Sunday, July 12, 2009

Shannon Burke Gets Another Chance

Local news organizations reported Saturday that Catherine Burke, the wife of radio host Shannon Burke, now calls the shooting in which she came within a fraction of an inch of being a domestic violence fatality, an accident. The Sentinel reports that she still loves him and is committed to the relationship. Click here for WKMG's report.

There are several comments posted on the Setinel's website that viciously attack her. I can only surmise that they were written by people who have never walked a mile in the shoes of someone who is a victim of domestic violence.

Most people have difficulty understanding the reasons why victims stay in these relationships. When you're on the outside looking in, it's very easy to say "dump the bum." And when the victim chooses not to, she is judged and criticized by those who know little to nothing about the dynamics of DV relationships. The reasons that victims stay are as numerous as the victims themselves. They are complex and very individualized. They fall into a blend of the following "F" reasons:
  • Fear: Victims often fear that their abuser will become more violent and could kill them and/or their children; they fear losing the children (custody battle or abduction); they fear lonliness; they fear the difficulties of being a single parent; they fear that the legal system won't protect them; they fear what people will think when the relationship falls apart.
  • Finances: Victims often have no employment or income; abusers often control all the money or they've ruined their partner's credit rating. In the first year following a divorce, a woman's standard of living declines by 73% while a man's increases by 42%.
  • Fantasy: Victims believe their abuser's promises to change; they still love the "Prince Charming" that he is capable of being; they want to have an intact family and believe it's best for the children to stay together; they believe they're responsible for the success or failure of the relationship; and there may be more good times than bad. They loved this person enough to marry them - you can't just decide one day to stop loving someone you've been with for a long time.
  • Family: Victims are often isolated from family/friends or they feel pressured by their family to maintain an appearance of a happy marriage.
  • False Beliefs: Sometimes victims have "learned" to be helpless - believing that they are incompetent and unable to function on their own; sometimes they blame themselves for their abuser's behavior and think that if they would just stop making mistakes, the abuse would stop.
  • Faith: Victims often turn to their faith leader as the first cry for help. Sadly many clergy are clueless about how to respond - they're more focused on "saving" the marriage than they are the safety of the person who needs help. So they (wrongly) advise them to stay and submit to their husband. Victims also feel required to forgive their batterer (either because they've been taught that God expects it).
This only scratches the surface. There are many more reasons that victims stay, including immigration issues, low self-esteem, lack of community resources, etc.
Mrs. Burke has made her decision at this point to try to salvage the relationship. She believes that her husband is trying and that he has embraced God and is making dramatic changes in his life. I hope that's true. Because only God has the power to bring about the changes in attitude and behavior that can repair their relationship. I only fear that, as in so many DV cases, Mr. Burke's repentance may be superficial. A genuine change will take months, if not years, to become evident. I hope and pray Catherine can remain strong and that Shannon finds accountability partners to keep him on the right path.


  1. Embraced God because only he can bring dramatic changes? I guess it's always nice to have a scapegoat in case of failure. That way Shannon Burke doesn't have to accept any accountability at all. If he fails, I suppose they can say the Devil made him do it.

  2. Yes, it is important to recognize victims may make excuses for their abusive partners. It is also important to recognize that being a "victim' doesn't necessarily equate to being an honest, mentally-balanced human being. Just as Jeffrey Dahmer was the perpetrator of terrible violence, he was also a victim (hence his brutal death).

    While nobody deserves to be victimized, being "abused" should not necessarily relegate someone to the status of saint, martyr or even "clear thinker". It is possible for "The Abused" to be a sociopath - or someone simply incapable of being honest. Let's be careful about offering reasons (excuses) for anyone's behavior - abuser or abused, particularly when children are involved. Catherine should be able to make choices for herself. I am concerned about her ability to make choices on behalf of her children and pets. Her affadavit details a previous history of abuse and bizarre behavior. Were all her stories lies? If so, law enforcement should look into bringing charges against her in this regard.

    Catherine seems to have an overwhelming need for attention - going to media outlets with her dog, or simply say "God wants me to honor my vows". Perhaps this issue could be handled privately with a pastor, trusted friends and family members, rather than with any reporter who will run a story on it. With regard to marriage vows, it seems to be another "excuse" (for putting children in a dangerous situation). Ms. Burke has broken her marriage vows twice before (this is her third marriage).

    While Shannon does deserve to be questioned with regard to suddenly and conveniently "Finding God", let's make sure we provide equal time and thought to both the "abuser" and "absued", particularly if this victims choices, truths and decisions will impact not only her children, but whether Mr. Burke will spend years in jail.