A Survey of Black Churches’ Responses to Domestic Violence

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Oliver Williams
Esther Jenkins


Domestic Violence, African Americans, church, religion


A high level of church involvement among African Americans suggests the potential of the Black church in addressing domestic violence. However, very little research has examined this topic. The current study is an exploratory study of how aware African American churches are of victims in their congregation and how they respond to them.  The survey was conducted with a convenience sample (N=112) of church pastors and lay leaders, ¾ of whom were senior or associate/assistant pastors, from 9 cities and various denominations.   The results showed that these churches may underestimate the number of members who are victims, infrequently address domestic violence from the pulpit, and sometimes provided interventions that are potentially harmful, i.e. couples’ counseling and/or lack of safety risk assessment.   Respondents thought that their church’s response to domestic violence could be improved with more training for clergy and more knowledge of domestic violence resources. This paper provides recommendations for Christian Social Workers working with Black churches around issues of domestic violence.

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