Pastors’ Role in Combatting Domestic Abuse

This article is courtesy of The Freeport News. Particularly note the section I have put in bold.


By Angelo Armbrister

What began as a means of honouring the memory of her late sister has grown into something more — a personal quest to save others from falling victim to domestic violence.

Shavon Munnings, a former victim herself, first held a candlelight vigil in 2006, in memory of her sister, Tiffany Smith, who was tragically killed a year earlier as a result of domestic violence.

The emotional evening ceremony, broadcast live on Cool 96, featured two dynamic speakers out of New Providence — Woman Superintendent Elaine Sands and Pastor Donna Hyler — who dissected the topic of domestic violence.

Superintendent Sands explained that there are a number of abuses in relationships, especially intimate partner relationships.

“You have sexual abuse, financial abuse, spiritual abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, verbal abuse just to name a few because there are a number of them and persons in relationships need to be able to identify these kinds of abuse when they are occurring to seek help,” she said.

“When your partner is always criticizing your body, your church, always wanting to know how you are spending your money or making you beg for money, all of these are signs of abuse.”

She said too many are falling victims to the crime of domestic violence and “we have a number of persons who are dying because just last year we had about 79 murders and of that 17 were domestic related, so we really do have a problem.”

“We just want to encourage persons who are in these kinds of relationships to seek help for themselves and if they do not intend to leave the perpetrator then seek counselling for themselves, their partner (perpetrator of the abuse) and their children,” she said.

“According to research one of every four females will be abused and that is extremely high so members of the public need to be able to identify abuse.”

Sands explained that there are a number of signs to look out for in a person who may be being abused. Physical signs include bruising, physical scars, wearing long clothing when it is warm outside or big sun glasses to hide the signs of abuse. There are also emotional signs and behavioural changes that may indicate one is being abused, she said.

Noting that domestic violence is all about power and control, Sands said that perpetrators crave control over their victims.

“You have some persons who suffer from pathological jealously, who really cannot stand to have their mate’s out of their sight for a few second before accusing them of some wrong doing,” she said.

“If you go shopping, the perpetrator would ask why were you in the foodstore so long, what was it you had to buy that took you so long, things like that.”

Since the year 2000, the Royal Bahamas Police force have been training its officers to better deal with domestic violence cases, intervention and mediation.

According to Sands, once an incident of abuse is reported officers would interview couples separately, unless otherwise requested by the victim, to avoid intimidation.

Officers are also being trained to identify intimidation when called to investigate a domestic violence case.

Sharing her experience with domestic violence was Pastor Hyler, who ministered through personal testimony.

Hyler told attendees that as a result of what she went through in her life – 15 and one half years of abuse – she wrote a book titled, From Bondage to Victory.

“I know how important it is to raise awareness on this serious topic,” she said.

Passionate about addressing the societal ill, Hyler expressed her profound disappointment in the fact that certain influential individuals and organizations would not address these issues.

“My thing is that the church is too quiet about this topic and that is because too many pastors’ wives suffer from domestic violence,” she said.

“I think that pastors and even politicians need to get more involved in this and speaking out against it because it is prevalent is our society.”

Commending the efforts of Munnings to use her personal tragedy to build awareness, Hyler said that if pastors and politicians support her event like they should “it would have a greater impact on society.”

“I think it is important that persons come out and support this because we don’t know when it is going to knock on our door and that shouldn’t be,” she said.

During her tearful welcome address, Munnings said that ever since her sister’s death in 2005, she has memorialized her death to reach out to women and men who may be in abusive relationships or marriages to walk out and seek help before the situation turns deadly.

“My interest is to reach out to everyone who may be in need, because as a result of this service, only one person each year is saved, then my sister’s death would not have been in vain,” she said.

Next year I don’t want another person standing here because they lost a loved one. I need you standing here with me because you care, enough to make that difference.”