings were ever taken away from her mom. She said that she wishes she had been. Although she admitted that she would not have wanted to leave her mom initially, she said that in the end it would have been a better situation. She challenged us to always remember the children when dealing with domestic violence because they have no control or power to change their situation.

Someone asked Lisa if the church ever played a role in helping her family with domestic violence issues. She said that she did not believe in God, but she knew of many people who did have faith and that their faith helped them “get through it.” I have to wonder if they meant they “got through it” by themselves with a silent response from the church. What have we done as Christians to help victims of domestic violence and even their abusers? Have we contributed to the problem with unfaithful readings of scripture? Have we ignored the signs and pretended as if nothing was wrong? How do we learn to speak honestly about the presence of domestic violence in the families who sit in our pews? And what can we do to minister to the abusers? I heard many of the groups at the conference speak very strongly about locking abusers up. But even if they are imprisoned, they will eventually get out. And, as Christians, locking people up cannot be the solution for us. How will we help to bring about change in the lives of all who are caught up in the cycle of domestic violence? How will share God’s love with them all, even the abusers?


Hannah said...

Alot of attitudes about DV have to change in the church before anything changes. At times they tell people they need more faith, and learn to forgive...and of course keep praying. They don't normally address the abuser to much sadly. They need it as well. Locking them up may be the start to wake them up, but you don't do that out of a vindictive nature ... out of love so they will begin to see the damage they cause. Breaking the law does have its consquences, but that doesn't mean they can't grow from them.

I know for alot of abused people within the church are alone and scared. Some have the internet in which they reach out to other christians that are being abused. LOL When they actually recognize they are being abused that is!

Today I was reading a faith board about a lady that was abused. She spoke of three times in which he abused her in front of people, and they did nothing. She spoke of the peace she has now that he is gone, and how she feels safe.

'''Don't thank God for his grace, your divorce and your 'freedom' wasn't because of His grace but your lack of faith.

Sorry to say that but it's true.'''

was one response she got.

GOOD reason to keep silent if you are already afraid in alot of people eyes!

I hope you continue your quest with DV, and I pray that the church does wake up. They have a bad repution of enabling at this point.

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Anonymous said...

Wow my heart broke when I watched the video on YouTube.

Anonymous said...

re: "She only vaguely remembers signing away her rights to this tape, and no one ever told her why exactly they wanted it"

Maybe that is because children cannot "sign their rights away" to anything.

Erynn said...

I just heard that tape for the first time today. I had to know what happened to that poor brave little girl trying to save her siblings. I'm so disappointed that she wasn't given the help she needed. I hope she is still has that bravery in her.

T Charles said...

Heartbreaking video.

Anonymous said...

Cps should take her little brother from her mom. He still can live a better life. Maybe his sister can adopt him or get custody of him. Hopefully her little brother can be saved from this life.

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Anonymous said...

I'm 61 years old now and still clearly remember how terrifying it was to see my mother physically and verbally abused in front of me and my four younger stepbrothers.I remember her being thrown down stairs.I remember she had a broken collarbone.I remember hearing her being sexually assaulted by my stepfather.I saw her bruises. The pain is always there. Sometimes buried deep and sometimes at the surface. Being involved in domestic violence as a child changes who you might have been. Grateful to God for providing me a way out through my grandmother but my brothers not so lucky!

Anonymous said...

The attitude of some towards domestic violence needs to change. It must be hard to leave someone you love but if your significant other is hurting your or your children then it is time to go. I saw a friend of mine get for many years get beaten by her husband. She didn't want to leave him because she loved him and he would tell her that she is getting abused because he was training her to be a better person. She finally left after he attempted to abuse her daughter. If someone is abusing you then why stay? If they say they love you but abuse you over and over then why stay? Why believe their lies? I don't know how it is to be in an abusive relationship. I feel bad for men and women in abusive relationships. You all deserve better. I think Lisa and her siblings should have been taken out of that home. As to many other children. It breaks my heart.

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