- Faith & Family
To be a Black man and a victim of domestic violence may seem like a contradictory statement, but it is in actuality a fact. While women make up the great majority of domestic violence victims, there is a solid contingent of men who are also victims. October is traditionally dedicated to raising awareness about intimate partner violence, as domestic violence is also called, but it merits attention every day of the year. What’s more, the issues of male victims are rarely spoken of and for them they are fewer options for support.
Florida Memorial University (FMU) Associate Professor Dr. Nathaniel Holmes says most men can’t even find help at their own place of worship.
“We have a theological picture of what a man is suppose to be and because of that manhood — just like the cultural symbol — means being real strong, provider and protector,” said Holmes, who also serves as an associate minister at New Birth Baptist Church in Miami Gardens.
The FMU professor, whose studies focus on the church’s response to male domestic violence victims, says that he has not come across a church in the South Florida area that effectively ministers to men that are domestic violence victims. He suggests that churches focus on three areas: build a ministry that is specifically for males; have an honest, open conversation about male victims; and dispel the myths about masculinity.
“In terms of being effective, [support groups] have to allow for a space where men can be really vulnerable,” Holmes explained.
Silent victims of intimate partner violence
Victims of Intimate Partner Violence
Data from a 2005 survey by the National Center for Victims of Crime.
Black victims of Intimate Partner Violence
Black men 12 percent
Black women 29 percent
Data from a national survey by the Institute of Domestic Violence in the African-American Community.
Same sex couples victims of Intimate Partner Violence
Men 44 percent
Women 36 percent
Transgender 2 percent
According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, there were 6,532 incidents of reported domestic violence among lesbians, gays, bisexuals, or transgender people in 2003.
Women and Domestic Violence
Churches often provide little support for female victims of domestic violence as well. Paula Silver discovered this reality when she was suffering in an abusive marriage in the early 1990s.
She found her church had so little to offer that she would later go on to found her own Illinois-based, non-profit organization, Focus Ministries, Inc. Besides offering counseling and resources to battered women, the organization also trains other churches about domestic violence and includes the Bible their lessons.
“The number one reason that I hear as to why more churches don’t have ministries dealing with domestic violence is their belief that to do so would be to promote divorce,” she said. “Other times I find they put the full responsibility of the marriage relationship on the woman and tell her that being more submissive will make a difference in ending the abuse.”
Silver disagrees and says that armed with the Bible, she addresses the abuse head on.
“We focus on Christ for the ultimate satisfaction because we want women to look at their relationship with Christ first and then to look at their own situations,” she said. “God doesn’t expect us to submit to sin because He expects us to set boundaries and give consequences since that’s exactly what He did.”
By Kaila Heard