African Americans and Domestic Violence: The Real Cost to Our Community

Domestic violence in the African–American community must stop. It seems like an easy enough thing to say, but doing it seems like something else all together. We live in a society marked by violence. This country was founded on violent acts, many of which were against women, particularly Black women who were slaves. It would seem that having suffered such violence at the hands of former male and female slave owners, our cultural practices would demand that we respect and protect Black women from harm. It is truly sad, when the one thing that we can count on statistically speaking, is harm in the form of physical and emotional abuse from our intimate partners.

According to the study “When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2006 Homicide Data,” released by The Violence Policy Center, a national non-profit organization that conducts research on violence in the United States, 551 African American women were murdered by males in 2006. The study stated that there were 1,818 race-identified females murdered by males. While white women accounted for the largest total of those killed (1,208), African American women were killed at a rate nearly three times higher. How did most of the murders occur? Guns killed 305 of those women.

Intimate partners are literally blowing Black women away for a variety of reasons that include stress, mental illness, control, narcissism and pathology. Mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces and cousins are leaving this earth with wounded bodies and spirits and sadly enough the numbers are increasing, not decreasing. What does this mean for the black community?

It means that we have to do something to break the cycle of abuse and violence in our homes. If the majority of Black households are headed by women, what happens when those women are killed or injured? Talking about domestic violence hasn’t helped. High profile cases like those involving Chris Brown and Rihanna, Bebe Winans, Big Pun, Don Cornelius, Jennifer Hudson’s sister and Tyrese Gibson haven’t helped. Women offering testimony in church and on YouTube hasn’t helped. Men and women creating awareness campaigns during the month of October hasn’t helped.

If you turn on the television or read a newspaper, there is a very high likelihood that a woman murdered by an intimate partner is somewhere in the content.

We know that domestic violence breaks up families. We know that children suffer emotionally, financially and spiritually with the sudden loss of a parent. We know that it leaves irreparable mental and emotional scars on women and men. But do we know the economic costs of domestic violence to the black community? Let me break it down for you.

According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, in the United States, the cost of intimate partner violence exceeds $5.8 billion each year, with $4.1 billion going towards direct medical and mental health services.

Victims of intimate partner violence lost 8 million days of paid work because of violence committed against them by current or former husbands, boyfriends or dates. That equals 32,000 full-time jobs and almost 5.6 million days of household productivity.

According to the National Funeral Director’s Association, the average cost of a funeral in the U.S. is $7,323 thousand each year. In 2006, Black families spent over $4 million burying African American victims of domestic violence.

According to the World Health Organization, the cost of domestic violence in the United States amounts to 3.3 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). (read more)

This is an excerpt from an article that appeared on TheLoop21.com, where Nsenga serves as managing editor.

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