Interview Date: February, 2009
Nancy: How did you become involved in this work?
Rhonda: First I am a survivor. I was in a 12-year marriage. It ended in two years of stalking and my husband was murdered. I re-married a couple of years later and moved to this state and got involved in a women’s bible study group. During the ten years that I was involved with that group there were women who were living in domestic violence or sexual abuse situations. The bible study was not an appropriate place to deal with those kinds of issues so I took the women and split us into a new group. That was how our group was formed six years ago.
Nancy: What is your group called?
Rhonda: Healing Hearts
Nancy: What is the greatest blessing for you personally in doing this work?
Rhonda: I think that it is two-fold. First I got the healing that I needed and second I was able to help these women because of what had happened to me.
Nancy: And what would you say is your greatest challenge?
Rhonda: Watching the women go back into these (abusive) relationships again and get physically hurt.
Nancy: What advice would you want to give on our website to a woman who is living in a situation where her physical or emotional health cannot be guaranteed?
Rhonda: I believe through a support group she can understand through other women what is happening to her and if it’s faith-based she will understand her worth in Jesus too.
Nancy: Are most of the women who come to your group members of a specific denomination or faith-group?
Rhonda: Probably 75% would call themselves Christians.
Nancy: Are there specific challenges of working in your region of the country?
Rhonda: We are a rural group so here everyone knows who your spouse is, what kind of car you drive, and where the DV support group is, so we are a Ministry group and we advertise ourselves as a Bible study group.
Nancy: One of the first things I remember you talking about was the story about how there is protection for the women while you meet.
Rhonda: When we meet there is also men’s Bible Study Group that meets in another room, a larger room within the same facility. When you drive by you can see that group sitting and reading their Bibles.
Nancy: Is this an intentional response of the faith community to ensure the safety of the women?
Rhonda: Even the policemen, and there are two in our small community, drive by our facility every 15 minutes while we are meeting.
Nancy: Have you had any incidents where an altercation occurred?
Rhonda: We live in a hunting community so people drive around with rifles in their trucks so anytime anyone is stopped in our parking lot the men go out and talk to them.
Nancy: What advice would you give to a pastor of a church who is beginning to raise his or her awareness about abuse and looking to you for some very practical things they might do?
Rhonda: For our area and the pastors that I have talked to my main concern is not to counsel couples together. I would like to tell them that if a couple comes to you and asks for counseling, that it would be your policy to say that you always see couples individually a few times before you see them together. That way if there is DV going on, the pastor might have the opportunity to respond in a way that would ensure safety.
Nancy: Do they listen to you when you say that?
Rhonda: Most of them have so far but it’s taken a long time and we had to establish trust.
Nancy: Do the pastors ever refer women to your group?
Rhonda: Yes they do.
Nancy: How many women are in the group at one time?
Rhonda: We have two groups, one with 20, and one with ten.
Nancy: How long do the groups run?
Rhonda: About two and a half hours.
Nancy: Over what period of time?
Rhonda: Our motto is that healing is a process, not an event and each woman’s journey is at her own pace. I have had a woman in our class for the entire six years and her journey is slow and I have had women come for 4-5 months and then they go on with their lives.
Nancy: How could people contact you?
Rhonda: Through our website: http://www.heartshealing.org and there is an email address on that website.
Nancy: I understand that you have recently published some materials.
Rhonda: The Bible study materials book that we use in class, lessons that I have been teaching over the last six years that I have written.
Nancy: Are they available for sale to others who are interested?
Rhonda: They are available on line on our site and on Amazon.
Nancy: Where would you like to be in your ministry in 5 years time?
Rhonda: I would like to have our own building. We have ministered to over one hundred women in the last year and we are a voluntary group with no funding. I would like to see in five years that we would have funding, that we were larger, and thus we were able to help more people.