Correction to This Article
The article gave the wrong date for a meeting that will be attended by Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey. The meeting will be follow a at 7:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday at Ebenezer AME Church in Fort Washington.

D.C. Area Clergy Urged to Shine a Light on Domestic Abuse

By Valerie Strauss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 11, 2009

It seemed like a no-brainer to Glenn F. Ivey: To stir a public discussion about domestic violence, he would ask churches to take the lead. But when the Prince George's County state's attorney called clergy, he was shocked at the response.

"I thought it would be an easy sell," he said Saturday at the third annual conference of the Domestic Violence Ministry of the People's Community Baptist Church in Silver Spring.

"But no, I heard things like: 'Brother, it's a little hot to talk about that one.' Or, 'Well, I'll take it up, and we'll form a task force and get back to you.' . . . And then there are churches where the response to the victim is, 'You have to stick it out.' "

It's a topic few people want to talk about publicly, even though nearly one-third of American women report having been abused by a husband or boyfriend and as many as 80 percent of teenagers report knowing others who were involved in abusive relationships.

On Sunday, gatherings will be held at churches -- including Mount Nebo AME Church in Upper Marlboro -- and community-based organizations across the region for "Project Safe Sunday," an initiative aimed at getting people to talk about the sometimes-taboo subject of domestic violence. President Obama has designated October "National Domestic Violence Awareness Month." (Ivey will appear next week at Ebenezer AME Church in Fort Washington for a continuation of the project)

The goal is to help people understand the serious and complicated problem and to spur them to learn how to help themselves and others get out of an abusive relationship.

The subject received national attention recently when singer Chris Brown attacked his girlfriend, singer Rihanna, and was sentenced to community service. The incident highlighted the need for better education.

Ivey said he was in the car when he heard callers on a radio show say that Rihanna had brought the attack on herself.

Ivey said he "was running off the road" because he was so stunned that women would blame her.

And, domestic violence isn't limited to romantic relationships. On Friday night, Prince George's police charged Ernest K. Bell, 62, in the stabbing death of his son Keith A. Bell, 34. The two, who reportedly had a history of domestic violence, got into an argument that ended with the son being stabbed, police said.

Conference participants said that the personal nature of such violence, the psychological abuse that often accompanies a physical assault and the rawness of it combine to keep the subject underground.

There is a tendency, too, among police, prosecutors and judges to see an assault by a husband on his wife as a lesser form of violence than an attack by a stranger, Ivey said.

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