Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Child and Family Studies

Major Professor

Delores Smith

Committee Members

Priscilla Blanton, Elizabeth Johnson, John Orme


Violence against women and religious participation are two phenomena that are pervasive across many African American communities. African American women experience intimate partner violence (IPV) at a rate higher than the majority of racial groups in the U.S. Although many African American women highly depend on their faith and church to navigate their experiences with IPV, scant attention has been given to the role that Black clergy have in responding to IPV against women. As a result, clergy leaders’ responses to IPV were examined in this study. This study utilized a phenomenological method to understand African American clergy leaders’ responses to intimate partner violence against women. The sample consisted of six Black senior clergy leaders of various denominations. Each leader took part in a face-to-face interview. In accordance with the phenomenology research method, participants were asked two general questions to help shape their narrative about their interactions with abused women. The primary research question was, “How do clergy leaders describe their experiences with responding to IPV against women”. The subquestion was, “What beliefs of violence against women do clergy hold?” Findings from clergy leaders’ narratives suggested that they serve primarily four roles when responding to IPV against women: spiritual advisor, pastoral care/counselor, compassionate leaders, and uninformed responders. Overall, these themes indicate that although African American clergy acknowledge the prevalence of IPV within their communities, and are trained to counsel congregants, they lack knowledge and training to respond to it. Considering these findings, I propose that clergy receive IPV training in order to be more efficient fist-responders. Moreover, the results in this study can help clergy leaders identify gaps in their practices with abused women as well as to understand the basics of intimate partner violence.

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