We Can No Longer Be Silent: How Intimate Partner Violence Affects Women of Color

By Amari O’Bannon, President’s Office Intern

Recently, one of my fellow interns wrote a fabulous information piece about the rarely acknowledged sexual abuse to prison pipeline. One of NOW’s current missions is to not only spread awareness about our 6 core issues, but also to help people realize the undeniable extent to which these issues are interconnected. The sexual abuse to prison pipeline, and its disproportionate effects on women of color and low-income women, is yet another demonstration of the relationships between: intimate partner violence, lack of mental health for low-income women, high rates of violence experienced by women of color, lack of economic independence for women, and the cultural causes and repercussions of this level of violence in these communities.

Within any movement, but particularly feminism, intersectionality demands that we acknowledge and work to combat the discrimination people face as a result of the different facets of their identity. This is why, as someone who is both a woman and a racial minority, the statistics and personal stories I’ve encountered regarding intimate partner violence are particularly concerning. In the United States, a country many people believe has moved past this form of violence, 1 in 4 women will experience severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetimes but only 25% of physical assaults against women are reported to the police. The latter study reveals that not only are the statistics about intimate partner violence lower than the reality experienced by many women, but this number also demonstrates some combination of a lack of trust in the judicial system, the police, or fear of the repercussions if the perpetrator learns of the reporting

face of a Black woman with a tear down the left side of her face

For women of color, particularly Black and Latina women, who come from communities that are inordinately affected by police brutality, reporting to the police seems like an absurd option. Additionally, there are cultural pressures for women to resist reporting because such examples of violence within their communities would reinforce stereotypes many people harbor that people of color, especially Black men, are inherently violent. Furthermore, communities of color have a long history of putting the struggles of women behind those of their male counterparts as seen in the Black Lives Matter movement of the past three years; a movement that has rallied around combating the murders of Black men has generally gone eerily silent in the face of police brutality against Black women. In the case of Latina women, who must carry the burden of the illegal immigrant stereotype despite a large portion of Latinx population being legal residents in the US, many are often fearful of reporting to the police for fear of deportation and/or are unaware of the resources available for survivors of IPV.

While the statistics above only refer to physical violence, intimate partner violence can appear in various forms including but not limited to verbal assault and economic abuse, such as the threat to withdraw financial support or take away the children. If we delve further into recent studies, we know that Black women are 35% more likely to experience intimate partner violence than White women and that approximately 1 in 3 Latina women experience physical violence by a partner at some point in their lifetime.

IPV and sexual violence, are manifestations of the perpetrators need to exert power over another person often as a result of perceived shortcomings within one’s life or a feeling of a lack of control. As a result, in communities that face higher levels of discrimination when searching for jobs, homes, receiving pay, or simply existing, such as communities of color and low-income communities, this build up of frustration can and has caused a severe pattern of violence within these minority groups, namely Black and Latinx communities.

We also know that unfortunately a lower economic status contributes to limited access to health care, particularly mental health care, meaning both the perpetrator and the survivor are unlikely to ever receive treatment thus allowing for the cycle to continue. This cycle of abuse is evidenced by the 63% of Latina women who are survivors of multiple incidences of abuse often as a result of an inability to leave their abusive partner.

Furthermore, global studies have shown that men who are survivors of child abuse or maltreatment are 3-4 times more likely to become perpetrators of IPV later in life. In addition to the statistical anomalies caused by a lack of reporting in 75% of cases for females, we know that male survivors are even less likely to report despite the fact that 1 in 7 men will be a survivor of IPV at some point in their life. The lack of reporting in the case of male survivors is strongly connected with societal views of masculinity and the belief that men cannot be victims of sexual assault or really any form of physical abuse.

Unfortunately, these statistics are just the tip of the iceberg in the conversation of intimate partner violence for minority communities; members of the LGBTQIA community experience IPV at dramatically higher rates as seen by the fact that 2 in 5 gay men and 50% of bisexual women experience intimate partner violence, and 14% of IPV homicide victims have been transgender women of color. This community is is inordinately affected due to the criminalization of its members by police and the refusal of many organizations to provide services to LGBTQIA people. While the United States’ statistics are not the worst globally, they demonstrate the ceaseless levels of violence women around the world face, often at the hands of their partners or family members.

To progress, our country needs to dedicate itself to the protection of the groups affected by intimate partner violence and the education of those who believe this violence is a thing of the past or irrelevant in certain countries. Women’s issues are humans issues and we must start treating them as such.

If you or someone you know are experiencing intimate partner violence please consider the resources below:

National Domestic Violence Hotline: http://www.thehotline.org/ 1-800-799-7233


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.