While other problems–high incarceration rates, the education attainment gap, housing instability, disproportionate HIV rates, and violent crime in black communities — are often the topic of discussion and activism, domestic violence is rarely discussed. It should be. Domestic violence is not only as much of a problem in the black community as it is across the nation, but its a bigger problem. More frequent. More lethal.

In 2005, African Americans accounted for nearly a third of the intimate-partner homicides. For years, the (few) studies that have addressed the issue of domestic violence in the black community have told the same story. A study published in 2000 reported that Black females experienced intimate partner violence at a rate 35% higher than that of white females, and about 22 times the rate of women of other races. In 2005, black women accounted for 22% of the intimate partner homicide victims and 29% of all female victims of intimate partner homicide.

Black men are also affected. The same 2000 study found that Black males experienced intimate partner violence at a rate about 62% higher than that of white males and about 22 times the rate of men of other races. Black men are also more likely than white men to be killed by their partners, though at a lower rate than black women. In 2005, black women were 2.4 times more likely than a black male to murdered by their partners. In 2002, the number one killer of African-American women ages 15 to 34 was homicide at the hands of a current or former intimate partner.

Why the higher rates? In part, the same old reasons: poverty (intimate partner violence is more frequent among those with lower incomes); un-and-underemployment (it’s more frequent when the male partner is unemployed/underemployed); and housing disparities (its more common in couples living in poor neighborhoods).  Massachusetts saw dramatic increases in rates of domestic violence between 2005-2007–probably another fun by-product of the recession. Drug and alcohol use are also linked to domestic violence.

So, in these trying times, what to do? Though it seems cliche, take care of each other.  Battered black women who reported that they could rely on others for emotional and practical support were less likely to be re-abused, showed less psychological distress, and were less likely to attempt suicide. The same is true of women generally. If you are in an abusive relationship, seek support. Talk to a family member or friend and contact a local shelter or service. If you are not in an abusive relationship, be supportive–support your friends and family members and organizations that help victims of domestic violence.

In the meantime, we can and should keep working on the problems that exacerbate this one: poverty, un-and-under employment, housing disparities, etc. However, it is important to shine a light on this rarely-discussed issue.  It is a matter of life and death.

Domestic Violence Shelters and Services:


Sources: Survey of Recent Statistics,” ABA Commission on Domestic Violence,  http://www.abanet.org/domviol/statistics.html; and “Fact Sheet,” Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community, University of Minnesota School of Social Work, http://www.dvinstitute.org/media/publications/FactSheet.IDVAAC_AAPCFV-Community%20Insights.pdf; Callie Marie Rennison. and Sarah Welchans, U.S. Dep’t of Just., NCJ 178247, Intimate Partner Violence (2000), available at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/ascii/ipv.txt ; Africana Voices Against Violence, Tufts University, Statistics, 2002, www.ase.tufts.edu/womenscenter/peace/africana/newsite/statistics.htm ; http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/IPV-FactSheet.pdf; http://www.mass.gov/?; pageID=eohhs2pressrelease&L=1&L0=Home&sid=Eeohhs2&b=pressrelease&f=080605_domestic_violence&csid=Eeohhs2



1 Comment so far

  1. Jessica on October 25, 2009 12:08 am

    You are right, domestic violence in black community is often an indirect frustration of unemployment, poverty, lesser education and often a slight racism that the black community goes through in the daily lives. Black women are one of the highest single women by percentage because they are too afraid to commit to a partner, which often is a black male. I really feel sorry and I feel that our society has a long way to go before we can claim an equality in the society. Even though our president is of African-American descent, this has no way helped in uplifting the black society as such. Black and Latino people have been hit hardest by the recession and violence in their neighborhoods has been increasing. You have put together some pretty nice numbers, Good work !

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    Harvard Black Law Students Association presents...
    Social Justice Week

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    Monday: Social Justice Week Kick-Off

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