When she lost her $2.5 million home with the prayer room that gave her a quiet place to soothe her spirit, national evangelist Juanita Bynum says she wept for two days.
Her life was in turmoil. Her marriage was failing. Her estate in a Duluth country club was headed for foreclosure.
In a two-part series appearing in the December issue of Essence magazine, Bynum talks frankly about losing her home, living in her church and the tumultuous years that she says led to the alleged attack in the hotel parking lot on Aug. 21 that broke up her marriage to Bishop Thomas W. Weeks III.
The Bynum interview will hit news stands this week. The second part of the interview will be featured as the January cover story.
“Juanita Bynum has been a central figure in the evangelic faith,” said Essence Editor-in-Chief, Angela Burt-Murray. “Many people were surprised that she and her husband were having this difficulty.”
Burt-Murray said that Bynum’s story helps to shed light on an important problem facing black women that few public figures are willing to discuss openly — domestic violence. Black women experience domestic violence at a rate that is 35 percent higher than white women and about 22 percent higher than other races, said Burt-Murray.
The editor said women facing domestic violence will “draw strength” from reading about Bynum, who has accused her husband of beating, choking her and stomping her in the parking lot of an Atlanta hotel. Weeks was charged with aggravated assault, terroristic threats and simple battery in connection with the incident.
Bynum told Essence she was reluctant to press charges at first because of the public attention it would cause, but the doctor who treated her bruises said he was obligated to report it.
Bynum has said she lived with earlier instances of abuse in her marriage, but she stayed in the relationship because she thought things could be worked out. “This is a woman who was very much committed to her marriage,” said Burt-Murray. “She is not happy it’s over.”
After the attack, Burt-Murray says Bynum considered therapy, but instead focused her attention on creating a domestic violence ministry. Some fans and former supporters, however, have criticized her for going public about her personal problems and ending her marriage.
Bynum told Essence she is planning a Valentine’s Day conference to discuss domestic violence. Meanwhile, her divorce from Weeks is pending in Gwinnett County Superior Court.