Maya Renee- Client Advocate
While writing this piece I felt my heart, mind and emotions go several different ways. I suppose it’s simply because it’s truly a struggle to condense the multiple deep-rooted factors that impact the message of this article in just a few paragraphs.
When reflecting on how violence has impacted women of color it’s essential to ask, how women of color are valued in our society. A starting point for this analysis would be the use of labels and stereotypes. Examples would include the use of the “Strong Black Woman”, “Independent Black Woman” or the “Angry Black Women”. Black women are often times shown as exotic or animal-like. They are almost always characterized aggressively. Rarely do we see a Black woman portrayed as soft, beautiful, delicate and with a sense of innocence.
These stereotypes and labels are coercing our women subliminally, molding them to settle with struggle. As the “Strong Black Woman” you can’t be weak. You have to endure what comes. You suffer in silence. You have to be strong and deal with the disrespect, the lower pay, and narrow room for advancement. We are influenced by media outlets who profit off of the “Independent Black Woman” encouraging us to “think like a man”, promoting a mindset that leads us away from accepting the possibility of a family unit and feeds the “I can do bad all by myself” attitude. When we speak up in an attempt to address issues that do impact us we are labeled as the “Angry Black Woman”. These stereotypes and labels encourage society to see Black women or women of color in general as being unapproachable and they host an underlying tone of intimidation, aggression and discomfort.
All women who are abused are already asked, “Why don’t you just leave?” So imagine the unconscious assumption associated with women of color. The “strength” can be a blessing but at the same time a curse. If society lacks concern, these women are forced to be strong because they have no other choice. Society sets the stage for how violence impacts Black women or Women of Color in general.
Statistics are alarming when it comes to domestic violence and Black women. What’s even more alarming is the fact that more than 40% of Black Women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. This is only what is reported. The majority of our BIPOC women don’t even report the violence. Due to the fear of police brutality on our men of color, Black women are more hesitant to reach out for help. Suffering in silence is safer than risking the death of their loved one at the hands of the police. We have to understand that even though this is a Stockholm Syndrome type of love and concern. It is still a very valid and real concern for the abuser.
Numbers also show 53.8% of Black women have experienced psychological abuse, while 41.2% of Black women had experienced physical abuse. Why is this becoming generational trauma? Why don’t women of color seek help medically? Healing from mental, emotional or physical abuse is a struggle in itself. Health care has declared racism a health crisis! Systemic racism has directly impacted our health care system and the services provided to communities of color. Patients tend to go to people they are comfortable with. Due to racial disparities in health care, communities of color lack trust in the health care system. There are low numbers of counselors or physicians of color and it can often times be impossible for women of color to connect with someone who she may consider privileged. A connection is necessary for a patient to open up to their provider.
When we analyze the root causes of racism and see that many of the root causes are synonymous with domestic violence, it’s heartbreaking. When we tackle poverty, poor education, job resources, language barriers, fear of deportation and financial literacy, we address the impact of domestic violence on women of color.
Black women are 2.5 times more likely to be murdered by men than white women. The life expectancy of a Black Trans woman is 35 years old. Indigenous women are disappearing and/or killed but jurisdiction issues keep them from finding justice or tackling these tragedies. Undocumented immigrants face language barriers and the fear of deportation. There is more energy put into picking these statistics or policies associated with these issues apart rather than acknowledging or addressing these very serious issues.
In a time of such severe divisiveness, it’s important to mention that abuse impacts all women. In all reality, we have no idea how severe domestic violence is in our nation. A BIPOC woman may not be able to reach out for help due to fear of the backlash and a privileged woman may never report abuse because she has the resources to leave the situation. It’s truly important to build an alliance with individuals who share the same lived experience and apply pressure to combat this epidemic called abuse. We are stronger together.