We know that domestic violence and sexual assault can affect anyone, regardless of race, age, gender, religion or sexuality. Most Americans acknowledge the fact that women are more likely to be the victims of these types of violence, yet may not understand the impact of race on domestic violence and sexual assault.
There are circumstances and challenges that are specific to each community of color, but generally women of color tend to experience domestic violence and sexual assault at higher rates than the general population. They are also less likely to report and seek help and support for domestic violence and sexual assault. While the information on this subject could consume several blog posts, here are a few alarming statistics:
African American females experience intimate partner violence at a rate 35% higher than that of white females…However, they are less likely than white women to use human services, battered women’s programs, or go to the hospital because of domestic violence.
Despite experiencing higher rates of domestic violence and sexual assault, women of color are less likely to report their abuse and to seek help and support. Societal barriers can often prevent survivors from taking these steps, such as a lack of services in their community or a fear that the police will not take their report seriously. While these barriers can affect all survivors, women of color may face unique challenges and circumstances due to the intersectional oppression of both gender and race.
In addition to the societal barriers that all survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault can face, survivors of color may also face:
Cultural and/or religious beliefs that restrain the survivor from leaving the abusive relationship or involving outsiders.
Strong loyalty binds to race, culture and family.
Distrust of law enforcement, criminal justice system, and human services.
Lack of trust based on history of racism and classism in the United States.
Fear that their experience will reflect on or confirm the stereotypes placed on their ethnicity or race.
These issues are complex, and not easily solved. However, we can help reduce or eliminate many of these barriers by considering how the intersection of sexism and racism impacts women of color when it comes to gender-based violence. We should strive to understand how these societal barriers may prevent a woman of color from reporting an assault, or from seeking help — and work to reduce or eliminate those barriers. We can do so by donating to and promoting organizations that support women of color, such as The Women of Color Network, the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence, INCITE!, the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community, Manavi, Mending the Sacred Hoop, and Alianza. You can also continue to support the organization that offers services to all victims of gender-based violence right here in Westmoreland County, by donating to or volunteering for Blackburn Center.