Are African-American Women Too Strong to be Victims of Domestic Violence?

By: Chantal Jones

Blog Category: Domestic Violence Issues and the Law, Economics, & Race

Domestic violence is a crime that cuts a painful swath across all races, socioeconomic levels and cultures.[1]  Experts in the field say that one set of victims — black women — is at a far greater risk to experience the grimmest of all domestic violence statistics. According to Dallas News, black women are about three times more likely to die at the hands of a partner or ex-partner than members of other racial groups. Intimate-partner homicide is also among the leading causes of death for black women ages 15 to 35.[2]

Racism alters how African-American women receive treatment through domestic violence resources and how they perceive resources. Therefore, because of racism, African-American women have specific concerns when making decisions about domestic violent relationships and what resources would be the best for them.[3] These concerns include the view of the race as a whole, the perceptions of African-American men, how African-American families are treated American society, economic concerns, and how American public protectors such as the police and judicial system treat victims and batterers in the system.[4]

Often times, African-American women are stereotyped as being too opinionated, bossy, and the subservient woman to her husband or significant other. Being viewed as the “strong black woman” can be positive, but unfortunately, it leaves African-American women in positions where they are not seen as the typical “victim.” Therefore, according to Lisa Martinson of the Wisconsin Women’s Law Journal, the African-American woman must first demonstrate herself to be a victim in general, and then a victim of domestic violence.

African-American women stereotypes negatively suggest that she deserves the violence, that she is strong enough to fight it alone or for any other reason to lay some sort of fault upon the woman. This type of rationalization perpetuates not only racism but also the belief that violence against women is condoned by society. Hopefully, with more awareness of domestic violence and knowledge of how abusers seek to gain and retain power over women, African-American women will not have to first disprove the stereotypes in order to attain the assistance they need to leave and stay safely from the batterer.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.


[1] Selwyn Crawford, Black Women at Greater Risk of Becoming Victims of Homicidal Domestic Violence, Dallas News, (Sept. 21, 2013, 11:10PM), available at http://www.dallasnews.com/news/crime/headlines/20130921-black-women-at-greater-risk-of-becoming-victims-of-homicidal-domestic-violence.ece.

[2] Id.

[3] Lisa M. Martinson, An Analysis of Racism and Resources for African-American Female Victims of Domestic Violence in Wisconsin, 16 Wis. Women’s L.J. 259 (2001)

[4] Id.

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