Victims’ Advocates Work to Combat Abuse in the Christian Community

Beck Dunn was among 53 attendees at an IMB missionary Journeymen reunion among nearly 100 who were commissioned in 1978 for two-year terms, serving in 43 countries. Photo by Art Toalston

Domestic violence suffered by the wives of a police officer and a disc jockey became Beck Dunn’s first foray into summoning churches for a response.

At age 27, Dunn had taken a job to open the third domestic violence shelter certified by the state of Florida in 1981.

To flee a cycle of abuse, one of the women needed bus fare and food money to take her three children to Minnesota; the other needed a tank of gas and money for food as she and her two children began a trip to Texas for refuge.

Dunn had served in Japan as a two-year Journeyman, a post-college missions track through the International Mission Board. At an English-speaking church in Yokohama, she had worked with women and children and led the choir.

“I thought if I told them I had been a Journeyman, it would help in introducing myself,” Dunn said of her calls to several Baptist churches in the city where the new shelter was located.

Someone at the first church, however, told Dunn they only gave to Southern Baptists’ home and overseas missions offerings. From the second church she learned that help was only provided when an emergency need is reported by one of the members.

It steeled Dunn’s resolve in a career of 30-plus years combating domestic violence and sexual abuse.

Initial help for the two wives in 1981 came from an African Methodist Episcopal Church. Later needs often were met by Catholic Charities and various community agencies.

Dunn was among 53 Journeymen, who served from 1978 to 1980, at an Oct. 11-13 reunion at the Garaywa Camp and Conference Center, a Woman’s Missionary Union assembly in Clinton, Miss. Nearly 100 Journeymen were commissioned in 1978, serving in 43 countries.

“There’s hardly a day goes by that I don’t think of something that happened to me or I learned as a Journeyman living in another country,” Dunn said in an interview.

She had been “low on adrenaline” and lacked self-confidence growing up in Florala, Ala., near the Florida state line, and earning a social work degree at Troy University, nearly 70 miles north.

But in Japan she faced a reality beyond normal church work.

Many of the Navy wives in the church had been married a short time to enlisted men and began to open up to Dunn about struggles stemming from their husbands’ deployments of three to nine months.

“They felt lonely, like they were stuck,” Dunn recounted. Their finances were on a shoestring and they typically had to get a ride from their military housing to buy groceries.

When their husbands returned, conflict often ensued, often entailing “emotional and psychological and sometimes physical abuse.”

Protocols for dealing with such domestic issues “were years away,” Dunn said. As a young 20-something, she listened and sought to be a source of compassion.

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Source: Baptist Press