A Womanist Approach to Ending Violence

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Anna Pavlova
Anna Pavlova

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For anyone, anywhere, at any moment in time to
have the right to control my mind, beat my body,
kill my spirit, or otherwise do any harm
whatsoever to me, my children, or anyone else
I’ve committed to loving and protecting.
OUR OBJECTIVES
 Define womanism as a practice (all)
 Discuss how best to:
 Adopt a womanist theological approach to studying and understanding
intimate partner violence (IPV) victimization among Black women,
particularly women of faith (Pam)
 Actively listen to women in domestic violence situations, honor their
perspectives and decision-making processes, and respectfully guide
them toward safe, supportive services (Tiffany)
 Includes transgender women, whose personal histories with economic
and racial stratification are shared with their cisgender (nontransgender) sisters, in a womanist agenda (Stacee)
WHAT IS WOMANISM?
“Womanism is to feminist as purple is to lavender.” Alice Walker
Self-defined, by each of us, based on our understanding and its application
Other thoughts?
A HERMENEUTIC PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY
OF ABUSED AND SUICIDAL BLACK WOMEN (PAM)
Research Questions:
1. How do abused and suicidal Black women make meaning of their
experiences in the context of their Christian faith?
2. What role does religious faith play in participants survival and
recovery?
3. How do participants interpret Psalm 23:4 in light of their abuse
victimization and suicide attempts?
PSALM 23:4 (KJV) METAPHOR
“YEA, THOUGH I WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF
DEATH, I WILL FEAR NO EVIL, FOR THOU ART WITH ME. THY ROD
AND THY STAFF, THEY COMFORT ME.”
AN ACCOUNT OF PHYSICAL IPV VICTIMIZATION
AN ACCOUNT OF ONE PARTICIPANT’S SUICIDE ATTEMPT
As a result of the domestic abuse
and violence they experienced,
most participants in the study
attempted suicide by overdosing
on pills (e.g., sleep medication,
pain pills) or a combination of pills
and alcohol. One participant tried
to poison herself by drinking
bleach.
RESEARCH FINDINGS
1. “Abuse changes your life.” (PARTICIPANT QUOTE)
2. Unresolved grief/loss increase hopelessness.
3. Disillusionment can lead to disappointment in God.
4. "I wanted to die.“(PARTICIPANT QUOTE)
5. Coping, survival, and resistance
6. God's divine providence prevails.
7. Finding meaning and purpose through suffering
8. Reinventing the “Strong Black Woman”
PAM’S TOOLS & TAKE-AWAYS FOR ADDRESSING IPV
1. Recognize the signs of domestic violence, and
safely/discreetly reach out to offer help.
2. Volunteer at DV shelters and partner with local
churches and other faith-based organizations that
offer DV awareness programs, as the need for
community support is great.
3. As a researcher, practitioner, or community activist,
adopt a womanist and/or womanist theological
worldview to better understand the impact of IPV
upon African American women of faith.
WOMANISM, RESPONSE AND DV (TIFFANY)
Womanist clinicians, practitioners and other supporters are strong advocates of
human, particularly female, empowerment.
This passionate, concerned stance often carries with it particular expectations of the
“right” way for a survivor to respond in situations of physical and emotional
conflict or crisis.
In order to provide effective support it is imperative that womanist helpers are able
to:
actively listen women in domestic violence situations
honor their perspectives and decision-making processes
respectfully guide them toward safe, supportive services.
This process has the ultimate goals of being a catalyst for efficient victim/ survivor
education, reduction of defensiveness and faster facilitation of safety. (Weiss,
2001)
SPECIFIC GROUP: BLACK WOMEN
Archetypes/ Stereotypes
 Mammy
 Sapphire
 Jezebel
 Others
Position in relationships
Role in Family
Societal expectations
 (Hill Collins, 2000)
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Psychological Correlates
 Shame
 Weakness
 Fear
 Anxiety related to impact on family systems
Social Correlates
 Damage to black family structure
 Impact on future generations based on past generations
 (Bierra, 2010)
WOMANISM/ FEMINISM
Empowerment is goal
Self-definition is key
 Many definitions are available
 Fragmentation of movement
Expectations had by self-empowered women for other women
THE CASE OF AYESHA
35 y/o African American woman
Married to Anthony, HS sweetheart
Two children with husband
Active in church
MS in a scientific field
Homeowner
Anthony’s job lay offs
Extreme stress, drinking,
Eye-rolls, shoving, throwing objects, slapping, punching, sexual assaults
THE RESPONSE
Shame reported
Stay/ leave decisions personal
 Difficult to stay
 Dangerous
 Inconsistent with empowered stance
 Teaching message to children
 Difficult to leave
 Religious commitment
 Separation of family
 Familiarity, stability, change
For discussion: Empowerment response?
STACEE’S SECTION
The case of Sonique:
•
Transsexual sex-worker seeking diagnostic services
•
Presented for therapy- wrote “no problems” in her intake paperwork
•
Raised in poverty by single mother, with two sisters. Mother often gone for days at
a time, abused drugs, had multiple boyfriends, and was prone to violence.
Sonique was abused, thrown out of the house when she was 16.
•
Sonique practiced her mother’s religious tradition of Vodon, and this was a
central organizing principle of Sonique’s life
•
Sonique had sustained multiple injuries two years’ prior to therapy when a man
beat her with a lamp
USING A WOMANIST LENS WITH SONIQUE
•
Why a womanist approach in understanding Sonique’s story?
•
What are workable goals for addressing violence within the context of Sonique’s
life?
•
What limitations do we have at the social service level that can be addressed at
the public policy level?
•
What limitations do we have at the public policy level that can be addressed at
the social service level?
•
What needs to be communicated in order to provide a larger and better range of
support for Sonique and other women in her situation?
STACEE’S TOOLS AND TAKEAWAYS FOR
ADDRESSING IPV
•
Strive for inclusive policies in your domestic violence work. If feminism and
womanism can’t address experiences like Sonique’s, what will?
•
Remember that even experiences outside of your own area of competence, such
as religion, may be resources for the survivor that can be leveraged
•
Safety may be relative rather than absolute in achievability, but some is always
better than none
•
Empowerment in any one area of life has the ability to create growth in other
areas
GROUP DISCUSSION FOR ALL OF US
Based on what we’ve discussed today, what new thoughts do you
have about addressing domestic violence against Black women?
What needs brainstorming?
CONTACT US, AND CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION
Stacee Reicherzer: [email protected]
Tiffany Rush-Wilson: [email protected]
Pamela Manley-Johnson: [email protected]
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