Abuse in the Black Community
Intimate partner violence does not discriminate. It affects all people, regardless of age, race, economic status, sexual orientation, or gender identity. In fact, an average of 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States, equating to more than 12 million people per year. This statistic does not cover the impact of other types of abuse, such as emotional abuse or financial abuse, meaning that even more people are affected by intimate partner violence than studies reveal.
While we know that intimate partner violence affects people from all walks of life, we also know that it can more deeply affect individuals from certain communities or backgrounds. Specific communities may also have different ways of approaching domestic violence, as well as increased barriers to accessing support services.
Abuse in the Black Community
Due to systemic racism, which affects our social structures as well as our policies, both Black women and Black men experience domestic violence at higher rates that other communities. In fact, 45.1% of Black women experienced physical violence, sexual violence, or stalking from their intimate partner, while 40.1 % of Black men experienced those abuses. On average, 1 in 3 women experience domestic violence (33.3%) and 1 in 4 men experience domestic violence (25%), showing that African Americans are disproportionately affected by this issue.
By intentionally denying African Americans access to economic opportunities, healthcare, education, and a sense of support from government agencies, the risk factors of domestic violence are higher in these communities. This also leads to added barriers in reaching a safer place or getting support, due to the distrust in many government agencies.
Challenges and barriers
There are many different factors that can create challenges for victims and survivors of domestic violence who are Black. One major factor is a distrust of government agencies or law enforcement due to years of discrimination and abuse. These agencies have typically been used to harass African Americans or have been used to continually project racist stereotypes.
African Americans who are experiencing abuse may be less likely to call law enforcement due to fears of their partner being brutalized or killed by the police. On average, Black men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white men, with Black women 1.4 times more likely to be killed than their white counterparts. Due to these fears, many people are less likely to get the police involved, even with their safety at risk.
Unfortunately, even those who do reach out to law enforcement for support can end up in a risky situation. Black women are especially likely to be criminalized, prosecuted, and incarcerated while trying to navigate and survive the conditions of violence in their lives. Compared to other groups, Black women are 80% more likely to be convicted for killing their abusive partner when defending themselves from abuse.
Women of color and low-income women are also disproportionately affected by mandatory arrest policies for domestic violence. This leads to even more distrust of law enforcement and means that Black women may be more likely to continue experiencing abuse, additional more harm or risk being arrested themselves instead of calling the police.
In addition to fears of contacting law enforcement, many African Americans hesitate to reach out to support services, such as domestic violence organizations. Oftentimes these shelter programs, which are meant to protect survivors, may put them at greater risk by requiring them to interact with the legal system or other social services agencies in order to access resources.
Some domestic violence organizations may disrupt the family structure due to mandated reporting laws, further punishing the survivor for not leaving or removing children from the abusive home. This can result in intergenerational trauma and an increased risk of abuse for both the non-abusive parent and the children in the system. Service providers do not always offer culturally appropriate support or tailor their services to the unique issues of each client, leading many individuals to feel uncomfortable in the shelters and unable to be their true selves.
Even though African Americans experience intimate partner violence at higher rates than other races, there are added barriers and challenges that can prevent someone from getting support.
Our advocates are extensively trained in the ways in which different communities experience domestic violence, and we want to offer up the best support possible.