Violence can affect any woman, anywhere in the world regardless of educational, economic or racial background. However, when violence against black women occurs, black women are often depicted as women who do not need help.
According to Feminista Jones, a mental-health social worker and feminist writer from New York City, statistically women of colour are more likely to be killed by domestic or intimate partner violence than any other ethnic group. In an article for Time magazine, Jones explains:
“According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, an estimated 1.3 million American women experience DV/IPV each year. Women make up 85 per cent of the victims of DV/IPV. Despite this, most cases are never reported to the police and most women are victimized by people they know. And for black women, it’s an even bigger problem: black women are almost three times as likely to experience death as a result of DV/IPV than white women. And while black women only make up eight per cent of the population,” Jones continues, “Twenty-two per cent of homicides that result from DV/IPV happen to black women and 29 per cent of all victimized women, making it one of the leading causes of death for black women ages 15 to 35. Statistically, we experience sexual assault and DV/IPV at disproportionate rates and have the highest rates of intra-racial violence against us than any other group. We are also less likely to report or seek help when we are victimized.”
While Jones’ report shows how unlikely black women are to report domestic or intimate partner violence, where are the reports that show what kind of support they receive (if any) when they do?
As a domestic violence survivor and an activist against domestic and sexual abuse against women, I can state without prejudice that women of colour do report. However, often they are ostracized for being victims, or simply dismissed when they do.
One explanation used to explain why violence against black women is overlooked or dismissed at least in America is because they are often stereotyped as loud, opinionated, angry “drama queens.” As a result, law enforcement and officials have a “difficulty” being empathetic or deciphering whether the reports that black women make are worth looking into.
I think back to the countless police reports, restraining orders and court proceedings I endured. They always ended with a district attorney telling me why, for the “umpteenth” time, they were letting my abuser go free. “We need to be sure we are not putting an innocent man behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit,” was the continual refrain. So here I was, once again, standing there looking foolish. Standing there as though I was to blame for my broken ribs, the gunshot at my head and my blackened eyes. Why, I wondered, why did they feel like my life did not matter?
Sadly, countless black women around the world who report domestic violence claims are often treated like their lives do not matter, such as in the case of Tyvitta Dischler, who was killed two weeks after being denied a restraining order against her husband, James Hutchins. Tyvitta went to the police and the courts for assistance; however, her cries for help were silenced both by the system and the man who killed her.
Another case that was dismissed and ignored involves a woman in South Africa named Karabo Mokoena, who was murdered, burned and then buried by her boyfriend at the time, Sandile Mantsoe. However, when the story of Karabo Mokoena’s murder emerged, Minister of Women in the Presidency, Susan Shabangu, said Karabo Mokoena, “was weak and hence she became a victim of abuse.” However, unlike Susan Shabangu who demonstrated a clear case of victim blaming, I am on the side of Frank Blaney, community educator for the prevention of gender-based violence, when he states, “‘Murder’ puts the blame where it justly resides — on the male perpetrators, not the victims.”
As we look at these and other senseless violent crimes committed against black women throughout the world: Sandra Bland, Mary-Lee Macumbe, and Zestah September, we must be willing to ask the most difficult question surrounding violence against black women: Why don’t black women’s lives matter? In cases that result in violence against black women, the story either goes unreported, unsolved or treated as insignificant. However, there is something that each of us can do if we hear the cry for help.
- If by some chance you are reading this article, and you or someone you know is being abused please do not fear going to a friend, a neighbour or a family member and talk to them about what is happening.If they won’t listen find someone who will and ask for their help
- Distance yourself from your abuser!Get as far away from them as you can.Run! Do not walk.
- Get involved in your community by advocating for social service and justice reform.
- Vote for to have more law and governmental officials like Susan Shabangu, receive training in domestic violence and racial and ethnic sensitivity training.
As I stated above, domestic violence affects all of us, whether we are black, white or brown, rich or poor; no one is immune to it. Therefore if we stand up, and band TOGETHER to say NO MORE, we can end violence against ALL women.
This article was originally published on Blavity, and republished with the author, Collette Gee’s permission
Collette Gee is a Relationship Specialist, Author And Speaker that helps men and women create and sustain healthy relationships. Learn more about Collette Gee