Evangelical preacher Juanita Bynum and her husband, Bishop Thomas Weeks III, are superstars on the Christian circuit. But recently the Atlanta-based couple's profile reached the stratosphere after Bynum accused her husband of domestic violence during the summer.
The episode surprised many of Bynum's followers because the televangelist's fan base is largely female and her sermons often center on female empowerment. The situation also served as an opportunity for them to challenge every word Bynum had ever preached.
So, when Bynum accused her husband of attacking her physically in a parking lot outside an Atlanta hotel, the incident seemed unimaginable for what many saw as picture-perfect couple.
The pair, who met in 2002 and were married a year later, separated earlier this year. On Aug. 21, the day the attack occurred, the couple met in an attempt at reconciliation.
Bynum showed police her bruises and claimed Weeks choked, kicked and stomped on her. She said he continued to do so until a bellman pulled him away.
A History of Violence
Bynum revealed on "Good Morning America" Wednesday that this was not her first encounter with domestic abuse.
Her first marriage, which inspired her million-copy selling sermon "No More Sheets," ended as a result of domestic abuse. At the time, Bynum quietly divorced her husband and chose to move on with her life.
"He repented for what he did. I made a vow that I would not talk about that situation," she said.
Now, as her current husband faces charges of aggravated assault and making terroristic threats, according to The Associated Press, Bynum said she has decided to speak out. (Her husband is no longer is allowed to contact her.)
"You don't call it abuse until it's a parking lot situation," she said. Often times people classify such behavior as marital issues, but it's abuse when you're getting yelled at, Bynum added.
Some critics have accused Bynum of using the situation to gain recognition and a larger following. Bynum shot down such allegations.
"The popularity that God had favored me with was already there," she said.
Still, others questioned how a preacher who encouraged women to stay with their husbands regardless of their troubles can now change her tune. But Bynum said she still believes a wife should support her husband.
"It is the…responsibility of every wife to make their husband feel loved and respected," she said.
But, Bynum said, while people should live by the rules of their spirituality, they also should recognize danger signs.
"I think spiritually needs to be used in a proper manner," Bynum said. "You need to pray, but you also need to take yourself out of harms way while you pray."
The New Face of Domestic Violence
Since the incident with her husband, Bynum has christened herself the new face of domestic violence, and some of her followers believe it may have a lasting effect on Christians and their faith.
"It's kind of like a black eye, you know, on Christianity," said WTJH gospel DJ Reggie Gay. "We're supposed to be able to get along with each other and live right and do all those kind of things. But it's kind of tough. So I would encourage that congregation of people to be prayerful."
Weeks has denied abusing his wife.
"I want to be clear in saying I do not condone in any way, shape or form violence of any kind towards woman," he said. "My role has always been to operate as protector and not as an aggressor. I've walked away from many situations between the two of us just like I walked away that night."