How We Learn to Listen
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This message was written and delivered by Rev. Sonya Brown
I had the opportunity to hear the 2004 Miss Arizona speak. Her platform was on domestic violence. I spoke with her after the conference, and she talked about how she tries to inform Arizona schools that she is willing to visit and speak about domestic violence. She explained that the schools in the well to do neighborhoods would constantly tell her that it is not an issue in their schools. She was disappointed because she knew that it was an issue that goes unnoticed in these upper-class communities.
There’s no statistic that breaks down physical abuse by an intimate partner in affluent/upper-class communities. The article written by Jeane Macintosh, “Battered-and Wealthy- Wives- Silent victims who think they’re alone” published November 2000 in the New York Post explained how upper-class domestic violence is rarely reported and people are conditioned to believe domestic violence is a lower-class issue. Macintosh explains:
“A recent New York City study revealed that spousal abuse by wealthy, powerful men rarely leads to police intervention. Government figures show that only 8 percent of reported domestic-violence attacks come from people with incomes higher than $75,000. ‘These women don’t see themselves reflected in the places we normally see domestic violence portrayed, so when they are abused, they believe they’re the only ones it’s happening to,” — Charlotte Watson, director of New York’s Office for Prevention of Domestic Violence.
When we hear about domestic violence, our first impulse is to say, “just leave.” But, it is not that easy. In her article, Macintosh goes on to explain reasons domestic violence is so hard to escape, like the need to “keep up appearances,” the victim being blamed for the abuse, and how the victim should be a “better wife” to avoid the abuse.
Domestic violence is difficult. Many would say that it’s a private issue. Also, people have different beliefs about leaving the situation. It becomes more complex when finances, children, pets, and safety become involved. There may be a need to maintain status in the community. You still have to interact with neighbors, friends, family, and acquaintances. If kids are involved, you need to consider their relationship with the abuser, how they will interact with their friends, family, school, and if they participate in other activities.
Victims feel alone. Their isolation keeps them from making healing choices. Unfortunately, churches don’t often provide spaces where victims’ cries can be heard. How can we do better? What does it look like to be a church that creates space for those who are suffering?