We had two compelling reasons for reaching out to Prophetess Juanita Bynum this month. First, we wanted to give the spiritual leader a forum to address the horrific incident that was splashed across newspapers throughout the country and scrutinized on countless blogs. The other reason is to save your life.

Like many of you, we were saddened to learn that Dr. Bynum had allegedly been assaulted by her husband, Bishop Thomas Weeks III, in an Atlanta parking lot last August. Her high-profile story shed troubling light on a too-often-ignored crisis in our community. Black females experience domestic violence at a rate 35 percent higher than that of White females, and about 22 times the rate of other races, reports the Black Women’s Health Imperative. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says a woman is battered by her husband or boyfriend every 15 seconds, so by the time you finish reading this, yet another woman will suffer abuse at the hands of a partner.

During the course of covering Bynum’s story, we also learned about the missing person case of 28-year-old pharmaceutical representative, Nailah Franklin. Photos of the vibrant young Chicago native quickly circulated online and in local and national news broadcasts as her family desperately searched for the woman who had not shown up for a meeting at work. A few days prior to her disappearance, Franklin had reported to police that she had received threatening voice mails from a man she had dated, in which he reportedly said: “I could do harm to you. You haven’t seen that side of me, but I do have a bad side….” Police interviewed the man, but at press time he had not been named a suspect.

These and so many other tragic incidents of abuse caused me to reflect on a particularly painful time in my own life when my friend Ursula Campbell was murdered by her live-in boyfriend. I still remember the date: March 25, 1998. In the days before, Ursula had confided in a friend that her relationship with her boyfriend had changed. She had become afraid of him, and she had decided to move out. I had planned to fly down to Atlanta to surprise her and help her move into her new place. But just as I was preparing to leave, another friend called with the terrible news: Ursula’s boyfriend had strangled her and tried to cut off her head with a knife. The most wrenching thing I’ve ever had to do in my life was collect Ursula’s things and deliver them to her grieving mother. It’s a night I’ll never forget.

We believe Bynum’s story (“I’ve Come This Far by Faith“) is so important that we are presenting it in two parts. The first reveals her marriage struggles, while the second, coming in January 2008, outlines her new mission to help other abuse victims. We pray that her story will serve as a warning to all, and we hope readers will learn that standing up for yourself as a Black woman doesn’t mean you’re putting down a Black man. E-mail me at angela@essence.com to share your stories and to tell how you’re fighting domestic violence in our community.



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