Race & Violence

Incidence of domestic violence in the African American community represents a gap in our ability to provide preventive education, connect community members with services, and adapt to the unique characteristics of a community

Contributing Author: Fatima M. Smith, YWCA Dir. of Community Outreach & Public Education / R-HART Coordinator

In Virginia, African-Americans are three times more likely to be murdered by their intimate partners in comparison to other ethnicities. This fact, coupled with the overrepresentation of African-Americans in the prison system, may represent to some that domestic violence is primarily an issue facing African-Americans. Incidence of domestic violence in the African American community represents a gap in our ability to provide preventive education, connect community members with services, and adapt to the unique characteristics of a community. We cannot continue to have a blanketed approach to eradicating domestic violence. It is imperative that we have conversations, build partnerships with indirect service providers, and meet community members where they are.

When the nation focused the spotlight on domestic violence due to allegations against NFL players and heightened awareness of sexual assault on college campus, the YWCA of Richmond strived to utilize this spotlight as a means of engaging the community.

These events provided a space to discuss what is perceived as a taboo topic in the United States, a space that also serves as a tool of empowerment and a catalyst for change. When conversing with friends, co-workers, family members and fellow service providers it is critical to remember that violence does not discriminate; it transcends the four walls of a home and the lives of individuals involved. However, we cannot ignore that an individual’s traits, such as race, class and sex, play vital roles in not only the perceptions of violence, but also response.

Having a clear understanding of how race impacts domestic violence, enables us to have a purposeful and thoughtful conversation about a remedy to work against violence. This conversation cannot stop amongst friends, co-workers, and family members. It must extend to direct service providers, such as advocates, counselors, medical professionals and law enforcement officials, as well as teachers, community members and law-makers. Domestic violence is a multifaceted issue and the framework in which we are currently operating does not always position us to address the impacts of race on domestic violence.

Audre Lorde stated, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle, because we do not live single-issue lives.”

Let us come together to process the various factors that contribute to the multi-issue problem in our society known as domestic violence.

To hear more from Fatima about this topic, check out Community Conversations on Recovery on WRIR-LP 97.3 FM on Monday February 16, 2015 at 4:00 p.m. wrir.org