She is abused

Black women are approximately eight percent of the United States’ population but comprise about 29 percent of women who experience domestic violence.

BY KEISHA BELL | Visionary Brief

Do you know a black woman who has been a victim of domestic violence?  Black women are approximately eight percent of the United States’ population but comprise about 29 percent of women who experience domestic violence, according to data compiled by the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community.

Interestingly, black women are less likely than white women to use social services, battered women’s programs or seek medical treatment for her injuries.  Have you ever wondered why?

Some will cite religious beliefs, habits/traditions, poverty, lack of education, unemployment or an unsafe or distrusting feeling about programs designed to help her as reasons that hinder her from seeking assistance.  Others will note that she does not seek help because of the shame-like silence surrounding the issue when the victim is black and a woman.

Preconceived messages such as “divorce is a sin” may limit the support she believes she will receive within faith-based communities.  Her internal conflict to protect her perpetrator may restrict her communication regarding the kind of support she may desire from her family and friends.

Historically, African-American women have endured countless horrendous occurrences of domestic violence. At times, she has had no protections. Although laws have changed and she has been afforded increased opportunities, does her “history” play a role in desensitizing how others react to her inflicted wounds?  Does her ancestry linkage play a part, albeit subconscious, in how she perceives herself in these situations?

Domestic violence is not a black women’s problem; however, black women are disproportionately affected by it. Because of this disparity, the silence concerning this issue is troubling to some and potentially fatal to others.  If she has children who have witnessed her abuse, its effects trickle into the next generation, continuing its ancestry linkage.

Meet Catherine Weaver, an artist, business owner, community leader and a domestic violence survivor.  Like many who have experienced physical, psychological, emotional, financial or sexual abuse, Weaver did not initially recognize she was being abused.

Artist Catherine Weaver

Signs of abuse:

• Your partner gets angry and blames you for everything.

• Your partner seeks to control every part of your life.

• Your partner hits you.

• Your partner threatens to harm you, your children or loved ones.

• Your partner threatens to commit suicide if you end the relationship.

Over time, Weaver noticed that her partner’s possessiveness turned from being “cute” to being dangerous.  After taking some time to evaluate herself and her situation, she made a life-changing decision.  It was not easy, but she took her children and ended her involvement in domestically violent relationships—completely.

Art has become therapy for Weaver. One of her most popular art pieces, “Locked Within Myself,” was inspired by her domestic violence experience.  It has been featured on the ABC Action News Emmy Award-winning special “Taking Action Against Domestic Violence.”  She represents hope to a demographic whose pain is oftentimes silenced.

If you are in need of assistance, call the 24-hour, confidential, toll-free National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

Keisha Bell is an attorney, author, and public servant.

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