By Sherina James.
Ms. James contributed to this article in her personal capacity. The views expressed do not
represent the views of the Washington State Department of Corrections, the Pierce County Commission Against Domestic Violence, or the Office of Crime Victims Advocacy. This article was originally published in the Fall 2014 issue of Ending Our Silence, a newsletter of the African American Domestic Peace Project (AADPP).
Statistics show that Black and African American women experience higher rates of domestic violence, but are least likely to access community services. In fact, all African Americans face a unique set of challenges related to this issue.
Studies show that about 4 out of every 10 African American women have experienced rape, physical violence and stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime – about 35 percent higher than that of white females, and about 2.5 times the rate of women of other races. African American women also experience higher rates of domestic violence homicide.
Black and African American youth also are at risk. The Centers for Disease Control reports that Black youth are overrepresented as victims of teen dating violence. The reality of racism, fear of police response and mistrust of the criminal legal system are keeping the voices of African American victims in the margins.
Domestic violence not just physical abuse. It also includes emotional abuse, economic abuse, psychological abuse, digital abuse and sexual abuse.
I am reminded of Oprah Winfrey’s popular refrain and monthly magazine column in O Magazine, “What I Know for Sure”. As an advocate working to lessen the impact of domestic violence in ALL communities, I know for sure:
We cannot END DOMESTIC VIOLENCE without discussing this serious, deadly issue in our homes, places we recreate, sister, brother, and sibling circles. We must also talk about domestic and sexual violence in our churches, faith groups, schools, and in our fellowship and affinity groups.
I know for sure that Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) need solutions to hold perpetrators of violence accountable that are not limited to the criminal legal system.
I know for sure we cannot solve this problem by failing to hold those who hurt or harm accountable.
I know for sure that domestic violence does not stop just because someone is arrested or incarcerated. Verbal and emotional abuse often continues after arrest and is equally as harmful as physical abuse.
I know for sure we can expand this movement and effect change best by including men’s voices and the voices and ideas of all survivors when developing strategies to end domestic and sexual violence. It is imperative that Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) are given the floor, the mic, and the space to create solutions that work best to support and heal our communities.
I know for sure that despite what we may think children see and hear everything and they need us to model how to treat each other with respect and care.
As a former liaison between victim-survivors in the community and Washington State Department of Corrections, I have seen and heard firsthand how crime and violence impacts our communities. In 2007 The Washington State Department of Corrections Victim Services Program established a partnership with the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community (IDVACC) and the African American Domestic Peace Project (AADPP) to examine best practices for formerly incarcerated individuals reintegrating into their community and families while concurrently assessing best practices for supporting Black and African American survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
The pandemic has complicated the dynamics of domestic violence and intimate partner abuse, reports of domestic violence have surged according to a federal report released in late April 2020.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a harmful relationship and would like to talk to someone, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE or visit www.thehotline.org to chat with an advocate online and receive information about a program near you.
Sherina James is a former Victim Liaison with the Washington State Department of Corrections and former Chairperson for the Pierce County Commission Against Domestic Violence. She is currently a Program and Grant Manager at the Office of Crime Victims Advocacy and member of BUILD.
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