We're All Responsible for Ending Violence Against Black Women

By Freda Grant In mid-September, a 24-year-old woman and her one-month old-infant along with one o...

By Freda Grant

In mid-September, a 24-year-old woman and her one-month old-infant along with one other person was shot in an Alabama church. The victim and her assailant were in the middle of custody dispute over the baby. It has also been reported that the couple had a history of domestic violence. Earlier last week, director Lee Daniels tried to use the race card to defend Terrence Howard from media backlash concerning Howard’s repeatedly beating his wives. Less than a month ago, Dr. Dre publically apologized to the “women he hurt” and blamed his abusive actions on being in his 20’s and drinking although his recent album is jampacked with misogyny and references to violence against women.

Gendered violence is nothing new in the Black community. There are many resources available that detail the abuse Black women have been subjected to since enslavement. What was once something that was whispered about amongst family and friends is now on full display on social media and elsewhere publicly. On any given day, sites like World Star Hip Hop and Facebook are filled with videos of women and girls being violated physically, sexually, and verbally by their partners, fathers, and peers. In the text Getting Played: African American Girls, Urban Inequality, and Gendered Violence, Jody Miller argues that girls as young as eleven years old are being subjected to physical and sexual violence by their peers and men in the community. Unlike many other victims, these women and girls are forced to navigate their victimization with very little communal support.

Violence against Black women is a public health issue and should be treated as such. As it stands, Black women have some of the highest numbers of domestic and sexual violence directly under Native American women. According to the research conducted by the Institute of Domestic Violence in the African American Community (IDVAAC), 29% of Black women will experience some form of intimate partner violence in their lifetimes although they make up 8% of the U.S. population. As of August, 20 Black trans women have been murdered. Because we know reporting is low in the Black community, it is safe to assume there is a large amount of women and girls suffering in silence. Gendered violence has the same traumatic effects on women and girls that gang violence has on men and boys. Yet, no one rallies around them.

Black women’s vulnerability to gendered violence is heightened by their low social status. The intersecting relationships of race, class, gender, and sexuality give Black women very little “worth” in our society's eyes, which makes it difficult to view them as people let alone victims. When these factors are coupled with Black men’s adherence to hyper masculinity as a result of white supremacy, it becomes clear why violence against Black women has become a normality. Even with the understanding of the societal factors that add to Black women’s vulnerability, it does not excuse the behaviors of repeat offenders like Terrence Howard, Dr. Dre, and Floyd Mayweather.

The normalization of gendered violence does not just stop with celebrities. As a whole, our community has done a piss poor job at protecting Black women and girls from violence. I was twelve years old the first time I was hit by a male. I was violently punched in the mouth on a dare and still have the scar on the inside of my lip from where it was busted open. Four years later, I was punched in the face again by another male after defending one of my friends he was arguing with. In both instances, no one helped me and the guys who hit me were praised while I was teased because I got beat up. I know my experiences are not isolated incidents. Many of my friends share similar experiences of being punched, hit, slapped, and verbally berated by the men and boys in their lives. These events get pushed to the back of our minds and rarely publicly reemerge. It’s a well-known secret that exposing our stories of victimization ultimately means opening ourselves up for public scrutiny. Black women who speak out against their abusers are reduced to the Angry Black Woman, Sapphire, and Jezebel.

We’ve witnessed this countless times through the way victims like Dee Barnes, Michel’le, K. Michelle have been treated after coming forward with their stories. Countless think pieces have been written shaming women who speak out against their attackers. Victim blaming and criminalization have become so ingrained in our culture that we barely blink an eye when it happens. Interesting enough, the tactics used against victims are similar to those the white media practice when they criminalize Black men who are victims of police brutality. This blatant hypocrisy forces me to ask, why is it understood victim blaming is wrong when Black men are victimized by white men and not when Black women are victimized by the men in our community?

With Domestic Violence Awareness month slowly approaching, it’s time our community does some real soul searching on its responsibility to Black women and girls, and trans women. There needs to be transparency and accountability. We cannot address police brutality and racialized violence and turn a blind eye to the brutality our women and girls endure every day in their communities by men who look like them. Not only is it hypocritical, but it also aids in the erasure of Black women and girls from the larger narrative on equality. As our community continues to come together, we must acknowledge that is it essential to our movements to ensure Black women and girls are able to exist without living in fear.

Photo: Shutterstock

Freda Grant hold a Master's Degree in Women's Studies. Her research includes Black Feminism, Hip Hop Feminism, Hip Hop, and Gendered Violence against Black women. She frequently lectures on issues pertaining to race, Hip Hip, gender, feminism, and gendered violence.

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