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Black church confronts domestic violence

caines | 11/1/2012, 6 a.m.

Town hall gives victims a voice

There was an altar call at church. Donata Joseph went up and after the pastor laid hands on her she felt the Holy Ghost. The spirit led her to speak in tongues and she even fell on the floor. It was a very deep spiritual encounter that Joseph was experiencing. Most people in the church were just as happy in the spirit as she was. Maybe they didnt notice Josephs ex-husband furiouslycome to the altar and force her to get up by the things that he said and his facial expression. She believed that if she didnt get up when he gave her the look then he would have hit her in church. She didnt want people to know what kind of relationship she had, so she left. Joseph, the founder of Adding Doses of Hope Daily, was in an abusive relationship for seven years. That was one of the instances where she thought someone from the church would notice or acknowledge it, but no one did. Joseph shared this story at the domestic violence town hall meeting on Oct. 25, hosted by State Representative Cynthia Stafford. One of the numerous ways the panel and attendees discussed decreasing domestic violence in our community was by having the Black clergy and the church join forces to combat the issue.

Will Black clergy step up to the plate?

Rev. Dr. Anthony Tate of New Resurrection Community Church started the discussion when he asked, How could the clergy be equipped to identify abused members? The Honorable Michaelle Gonzalez Paulson, the 11th Judicial Circuit Court Judge, said its not easy, but if members are comfortable with ministers they may open up and tell their pastors. Its not being addressed from the pulpit, State Representative Stafford said, while many attendees nodded in agreement. I think until the clergy starts to blow the horn too and say that this is wrong. We will have victims who will continue to sit in silence. Panelists agreed to train different pastors so that they could become more knowledgable about identifying and responding to domestic violence. Latavea Johnson-Cobb, a Miami-Dade County victim of crime supervisor who sat on the panel, stated that they have an awareness group with people who can visit the church to identify abused victims. The judge suggested that clergy not discuss abuse with both the victim and the abuser. State Representative Cynthia Stafford photo by Craig Uptgrow If the pastor or counselor goes straight to the abuser that may be a life-threatening situation, she said. Attendees recommended that churches have organizations that specialize in domestic violence prevention, such as the Safespace Foundation, Inc. at womens conferences so that women can feel comfortable when admitting that they are in an abusive relationship. Stafford suggested that ministers discuss healthy ways of dealing with anger at men conferences. Other issues discussed included: domestic violence being a generational curse; abusers using cell phones as a tracking device; financial abuse; sexual abuse and domestic violence being added to high school curriculums this year. Stephenie Collie, 16, a member of a womens group called Women in Leadership Miami, said that the event was very informative. It gets you thinking now so that you arent a victim later, she said. She wasnt the only one who found the event educational. I learned so much tonight, Tate said. I still need more education. Pastors and the leaders need more education on domestic violence. Our kids future is at stake. By Malika A. Wrightmwright@miamitimesonline.com