By Karla Robinson, MD
Often times considered taboo, domestic and intimate partner violence continues to be on the rise in the Black community. Approximately, 1.5 million women are victims of physical abuse in this country and an estimated 1 in 4 women will experience some form of partner violence in their lifetime. Recent statistics on domestic violence demonstrate that he rates of abuse by intimate partners in the Black community is significantly higher than in any other group.
Domestic violence is defined as behavior in a relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. While often times used in terms of physical violence, abuse can also be in the form of sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound another person.
Studies show that this pattern of abuse often begins early on, with teenagers being affected at alarming rates. Not only is physical abuse at issue with our youth, but also sexual abuse. Physical or sexual abuse is estimated to occur in 1 of 3 high school relationships. Additionally, over 40% of black teens report some form of forced sex acts by the age of 18.
Victims of abuse can often feel “trapped” and continue to remain in the abusive relationship for extended periods of time. This is often seen at much higher rates in victimized females in the Black community as compared to abused women in other groups. Some argue that factors contributing to this disparity include Black women having fewer options in their search for a mate, having a lower income level than other women, and having a reluctance to call the police due to perceptions of racial injustice in the criminal justice system.
While 85% of domestic violence victims are women, this is not an issue limited to women. Studies show that Black males experience intimate partner violence at a rate of 62% higher than that of white males. While not commonly discussed, women initiate physical assaults on their partners as often as men do.
These statistics are sobering considering most domestic violence goes unreported. It is estimated that less than 20% of African American domestic violence victims report their abuse to their police.
If you aren’t sure if you or someone you know may be in an abusive relationship, take this quiz below from www.thehotline.org to find out:
Does your partner:
• Embarrass you with put-downs?
• Look at you or act in ways that scare you?
• Control what you do, who you see or talk to or where you go?
• Stop you from seeing your friends or family members?
• Take your money or Social Security check, make you ask for money or refuse to give you money?
• Make all of the decisions?
• Tell you that you’re a bad parent or threaten to take away or hurt your children?
• Prevent you from working or attending school?
• Act like the abuse is no big deal, it’s your fault, or even deny doing it?
• Destroy your property or threaten to kill your pets?
• Intimidate you with guns, knives or other weapons?
• Shove you, slap you, choke you, or hit you?
• Force you to try and drop charges?
• Threaten to commit suicide?
• Threaten to kill you?
If you answered ‘yes’ to even one of these questions, you may be in an abusive relationship.
For support and more information please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or at TTY 1-800-787-3224
Am I An Abuser?
Adapted from The Hotline
Signs You May Be Abusive:
• Calling bad names or putting someone down
• Shouting and cursing
• Hitting, slapping and/or pushing
• Making threats of any kind
• Jealousy and suspicion
• Keeping someone away from family and friends
• Throwing things around the house
If you abuse, you can choose to stop.
Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for help.
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This was printed in the October 23, 2011 - November 5, 2011 Edition.