By Rev. Cathy Mitchell
South Carolina COSROW’s domestic violence workshop was very powerful, informative, yet, heart-wrenching. When Easter LaRoche, the keynote speaker of this event and Victim’s Advocate for the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, asked for those in attendance who had been a victim or one otherwise affected by domestic violence to raise their hands, it was the majority of those in attendance. Often, people don’t feel the need to educate themselves about issues that do not affect them directly. I thank God for Easter LaRoche, who is also a member of the church I pastor.
Easter’s compassion for this ministry and the forethought of bringing a victim before our congregation to give their testimony about their experiences during our annual worship service dedicated to Domestic Violence Awareness was brilliant. Danielle Richardson, who told her story in this workshop, was one of my church’s speakers for our Domestic Violence Walk a few years prior to this program. Danielle’s story ignited a deeper and more urgent desire in me to educate others about domestic violence. Hearing the story about how she and her brothers, listening to their mother’s screams, locked in their bedroom from the outside by her father, while her mother was being stabbed to death on the other side of their bedroom door, was quite different from just reading about it or hearing about it on the news; it became a vivid reality. Learning that her mother died from bleeding to death, because even though the paramedics arrived, policy states that the paramedics could not enter the home while the assailant was still inside. Danielle is now a Victim’s Advocate and writer, who has written a book about her story, that I now share with others whom I have learned are victims of domestic violence. The book is called, “God Heard My Cries, The Deliverance.”
Danielle’s testimony was so compelling, we began to invite other victims to give their testimony each year before the congregation, which included a mother whose daughter was killed and left at the foot of her stairs in her home, where her daughter’s husband left her to die, dropping one child off to her grandmother, and taking the other child with him. The little one left with her grandmother said to her, “My mommy is bleeding at home at the bottom of the stairs.” After this gripping testimony, the floor was opened for others in the congregation to share their stories of healing and recovery from domestic violence. You would not believe the persons who came forward to share their stories, people whom you would have never imagined had experienced such horrors. One woman shared with the congregation her story of being attacked in a car, on an interstate at a fast rate of speed with her small children in the back seat of the car. Another woman came forward to tell her story of her husband holding a gun to her head, and actually pulled the trigger, but thanks be to God the gun did not go off.
The last victim that spoke to my congregation was a young man whose mother and all of his siblings were killed by his mother’s boyfriend, while he, the oldest child, was in college.
My prayer is that more churches will invite victims of domestic violence to come and tell their stories before congregations, freeing other victims to seek help and to make others aware of the facts associated with domestic violence; reasons such as why victims stay in these types of relationships, other than the common misconception that they want to, but because of things like fear, and financial dependence on the abuser, just to name a few, that prohibit them from leaving. I would encourage pastors and other agencies to seek out advocates like Easter LaRoche to assist them in hosting awareness programs such as this one that brings the church face-to-face with this awful reality.
I would like to commend, Sheila Haney, the chair of SC’s COSROW and the committee on a job well done!
To read more about the “Violence in Relationships” workshop hosted by South Carolina COSROW, click here.
Rev. Cathy D. Mitchell is an Ordained Elder in the SC Annual Conference. Rev. Mitchell currently serves as the pastor of Wesley UMC on Johns Island and the Vice President of General Commission on the Status and Role of Women’s board.