Faith Takes on Violence

  • 09/21/2012
  • Terelle Jerricks

By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor

In 2005, filmmaker and entrepreneur Constance Jackson made a documentary film, Blitz Attack: The Andrea Hines Story. The 14 year old Hines died after being stabbed 74 times by a 13 year old male playmate.

[The story was updated to include the correct year in which the film Blitz Attack: The Andrea Hines Story premiered]

“I wanted to know why, “versus, just saying, ‘Oh, that boy is crazy,’” Jackson explained. “Something went wrong and we conjure up in our society…narratives that make us feel safe again.”

The experience led her to organized a faith-based forum on anti-violence that is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Oct. 6, at the Pacific Unitarian Church in Rancho Palos Verdes.

The forum will discuss the myths, facts and tools to become a survivor of domestic violence.

“Violence [runs] a gamut throughout our society of teaching, experiencing or witnessing” said Jackson, who has a background in public health. “And, yet we don’t talk about violence as a health problem.”

Organizing this forum from a faith-based perspective was important to Jackson.

“A lot of people who attend church have a lot of pain,” Jackson said. “A lot of people go to church because of the pain and they find a way of solace there, through the scripture … The faith-based approach encouraged by the federal government, encouraged by any faith leader is to try to deal with these tough problems from the church’s perspective.”

Jackson said the event is open to perpetrator and victims because violence begets violence, and any perpetrators can also be victims.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States, based on a survey conducted in 2010. Over the course of a year, that equals more than 12 million women and men.”

The same survey found that while one in four women have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner, one in seven men have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner.

The elderly, teens and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities also are at high-risk for being abused.

Rainbow Services in San Pedro presented information on the availability of shelter beds for domestic violence victims, which it said was woefully inadequate. The 2011 Greater Los Angeles Homeless County Report cited that with only 600 domestic violence shelter beds across Los Angeles County, and an estimated 4,610 homeless domestic victims, six out of seven domestic violence victims have no safe place to go.

Jackson said violence is something that is stigmatized and usually perceived by the broader society as a lower-class problem.  But in fact, violence has no economic barriers. That is why it was important to make the forum faith-based, she said.

“I realized that we are not, as a society, going to address violence unless we go to a place where most people give respect and homage to, because our society is based on that respect and that is the church,” Jackson said. “That faith-based involvement needed to be there in order for us to seriously began talking about violence on the many levels that we all face.”

The forum begins at 10 a.m. and will include a panel discussion that includes speakers from Peace Over Violence, the San Pedro Rainbow Services, and The Center in Long Beach among others.

Peggie Reyna, project director for Los Angeles-based, Peace Over Violence’s death, disabled and elder, and anti-stalking projects, will be the keynote speaker at the event. She said there is serious lack of services and knowledge around issues of violence against elder people and people with disabilities.

“People don’t like to think that someone would harm someone with a disability, but the fact is that a person with a disability is twice as likely to be abused as an able-bodied person,” Reyna said. “We know it’s twice as likely to happen and much less likely to be reported… Domestic violence is not just about hitting. It’s about financial abuse, and physical abuse, and emotional abuse, and verbal abuse. Everything!”

Very often, abuse is attached to accessibility and isolation, she said.

Employment lawyer Michelle S. Patterson will speak at the forum about mandatory leaves from work, reporting elder abuse and sexual harassment. She’s done other forums and trainings on violence.

“I want people to do the right thing; the legal thing; the moral thing; and sometimes the law helps us on that,” Patterson said. “So, I want to get the resources out there for people… there is a personal element there and all three of those things play into it.”

Patterson reiterated that violence, while mostly perpetrated on women, is not gender exclusive.

“Statistically, that’s the largest. [But] there are some women in domestic situations — girlfriends or wives — who abuse their husbands — or boyfriends; same sex violence occurs as well,” she said. “It’s a power struggle. It’s all about power and dominance… there is something in the human psyche that loves power and power creates greed, and just horrible things that humans can do to other humans.”

Center Long Beach Administrative Director Porter Gilberg has spoken on the subject of violence in relates to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer community. The Center often provides referrals and training on cultural competency as it relates to LGBT people. He plans on laying out a vocabulary to build a framework to discuss differences among communities. Statistically, LGBT people are just as likely to be in an abusive relationship as heterosexuals, he said.

Where it starts to get more complicated is in seeking out services because LGBTQ people are placed at a societal disadvantage because of institutional and individual discrimination.

“Many domestic violence resources are not, unfortunately, are not culturally competent in working with the LGBTQ community,” Gilberg said.

“Someone may believe the myth that same-sex couples can’t be violent toward one another, or that it’s a lovers quarrel, or on a worse very case scenario, some place might not be equipped to provide services to transgender people. So, the fear of these barriers is a big hindrance to a lot of people seeking resources.”

The forum offers the opportunity to converse about what those barriers are and how to break them down to create more inclusive environments for victims or survivors of domestic violence, he said.

The event also will include art presentations, spoken word, entertainment, and a small group discussion on overcoming emotional and physical pain.

Jackson’s goal is simple.

“Touching one person or more to understand that they can seek help and/or get out of a situation that is uncomfortable for them, so that they can live a healthier life,” Jackson said.

Details: (310) 366-4996
Pacific Unitarian Church
5621 Montemalaga Drive, Rancho Palos Verdes

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