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Thursday, October 22, 2015

This Image Is Why We Need To Have A Nuanced Discussion About Race, Gender, and Intimate Partner Violence

Content Warning/Trigger Warning: Domestic Violence/Intimate Partner Violence

In recognition of Domestic Violence Month, a month established to bring visibility to domestic and intimate partner violence, I want to deconstruct an image that, disturbingly, has been circulating online. The image shows a seemingly battered black woman with a caption that reads in all caps, "A real Black women would put an ice pack on it, wear glasses, call off sick instead of alerting 5 0”. It’s frightening. 

Statistically, approximately 29 percent of all African-American women face domestic and/or intimate partner violence within our lifetime--a rate 35% higher than that of white females, and about 2.5 times the rate of women of other races. 

However, stereotypes and expectations of black womanhood impact both the rates in which black women report intimate partner violence, and severity in which their claims are considered. Black women are less likely to report domestic violence due to potentially criminalizing their partners, and even when black women do report, they are not considered as urgent. 

Stereotypes also largely impact black women’s ability to receive support for intimate partner violence. The one implied in this image is that black women are somehow inherently “strong” and therefore should be equipped to endure all circumstances--even knowingly harmful ones. Another stereotype that black women are forced to navigate is that we are angry and belligerent. This widely believed stereotype that deduces the humanity of black women to a single emotional expression, renders it difficult for society to even see us as being victims of domestic violence in the first place.

Since black women carry the assumption that our behavior and actions are angry or in response to anger, support isn’t offered, and often times the victim or survivor of violence becomes criminalized. Instead of receiving help and protection in dire situations, Black women are subject to criminalization--and that can come with continued violence and harassment from law enforcement.

This narrative, however tragic, is not unique. Remember Marissa Alexander? She is the black woman who made national headlines for being arrested and incarcerated for firing a warning shot at her abusive husband. Or how about Cherelle Baldwin? In 2013, Cherelle was imprisoned for killing her husband--a repeat abuser of hers. Black women are expected to endure domestic and intimate partner violence, navigate the trauma that accompanies these forms of violence (often without institutional support) and, are subsequently vilified and criminalized for taking steps to defend ourselves.

It seems as though the outcomes for black women who are victims or survivors of sexual assault are bleak. Luckily, there are agencies that exist to support black women, at the intersection of race, gender, and intimate partner violence. If you or a friend are seeking support, consider the following resources. They are dedicated to offering culturally competent support to survivors of color:



1 comment:

  1. I know this is an old article, but I just found it. It's disturbing. I'm white, and have been told to "man-up" or "you instigated it, you know your temper" even when I never raised a hand. Let me repeat this (as I have before, to many friends, many times): abuse is wrong. It is never the victims fault. No matter your skin color, you didn't "deserve it", you didn't "have it coming" and it doesn't magically "get better". Stop making excuses for those briuses. Cry freely to someone who will listen. Emotional abuse is just as damaging. Most importantly, you are not alone. Get help, get away, get healing. You deserve safety and happiness. Don't be a victim for one more minute. Be a suvivor.