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Intimate Partner Violence in Black Communities

By: Cas Myers, contributing author

While domestic violence can touch the lives of anyone, regardless of race, class, gender, or socioeconomic status, it is indisputable that violence disproportionately affects marginalized groups. This is particularly true for those who experience multiple forms of oppression. Black individuals face the highest rates of domestic violence — 45.1% of Black women and 40.1% of Black men have experienced physical violence, sexual violence, or stalking from their intimate partner.

Why are Black people more likely to be survivors?

While it may be tempting to chock these numbers up to cultural differences in communities of color, the reality is that the social injustices still faced by African American communities today plays a huge role in these statistics. High rates of poverty, unemployment, and crime are all risk factors for intimate partner violence, as are lack of access to educational and economic opportunities.

These are also all problems prevalent in communities of color, as a direct result of decades of racist and discriminatory policies. This is why it is important to use a racial justice lens not only for examining patterns in domestic violence, but also for policy implementation and education.

Challenges faced by Black people experiencing abuse

Not only are Black individuals more likely to be subject to abuse, but they face much larger hurdles in seeking help than their white counterparts. A major challenge faced by Black people experiencing abuse is a distrust in law enforcement. Many are more reluctant to get the police involved, especially since the violence they face by their partners may still be less than that faced by law enforcement. Black individuals are significantly more likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts (2.5 times for Black men and 1.4 times for Black women).

Even if a victim or survivor does come forward, they still may face serious penalties. Black women are especially likely to be criminalized, prosecuted, or incarcerated while trying to navigate their violent circumstances. Combine this with their increased likelihood of facing mandatory arrest policies, and seeking help through law enforcement becomes much more difficult.

Another barrier to reporting is religious influence. Many faithful people are told not to “air their dirty laundry,” and are instead encouraged to pray on it and keep their problems between themselves, their abusive partner, and God. Church leaders of any demographic and denomination can help by creating open dialogue about domestic violence, how it happens, and what resources are available to survivors.

Working toward a world without domestic violence cannot be achieved without racial justice. Dismantling the systems which oppress Black communities is the only way to truly help all people experiencing abuse. Both systemic racism and domestic abuse are results of a need to control others. Freedom for the oppressed is freedom for all.


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