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Seven takeaways from interfaith domestic violence/sexual assault conference

The profile of an abuser is not as straight forward as a lot of people think.

It's not always going to be some guy from a low-income neighborhood. It might be someone you least expect. And he might be the nicest guy in many other aspects of his life.

So said domestic abuse expert and author Lundy Bancroft as he spoke to more than 200 Oklahoma clergy and spiritual leaders who attended a recent seminar at Oklahoma City Community College.

Bancroft said it was vital that faith leaders educate themselves about domestic violence and sexual assault because often, they are the first people an abuse victim turns to in such times of crisis.

"I've talked to battered women over the years and sometimes the only places they told were their churches. She's really, really counting on you to come through for her," Bancroft told the crowd.

Here are a few observations from the seminar, entitled "Making A Difference: A Faithful Response From Faith Leadership to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault":

-- There are critical myths that people have about what causes a person to be abusive. Bancroft said domestic violence is a pattern of behaviors. It is caused by abusiveness. He said fundamental mistakes that are made regarding domestic violence include the view that the abuser just doesn't know how to respond appropriately to conflict and if he can be helped in that area, the abusiveness can be stopped. But Bancroft said abusiveness is the problem not inappropriate response to conflict. Long before the violence, there are typically things that have occurred that have led up to the abusiveness, Bancroft said. Abusers, he said, have a an inability to see that the abuse victim has rights, inalienable rights. Bancroft said these attributes are consistently true of batterers: He is coerc

Leaders from the Oklahoma faith community listen to guest speakers at the May 17 "Making a Difference" conference on domestic violence and sexual assault. The event, sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance, was held at Oklahoma City Community College, 7777 S May. Photo by  Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman]
Leaders from the Oklahoma faith community listen to guest speakers at the May 17 "Making a Difference" conference on domestic violence and sexual assault. The event, sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance, was held at Oklahoma City Community College, 7777 S May. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman]
ively controlling; He is entitled/self-centered; He believes he is the victim; He is manipulative/has good public image. 

-- It's important to believe an abuse victim when they come forward to talk about abuse. Bancroft said clergy don't have to get caught up in nuances of situations. Most of the time, domestic violence is going to be clear cut, he said: "Men who abuse women are bullies." He said don't be surprised when an abuser does not exhibit abusive behavior in any other aspect of his life. He said at least two-thirds of abusers do not show these tendencies outside their intimate relationships.       

-- Local leaders who work to help domestic violence/sexual assault victims are thrilled that faith leaders want to educate themselves on this vital issue. Jan Peery, chief executive officer of the YWCA Oklahoma City, said she was part of the planning process for the conference and she couldn't have been more pleased with how it turned it. "We know that the faith community can be that safe resource to recognize and refer clients," she said. "I think it's critical that the faith community learn about it, that they not try to necessarily be safety nets but to know how to refer it to professionals who are trained specifically in it. If they (faith leaders) understand it, they're going to understand how to recognize those red flags and know we need to help, we need to provide a safety net around this person."   

-- There are things percolating locally that are intended to help abuse victims. During a panel discussion, panelist Bill City, Oklahoma City police chief, said a facility that he called a "family justice center" is being developed to help families experiencing domestic violence. He said the goal is to offer a place where abuse victims feel safe visiting to talk to someone in Legal  Aid about their options and gain other important information. He said it would be a place that ideally would have a day care area so that the victim could feel comfortable bringing her children. He said a lot of victims don't have the support they need. Some may have several children and they may not have employment.

"I"m not sure the system makes them feel strong. We have to do something that makes them feel empowered," Citty said. "It may be taking baby steps. What can we do as a community to empower women (abuse victims), because they are in a deep dark hole and they don't see any way out."     

-- Yes, there are female batterers, but most domestic violence abusers are men assaulting women. An attendee asked Bancroft to talk about women who are abusers. Bancroft, who talked about the "Profile and Tactics of Men Who Abuse Women," said there are cases where women are abusing men  but this is not as prevalent as the reverse situation.

"Do we want to respond sympathetically to a guy who is being abused? Absolutely," Bancroft said. But "as a society, No. 1, we've got to deal with male violence."

He said based on abuse within same-sex relationships, he doesn't believe men are more likely to be abusers than women because they are bigger and stronger. The chance that someone is going to be abusive depends on two factors:  They grew up believing that they have a right to be abusive and they grow up believing that they can get away with it.

-- Attendees appreciated the Interfaith Alliance for working with community partners to coordinate and host the seminar. Mari  Fagin, an Interfaith Alliance board member who helped coordinate the conference, said the feeling was mutual. "They are heroes. They are here," she said of faith community leaders. Deb Stanaland, chief support services officer with the YWCA and a conference speaker, said "This is wonderful."

"It's been a long time coming so to have this large of a group show an interest, and from all over the state, is great," she said. "We need to help continue the initiative together." 

-- "Abusers will change when communities get ready to accept nothing less." This is a quote from Bancroft and it sums up the overall theme of the recent seminar. In other words, religious leaders were encouraged to become that community or communities that demand that batterers be held accountable on all fronts of society. Just as importantly, they were urged to embrace abuse victims to help them and point them to local resources available to them  -- with love and not judgement.

 

Carla Hinton

Religion Editor

 

Related Photos
Leaders from the Oklahoma faith community listen to guest speakers at the May 17 "Making a Difference" conference on domestic violence and sexual assault. The event, sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance, was held at Oklahoma City Community College, 7777 S May. Photo by  Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman]

Leaders from the Oklahoma faith community listen to guest speakers at the May 17 "Making a Difference" conference on domestic violence and sexual assault. The event, sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance, was held at Oklahoma City Community College, 7777 S May. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-20d9c2d26702d2355f93def40ca34b41.jpg" alt="Photo - Leaders from the Oklahoma faith community listen to guest speakers at the May 17 "Making a Difference" conference on domestic violence and sexual assault. The event, sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance, was held at Oklahoma City Community College, 7777 S May. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman]" title="Leaders from the Oklahoma faith community listen to guest speakers at the May 17 "Making a Difference" conference on domestic violence and sexual assault. The event, sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance, was held at Oklahoma City Community College, 7777 S May. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Leaders from the Oklahoma faith community listen to guest speakers at the May 17 "Making a Difference" conference on domestic violence and sexual assault. The event, sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance, was held at Oklahoma City Community College, 7777 S May. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure>
Carla Hinton

Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide... Read more ›

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