Story by: Carolyn Bradley
While Black History Month serves as an opportunity to educate and celebrate the great contributions African-American people have made throughout history, it is also a time to acknowledge the uncomfortable truth that African-American women face domestic violence and homicide at higher rates than other groups.
According to a July 2017 report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, homicides stemming from intimate partner violence disproportionately affect young racial and ethnic minority women. The CDC said non-Hispanic African-American women experience the highest rates of homicide, citing 4.4 homicides per 100,000 population, while American Indian/Alaska Native women experienced 4.3 homicides per 100,000 population.
The report said about 29.4 percent of female homicide victims were between the ages of 18-29. It reports 59.2 percent of victims who were single at the time of death as non-Hispanic African-American women.
The Women of Color Network listed poverty, poor education, limited job resources, language barriers and fear of deportation as roadblocks to safety and support for survivors of color.
According to a September 2014 Quarterly Domestic Violence Summary from the Chicago Police Department, 13 victims of domestic violence were African-American, three victims were white, two victims of domestic murder were Hispanic and two were of unknown race.
Tamara Turner, provisions coordinator at domestic violence agency Neopolitan Lighthouse, said that though domestic violence happens everywhere, urban areas experience more instances of domestic violence.
“Although domestic violence occurs in all areas and within all groups of people, I believe that domestic violence occurs more often in communities where there is a prevalence of poverty and other types of violent crime,” Turner said. “I believe that this is because poverty and lack of financial resources adds extra stress and strain within relationships.”
Many black women live in these impoverished communities, where violent crime often takes place, according to Turner, and violence is normalized.
Turner said black women are also discouraged from making a big deal of the domestic violence they experience. Family and friends may also have normalized domestic violence.
“Domestic violence is also a taboo subject in the black community, and a common sentiment is that domestic violence is just between the victim and the abuser,” Turner said. “Other people shouldn’t get involved.”
Many black women also do not want to get their abuser in trouble and face job loss or brutality from the criminal justice system, Turner said. They avoid reporting because they love and are concerned about their abuser.
Ember Urbach, director of the Centralized Training Institute at the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network (CMBWN), said the network provides training to individuals who work with survivors of domestic violence.
The network performs social justice-oriented training, according to Urbach. The training discusses people of color, specifically black women, facing more barriers than other individuals when they are trying to get assistance.
The CDC also reported 19.7 percent of suspects of black female homicide as acquaintances, 15.7 percent as strangers and 15.2 percent as a parent.
“[Black women’s] community may be different,” Urbach said. “They may have less access to resources because they are in underserved areas. Most calls to [CPD] come from areas in Chicago that are furthest away from domestic violence shelters.”
Urbach said most domestic violence shelters are from the North Side, yet the police department receives most calls from survivors on the West Side. The network is trying to expand resources to hospitals and more areas where survivors are able to receive more assistance.
“I think we should encourage the public to get involved and be advocates for those who are being abused,” Turner said. “Most people know someone, or numerous people, who are being abused but do very little to address the issue and support the victim, and this is something that needs to change.”
Networks and organizations create resources to assist people who face domestic violence.
CMBWN works with many organizations and individuals in the community who work in neighborhoods that are primarily made up of people of color. Urbach said the network gives the best tools it can to navigate the issues at hand.
Executive Director of the Connections for Abused Women and Their Children Stephanie Love-Patterson said the organization provides safety planning, counseling, advocacy and helping people understand their rights under the Illinois Domestic Violence Act.
Services such as healthcare and housing that can be more challenging for African-American women to obtain. Love-Patterson said African-American women and men might experience discrimination from a landlord, from a housing program or from healthcare providers.
“We advocate for every individual that we serve,” Love-Patterson said. “If we notice a particular challenge for someone, then we know we have to advocate a little bit harder and provide additional support. With their permission, we can advocate for them on that front.”