Domestic Violence: Are Black Women Victimized More?

A portrait of a family, with the father in front and the mother and daughter in the backgroundDomestic violence, or intimate partner violence, against black women, has a major impact on their health. Higher rates of abused victims are reported in black women compared to white women, and often result in many dangerous and shocking health symptoms.

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In communities where limited resources are available such as transportation, employment opportunities, affordable medical care, social and mental health services, homeless and domestic violence shelters, police protection, and legal services, African American women tend to stay with their abusive partners.

  • Women in abusive relationships are at higher risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases and higher rates of vaginal bleeding and infection.
  • Mostly due to a lower salary scale among African Americans, black women receive less alimony/child support after divorce compared to their Caucasian counterparts, and as a result return to their abusive partners.
  • Cultural norms among violently-abused black women make leaving their partners difficult. Often, attempts to leave are, initially, not successful.

When it comes to domestic violence and black women, it is vital to screen for domestic violence victims in outpatient clinics and intervene with behavior therapy like cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) that initiates their cognition, consciousness and self-evaluation. Health care providers need to increase their awareness of the limitations of an abused patient’s ability to seek help and also focus on their health maintenance regimen.

Experts have identified five cognitive steps that may help black women evaluate their abusive situations and increase their ability to change that situation:

Non-acknowledgment (pre-contemplation). Many victims of domestic violence have isolated themselves from the situation by denying the severity of it. This includes the common tendency of blaming themselves for the abuse, or being too afraid to act.

Acceptance (contemplation). With positive reinforcement, encouragement, and a solid support system, victims of domestic violence can better acknowledge the dangerous situation they are in, accept that the only person at fault is the abuser, take comfort in the fact that they are not alone, and that the abuse does not have to continue.

Thinking about other options (preparation). After accepting the seriousness of their situation and understanding that they deserve better, domestic violence victims need to formulate an actionable plan to make the abuse stop.

Ready to start actions (action). After putting their plan together, women suffering from domestic violence and their support system need to work together to help the woman leave the abusive situation. Subsequent steps should include continued mental health counseling, physical exams, and assistance in establishing healthy life patterns, including eating and fitness plans.

Intervention, using behavior modification,  may be the key to helping decrease domestic violence and end the cycle of abuse.