The Rev. Linda Thomas recalled when she delivered her baby with a black eye.
The Rev. Janelle Johnson recalled what her ex-husband said to her while she was pregnant.
“I know what it is to be told to take a hanger, shove it up my p-word and kill that baby,” she said.
These two faith leaders from Prince George’s County churches summarized their domestic violence experiences Friday, Sept. 13 at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Northwest.
“I know what it is to be held up against the wall by the man who told me he loved me forever,” said Johnson, author of the book “Is He Spiritual?” and a member of Reid Temple AME Church in Glenn Dale. “I know what it is to be pushed down so violently that you have to be rushed to a hospital. But there is always hope.”
Johnson moderated a discussion to not only express optimism for survivors, but also provide advice for those still involved in a violent relationship.
On a national level, the Allstate Foundation Purple Purse program says 99 percent of all domestic violence cases deal with financial abuse.
That’s why tennis star Serena Williams starred in a public service announcement released last month to explain in a video called “Signs,” which shows her walking through a maze with her voice-over explaining signs of abusive conduct and language.
They “take your paycheck and chose how to spend it … They demand receipts on every little thing you buy. These are signs of financial abuse,” Williams said in the video.
Domestic violence statistics vary from state to state. The Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence said the state ranked 10th in the country in female homicide by men in single offender incidents with a rate of nearly two homicides per 100,000 women.
Prince George’s County led the state for several years in domestic violence homicide rates, but County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said it’s decreased by 20 percent in the past year.
She credits partnerships with the health department and other government agencies and nonprofit organizations.
One main improvement comes from the county’s Family Justice Center in Upper Marlboro, which provides various services such as legal and housing assistance, crisis invention and protection orders.
“The [county] police department has done a yeoman’s job of investigating and making sure that we bring to justice individuals who committed acts of domestic violence,” Alsobrooks said. “Those are things the county has had responsibility for to stop this.”
At the convention center Friday, Thomas, who leads the domestic violence ministry at First Baptist Church of Glenarden, shared information on what the faith community can do for victims. She provided a tip sheet for what people can say to someone involved in a volatile relationship.
“Say, ‘If you need, I am here,'” Thomas said. “Be patient — [a] victim may waver, leave and come back many times, and it is important that the victim makes the decision themselves to gain self-confidence.”
County Councilman Mel Franklin (D-At-Large) of Upper Marlboro, the only man on the panel, said he first experienced domestic violence when he heard a couple fighting next door while enrolled in law school at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
Although never involved in a domestic violence situation himself, he offered strong advice for men.
“We need to change the culture so that it’s not acceptable to be a man who put his hands on a woman,” said Franklin, who plans to hold a domestic violence town hall next month in connection with his “Fathers Stand Up” initiative. “We can’t be boys if you’re going to do that.”