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South Florida churches respond to domestic violence and 'denial'

Posted at 8:23 PM, Oct 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-19 20:23:08-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline more than one in three women and one in four men will experience rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner.

And for Blacks — the numbers are even grimmer. Data from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research finds Black women are two-and-a-half times more likely to be murdered by a partner than their White counterparts.

Relevant statistics that are being discussed from more pulpits.

It’s mid-week and most churches are closed and locked.

”I need the church to wake up. I need the faith leaders to wake up. I need us to come out of denial,” said Pastor (Dr.) J.R. Thicklin, Destiny by Choice, Inc. CEO and mental health speaker/coach. ”Domestic violence doesn’t have to always be the broken bones and black eyes — it’s a broken spirit.”

Dr. Thicklin is woke and not into tradition. Instead, he’s a traveling preacher talking about relevant issues from the pulpit.

“We need to have the right tools — if the only tool you have in your toolbox is a hammer then everything looks like a nail to you,” Dr. Thicklin said.

In fact, he’s armed roughly 30 South Florida churches with a ‘Clergy Toolkit,’ a curriculum that he created as a subject matter expert in domestic violence exposing the nature and dynamics of it. Learn more here:

”We cannot identify that which we are not willing to acknowledge and we cannot acknowledge which we are not willing to accept,” he said.

The toolkit tackles the intergenerational impact, warning signs, intervention and legal matters.

”Be willing to have support groups and a domestic violence ministry,” he said.

And there’s a reason, the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice estimates domestic violence incidents have increased by 8.1% amid the pandemic and Dr. Thicklin said he’s hearing it from more congregants from physical violence to economics.

”When we talk about economical abuse we’re talking about one person totally controlling the finances of the relationship and even to the point not allowing that individual to have money to spend even to take care of personal items for themselves,” Dr. Thicken said. “Where they are totally controlling economics. The other part of economical abuse is not allowing that person to better themselves. Not allowing them to go to school. Not allowing them to work.”

And data shows domestic violence disproportionately impacts Black women worse.

“You know post-traumatic slave disorder is still working inside us and we must be willing to break that,” Dr. Thicklin said.

Words that resonate with Audre’L Davis-Jones.

”Sometimes it gets a little hard because one of my abusers was a minister in the church,” Davis-Jones said.

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She has faced a lot of trauma. First as a child and later as a married woman with a physically abusive and controlling husband.

”That’s the easy part of it — the stalking. But yes, he physically abused me. Beat me to the point where my eyes was closed until I could just see the lashes,” Davis-Jones said.

So why did she stay with him?

”The embarrassment. The shame — there’s so many reasons,” she said.

And that’s why the toolkit and conversation exist.

”I agree wholeheartedly that we should talk about it in the church. And a lot of my ministry is within the church,” Davis-Jones said.

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Since her divorce, she’s launched her own non-profit called Battle Scars Ministries and even authored a book to help others. Learn more here.

”How do we reconcile our communities. We must make this place equal justice and equal opportunity,” Dr. Thicklin said.

And there’s a grassroots coalition called The In-Crowd building in Palm Beach County.

”Absolutely this thing has a life of its own,” said Steve West, The In-Crowd co-founder, entrepreneur and activist.

WPTV is in the home of West, a leader in the fair housing movement in the 1960s.

”Since I was a kid I was bothered by injustice,” West said. “It doesn’t matter who the injustice is against or what it’s for — but there’s plenty of it to go around.”

And decade’s later he’s living in South Florida tackling other social justice causes through Zoom.

”We want to have the churches start to talk about this to interest their congregations and even the neighborhoods,” West said.

It’s one of many societal issues people are learning about through The In-Crowd. A Palm Beach County communal think tank formed following the death of George Floyd that holds bimonthly meetings to “build bridges.”

“We’re not doing one single project,” said West. “Let’s look at community-police relations or community beautification, that’s the symptom of a disease and the disease is systemic racism — even unrecognized by people. And so we’re looking to bring in a change, transformation and an attitude into the community. And this first group of 100 leaders which is now expanding so much will keep on expanding to become a movement. And that movement is people who see the injustice and want to do something about it.”

A movement turning words into action through a platform to connect people with change-makers and solutions.

”To be able to empower, inform, to invite and invigorate,” Dr. Thicklin said.

If you want to be informed, inspired and involved, The In-Crowd meets on Oct. 19 at 6:30 p.m. You must register to attend the Zoom meeting entitled “Building Bridges.” Learn more here.

Learn more about the In-Crowd Pledge here.

Learn more about domestic violence and other related abuse from a conventional and faith-based approach here.