Be who they can turn to for help
Fran Bumgarner has seen the devastation caused by domestic violence.
In June 2002, her 21-year-old daughter-in-law and 2-year-old grandson were murdered by the abusive father of her daughter-in-law’s friend.
Alan Gates, who is currently serving three life sentences in prison, was waiting on his wife to come home, but their daughter, Valerie Gates, and Bumgarner’s family members arrived first. Gates shot and killed them; he was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder.
“It’s all about power and control, and anyone who might get in the way or be around a victim can suffer abuse as well,” Bumgarner said.
Bumgarner and local Judge Carolyn Yancey spoke to more than 40 representatives from churches and organizations across the county who gathered at the South Henderson Pentecostal Holiness Church on Thursday morning to address domestic violence in the church community through Henderson-Vance Crime Stoppers Association’s Church Watch.
“It’s important to engage the faith community,” Infinite Possibilities Executive Director Kanika Turrentine said. “That is who they can run to for help.”
Bumgarner stressed police stations and churches know what to do in the event that an abused individual gets the courage to seek help.
“We need to listen to them and not blame them,” she said. “The question should never be ‘why does she stay,’ but ‘why does he batter and abuse?’ ”
For her part, Yancey spoke about domestic violence in the church, “according to the scriptures and according to the law.” She said she encountered many women in the church who were abused by their partners but never told.
She compared these women to Abigail in the Bible. In the story, a veiled woman was married to an angry man who abused her. She eventually killed him with kindness by showing him a brave display of love and affection.
“Once word got out that I was a minister and lawyer, you would be surprised how many woman have come to me,” Yancey said. “And not just members, first ladies, deacon’s wives and female pastors have come to me asking for help. We walk in church and say good morning, yes, I am doing fine, all the time hurting.”
Yancey said this is why she started her Abigail’s Veil seminars. These two-hour workshops help church members identity with domestic violence victims. She created Little Abbey, recently, to address adolescents and teens being abused in school.
Church Watch speakers fueled pastors like Rev. Jeanette Floyd, of Dickies Baptist Church, to get their congregation more involved in domestic violence awareness.
“Being a pastor, it informed me on how to relate and address domestic violence victims,” Floyd said. “We are now going to identify resources and bring dialogue to our congregation, too, so that we can better help them deal with it.”
Yankee and Bumgarner sought to dispel some myths.
• Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of race or socioeconomic status. One of every four women will experience domestic violence.
• Alcoholism and drugs have nothing to do domestic violence.
• Domestic violence partners should not be counseled in a room together; it re-victimizes the person suffering the abuse.
• Leaving an abuser is dangerous. Statistics show 80 percent of domestic violence related deaths occur when the partner tries to leave the abuser.
• Knowing a child is being abused and not reporting it is a crime.
The next church watch event is scheduled for August; it will address child abuse.
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