Recently, a headline described an incident in which six people lost their lives over the course of three days as a result of domestic violence. Three of the deaths were reported as a murder-suicide. These tragedies occurred in neighboring communities of Dallas-Fort Worth, where I live. The following day, I read another headline from Bangladesh in which a university professor was brutally tortured by her husband, an out-of-work engineer. She may never see again. In New Zealand a baby was hospitalized as a result of injuries she sustained because of an altercation between her parents.
Sadly, the epidemic of domestic abuse is far reaching. It occurs in each and every community from coast to coast and continent to continent — regardless of one’s income, profession, education, race or religion.
Despite the high prevalence of domestic assault, it never ceases to amaze me at the number of victims who mask their wounds with makeup and their pain with a smile. Muted, mortified and ashamed, far too many women suffer at the hands of a batterer. They go about their days acting as though nothing is wrong, believing that things will get better.
When my husband and I moved to Dallas and established The Potter’s House church, I began to meet thousands of women who were survivors of abuse. Though many of them were free from physical danger, they were bound by psychological scars. Repeatedly, I saw how they tried to make sense of what happened, and how they tried to erase the memories, but the ordeal played over and over in their minds. I knew these women needed to heal. I knew they needed a listening ear; they needed spiritual guidance, emotional support and professional counseling.
We eventually established our Rahab International Ministries to assist survivors of domestic assault. We found that many of the victims were dealing with post-traumatic stress, or PTSD, which is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a horrific event. Though many of the women suffered the symptoms of PTSD ranging from extreme fear, anger and sleeplessness, some of the women had not been properly diagnosed and had gone for years thinking something was unreasonably wrong with them when in fact, they were suffering from PTSD. It was clear they needed help to move beyond their pain. But it would only come if they were given the resources they needed. And through Rahab, we were able to provide that through professional counseling referrals and support services.
I believe it’s time for others to take a stand to not only end the cycle of domestic violence, but to help heal the deep wounds that remain. PTSD is a real condition, but so often people deal with it silently and we overlook the person who is suffering. So the next time you see your neighbor, your sister or your friend concealing her pain, don’t judge, instead, help her seek the proper diagnosis and care through a doctor, a certified counselor or a program in your community that addresses PTSD. –Serita A. Jakes
Serita Jakes has been involved in Christian ministry all of her adult life and has served alongside her husband, Bishop T.D. Jakes, throughout their entire marriage of nearly 30 years. She is executive director of the WoMan-To-Woman Ministries of The Potters House of Dallas. Serita Jakes is the author of several inspirational books. For more information and these and her latest novel The Crossing visit www.tdjakes.org/thecrossing