INDIANAPOLIS – “Domestic abuse is one of the ugliest crimes I can think of. This is all about sin. Victims of abuse stay in their corner crying out for hope,” Dountonia Slack of Anderson, Ind., a victim of spousal abuse told 24 advocates for survivors of spousal abuse during a three-day conference (Oct. 2-4) hosted by St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis.
The conference, titled “Shattering the Silence in the Faith Community,” was sponsored by Not to Believers Like Us, Inc., an Indianapolis faith-based organization dedicated to the prevention of domestic violence.
Slack said her spousal abuse began in 2006 when her former husband, also her pastor, physically abused her. She fought back and to her surprise, when the police arrived they arrested her for domestic battery. She had no marks on her body but her husband did have marks from being hit by her. She said she was strangled and hit in the stomach by him.
She was reconciled a month later but was attacked again three times within a year. Each time she retaliated and was arrested. After 17 months and a long nasty divorce, she said she learned not to fight back at least physically.
She said her life changed when her attorney said to her, “Why don’t you become your own advocate?”
Slack grew up in a church and had loving parents who never abused her. She called what she experienced the “cesspool of injustice.”
“The injustice of arrest is most unbearable for most women,” she said. Now her response is to educate and help women “with the love of Christ.” That’s what called her to be an advocate and founder of NOT GUILTY! Courtroom Advocates, a Christ-centered organization dedicated to fighting legal system abuse, based in Anderson, Ind.
She also emphasized to the other women present: “It (spousal abuse) is not just a women ministry issue. In marriage two become one. We can’t ignore the male issue. It takes both the abused and an abuser.”
The conference was the tenth annual conference of Not to Believers Like Us, Inc. (N2BLU) led by founder and CEO Vivian Finnell of Indianapolis. She is the wife of Bishop Charles M. Finnell, pastor of Christ Temple Apostolic Assembly of Indianapolis.
Vivian Finnell, who was abused as a child, said her number one goal is the protection of abused women and children. She told the group, “Abuse is a learned behavior. Unfortunately, the Bible is even used to justify abuse… Domestic abuse is not a women’s ministry issue but a society issue. We have a challenge.”
She continued, “There is a need for churches to work on this issue.”
She further warned that there is spousal abuse in congregations and for that reason every church needs a safety team and a safety plan to respond to this need with a comprehensive approach.
She said, “A perpetrator can be a member of the same church. Our goal is to understand that domestic violence follows a cycle – hearts and flowers, same old stuff, nagging, warning signs, act of violence, remorse leading back to hearts and flowers.”
She said she began this ministry because, “I saw a need in the aftermath of domestic violence and felt like the mission I was supposed to do was healing both mother and father. I feel called to empower selves about the prevention of domestic violence – a horrible ‘cancer’ that is talking over our society. I’m not about intervention but prevention.”
She also said, “By the numbers, spousal abuse in the church is similar to spousal abuse in (the greater) society.”
For more information, contact Vivian Finnell at 317-923-7278 ext. 13 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dountonia Slack lights a candle to remember women who have been victims of spousal abuse during an Indianapolis conference about spousal abuse.