KOH2RVA: Day 241

domestic violenceYesterday morning I had the fun of going to Glen Lea Elementary School with the church staff and surprising the teachers with a show of appreciation. We knocked on the doors of the classrooms and when the teacher opened the door we would burst in, say “Surprise!” and then tell the class we were from First Baptist Church where we had been trying to be good to Glen Lea all year long, but on that day, especially, we wanted to be good to their teachers. And then we presented each teacher with a rose, a huge Hershey bar, and a poem of appreciation. Each presentation took about two minutes, the teachers seemed grateful, and for the staff, as I said, it was fun.

But yesterday afternoon I went to police headquarters for the monthly faith leaders’ meeting, and that was no fun at all. I learned that in some of the same neighborhoods where those bright, beautiful children from Glen Lea live, there is an ongoing epidemic of domestic violence.

The place was packed, and Chief Ray Tarasovic began by saying, “The house is full today because we’re on a mission. We have some folks here who are in the business of saving lives.”

He said that when it comes to domestic violence we always know who did it. It’s not a stranger; it’s someone who lives in your own home. And so he asked us as faith leaders to “preach about it, pray about it, identify it, and refer it.”

Sergeant Carol Adams talked about her own efforts to rescue a Nigerian woman from abuse. Her husband had been keeping her locked up in a house on the south side of Richmond with the windows boarded up so she couldn’t see out or get out. He threatened and abused her almost daily. Carol talked about her efforts to get that woman out of that situation, including taking a day off from work to drive her to New York where she had family. Carol’s passion was evident; I got the feeling she knew exactly what she was talking about when it came to domestic abuse.

But Chief Tarasovic wanted to make sure that we knew, as well. He told us that simple assault involves slaps, kicks, punches, and threats. Aggravated assault is when a weapon is used or serious injury results. He said that so far this year there have been 39 instances of aggravated assault in Richmond.

I thought about the difference between what we had done that morning—surprising school teachers with flowers and chocolate—and the kind of surprises some people face in their own homes, when someone who has promised to love them turns against them in anger, even violence. I said a silent prayer for those 39 people who had been victims of aggravated assault, and for the hundreds more who have been slapped, kicked, punched, or threatened in their own homes.

Sergeant Adams said, “A lot of these situations never get reported because people are too ashamed to talk about them. But we ought to be able to talk about them. We ought to be able to talk about them in church,” she added. “If it happened in the first family (referring to the story of Cain and Abel), we shouldn’t be surprised that it happens in ours, too.”

No, we shouldn’t be surprised, but we shouldn’t shrug our shoulders and dismiss it, either. We should do everything in our power to stop it. And if we know of a situation where domestic violence is going on we should report it to the police.

We’re trying to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, on this year-long, every-member mission trip. Yesterday I was reminded that there are some places in Richmond that are much more like hell.

3 thoughts on “KOH2RVA: Day 241

  1. Domestic Violence Awareness Month is in October, but one should not wait until October to be aware that domestic violence happens and is a serious problem. According to the YWCA web site for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, domestic violence affects one in four women in their lifetime and it strikes more than 145 times each hour in the United States. Also, according to the website for the National Network to End Domestic Violence, three women die each day because of domestic violence.

    These are the links for the two organizations mentioned above.

    YWCA, Domestic Violence Awareness Month:

    National Network to End Domestic Violence:

  2. Having volunteered in the womens’ domestic violence program years ago, it is everyones responsibiity to help . . . here’s what most women (and men as well) face when they seek shelter or help: Family “you made your bed, now sleep in it”. Friends: “don’t want to get involved”. Churches: “Pray and ask God for help”. Fear itself: Partners are more likely to get killed when trying to leave the relationship then at any other time. When someone has the nerve to reach out, PLEASE listen and help them get to a safe house asap.

  3. Got this message from a former student:

    Dear Pastor Jim,

    I wanted to say that it was very appropriate that yesterday’s blog post was about domestic violence. I have been with the _________ County Sheriff’s Office since April of 2000. I have arrested men and women for domestic violence and watched the children be victimized by their families and the system. Yesterday, I saw the blog post and I pulled it up to read it during my morning quiet time. I didn’t get to finish it. Unfortunately, last night I had to assist with the investigation of a triple homicide that is domestic related. I finished reading it about an hour ago.

    I was a Domestic Violence Investigator for 2 1/2 years. I served restraining orders and told victims that I feared for their lives. I have buried a victim and I have testified to send abusers to prison. I think that what little bit of Heaven you can bring to victims of Domestic Violence in Richmond is time well spent.

    Thank you for understanding and being so eloquent. Thank you for loving those children.

    (Name Withheld)

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