Televangelist Juanita Bynum acknowledges thoughts of suicide and says she no longer wants to remain married to her estranged husband in an upcoming two-part episode of the reality television show "Divorce Court."
In episodes scheduled to air Thursday and Friday, Bynum also weighs in on a case involving alleged domestic violence. The Associated Press obtained a transcript with excerpts of the show.
Bynum told Judge Lynn Toler – who hears cases on the syndicated show distributed by Twentieth Television – that she saw signs of trouble in her marriage to Thomas W. Weeks III before the Aug. 21 incident that ended in a physical altercation in a hotel parking lot outside of Atlanta.
"I was just trying to make it work because I don’t like losing relationships," Bynum said. "All of this just kept getting swept under the rug … So you begin to adapt to a very wrong and very unhealthy marriage."
Weeks pleaded guilty on March 11 to assaulting Bynum and was sentenced to three years’ probation. At the sentencing hearing, he also addressed his wife, who sat in the second row of the courtroom gallery. The two later left the courthouse together.
Prosecutors alleged that Weeks beat Bynum – a prominent televangelist whose message of women’s empowerment resonated with thousands of followers – in the parking lot of an Atlanta hotel.
According to a police report, Bynum told officers that Weeks "choked her, pushed her down, kicked and stomped her … until a bellman pulled him off of her."
As a condition of his sentence, Weeks must undergo violence and anger counseling and complete 200 hours of community service that cannot be church-related. He had been barred previously from communicating with Bynum, but that restriction has been lifted. His record will be cleared if he completes the terms of his sentence.
When asked whether she and Weeks were planning a reconciliation, Bynum said she was "done."
"I can’t speak for him, but I no longer want the marriage," she told Toler.
Bynum said she would always love Weeks, but made a decision to "love me more."
Weeks has said that the couple had discussed reconciliation as late as August, but his divorce attorney, Randy Kessler, said on Tuesday that the divorce is moving forward and headed toward trial. A mediation date is scheduled for May 13.
"Reconciliation is not in the works and not even being discussed now," Kessler said, adding that the show appearance could affect the mediation.
The couple wed in a million-dollar, televised ceremony in 2002 and together wrote "Teach Me How to Love You: The Beginnings."
The couple separated in June and they have no children together. Bynum filed for divorce from Weeks a month after the attack, citing "cruel treatment" and saying the marriage was "irretrievably broken."
The televangelist was also asked about rumors circulating on the Internet that she tried to commit suicide.
"Suicide crossed my mind … You know, I felt hopeless," Bynum said. "I didn’t because the name Bynum represents a legacy of people that have gone before me and had I done that I would have given too much power to an individual to not just wipe me out but to wipe out the integrity of the legacy I was born in."
Bynum said she briefly feared her legacy – and particularly her ministry – was in jeopardy, but no longer feels that way.
"If all that I have become in 25 years does not properly define who I am to the people that follow my ministry then there is no need for me to try to explain it."
Bynum is a former hairdresser and flight attendant who became a Pentecostal evangelist, author and gospel singer. Weeks is the founder of Global Destiny churches.
After the incident, Bynum vowed to become an advocate for domestic abuse prevention.
In the "Divorce Court" episodes, she observes and weighs in on a case involving domestic violence. When asked what advice she had for women in situations similar to hers, she said, "I have to make a decision … to take the love that I had for him with me."
Toler said the show doesn’t typically deal with domestic violence, but she saw a unique opportunity to reach some of her most loyal viewers, Southern black women.
"Here you have a woman who is very famous and who speaks to my audience," Toler said. "No one would ever think that she would be in that circumstance."
She said she thinks that viewers will likely be surprised by Bynum’s lack of anger and her candor about her own situation.
"She was very honest about how far she fell," Toler said. "It’s a tough situation anyway, and to do it in a fishbowl … I think she handled it with a lot of grace and aplomb."
SOURCE: Ledger-Enquirer.com in an AP story by Errin Haines