Intern Blog by Nadia Rosales
In celebrating Black History Month, it is important to recognize the ways in which intimate partner violence (IPV) and sexual assault (SA) uniquely affect the Black community. As we know, intimate partner violence and sexual assault can impact anybody from any walk of life; however, there are undoubtedly communities that disproportionately experience these forms of violence and African Americans are among those who experience these forms of violence at higher rates. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the data shows that:
• More than 4 in 10 Black women experience physical violence from an intimate partner during their lifetimes. White women, Latinas, and Asian/Pacific Islander women report lower rates.
• Black women also experience significantly higher rates of psychological abuse—including humiliation, insults, name-calling, and coercive control—than do women overall.
• Sexual violence affects Black women at high rates. More than 20% of Black women are raped during their lifetimes—a higher share than among women overall.
• Black women face a particularly high risk of being killed at the hands of a man. A 2015 Violence Policy Center study finds that Black women were 2.5 times more likely to be murdered by men than their White counterparts. More than 9 in 10 Black female victims knew their killers.
• Domestic violence is the number one cause of death for Black women between the ages of 15 and 35.
It is not just Black women who experience these forms of violence disproportionately, Black men do too. The Bureau of Justice Statistics found that both African American men and women were victimized by intimate partners at a rate 35% higher than persons of any other race. Beyond this, African American men were 62% more likely than white men to become victims of IPV, and about 2.5 times more likely than women of other races to become victims of IPV. Moreover, 12% of African American men reported experiencing at least one episode of IPV annually.
Considering these harrowing statistics, it is clear that both sexual assault and intimate partner violence are pervasive issues within the Black community. The impact of this is profound; so much so that the National Black Women's Health Project identified intimate partner violence as the number one health issue for African American women. In the face of all this, it is important to recognize the African American individuals and organizations that are helping to combat these widespread issues and bring hope to those affected.
The first person I’d like to highlight is Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, a well-known legal scholar, and activist who has done a tremendous amount of work in seeking justice for victims of gender and race-based violence, including sexual violence. She is most known for coining the term intersectionality, which has been used to better understand the ways gender, race, poverty, etc., shape the experiences of African American people, both within the legal sphere and beyond. Intersectionality is defined as the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. This concept is particularly important when considering what factors contribute to the occurrence of intimate partner violence and sexual assault. Recently in an interview on NPR, Crenshaw made the following statement, speaking to the ways gender and race intersect in cases of sexual abuse:
“I do think that race does play a role. African-American women have routinely been challenged in their efforts to tell a story about sexual abuse. There was a time that a case might be dismissed if the allegation of rape or other forms of sexual abuse didn't also allege that the victim was white.”
By recognizing the roles that race and gender play in shaping the experiences of African-American women seeking help when they have been sexually assaulted, Crenshaw highlights the challenges they face in telling their stories. This point brings me to the next individual I would like to highlight, someone who we were fortunate enough to have speak at our event, “An Evening of Raised Awareness,” Dr. Renee Fowler Hornbuckle. Dr. Hornbuckle is dedicated to breaking the silence that surrounds domestic violence and sexual assault and empowering the members of her community with the tools to do so. Since speaking out about her own abuse, she is now partnering and participating with various organizations to bring about awareness, helping others break their silence and take a stand against domestic violence. Speaking out and raising awareness is integral to combating IPV and SA; Dr. Hornbuckle is making profound strides in this area.
DCFOF’s event, “An Evening of Raised Awareness,” where Dr. Renee Fowler Hornbuckle spoke, was made possible by the Our Community Matters program at Denton County Friends of the Family, coordinated by Cassandra Berry. As it states on our website, the Our Community Matters program “focuses on engaging the African American community and bringing increased awareness to the resources available for victims of domestic violence.” Programs like these play a crucial role in helping those affected by intimate partner violence and sexual assault. As was discussed earlier in this post, it is especially important to reach those who are disproportionately affected by these forms of violence, which is exactly what the Our Community Matters program aims to do.
Ultimately, while the disproportionate occurrence of SA and IPV in the Black community is cause for concern, the hard work done by Black women and organizations dedicated to helping to combat these forms of violence, is cause for celebration this Black History Month. When looking at the statistics mentioned early on in this post, it is easy to feel disheartened. No one should ever experience sexual assault or intimate partner violence in any community. Thankfully, there are hardworking members of the community, both individuals and organizations, who are helping to raise awareness and provide resources, in hopes that this issue will no longer exist in the future and that those who are survivors are empowered with the resources they need to thrive.
At Friends of the Family we provide compassionate, comprehensive services to those impacted by rape, sexual abuse, and domestic violence, while partnering with our community to promote safety, hope, healing, justice, and prevention.
If you or someone you know needs help please call our 24-hour crisis line at 940-382-7273 OR 800-572-4031.
Rennison, C. M., & Welchans, S. (2000). Bureau of Justice Statistics special report: Intimate partner violence. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.
L. Hampton, Robert & Oliver, William & Magarian, Lucia. (2003). “Domestic Violence in the African American Community: An Analysis of Social and Structural Factors.” Violence Against Women. 9. 533-557. 10.1177/1077801202250450.
Hornbuckle, Renee Fowler. Suffering in Silence: Break the Silence. CreateSpace, 2012.