On October 19, activists held a rally in Leimert Park in South Los Angeles to raise awareness of the prevalence of domestic violence among the BIPOC community (Black, Indigenous and People of Color). The event, hosted by a partnership of Black justice organizations collectively known as #Standing4BlackGirls, coincides with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, recognized every October for decades.
While domestic violence respects no color and can impact people of every ethnicity, it has been widely documented that the BIPOC community seems to be affected disproportionately compared to whites, especially in America. Extensive research has been done to explore the reasons for this, and while some answers are easy to document, other explanations remain elusive or speculative. Let’s discuss this question in a bit more detail to see what we can learn.
Breaking Down the Numbers
As a baseline of sorts, the CDC reports that 1 in 4 women in America (about 25 percent) have experienced, or will experience, some form of domestic violence within their lifetime. One in 10 men are also subjected to domestic violence, but since most of the data on BIPOC communities involves women victims, for the purposes of our discussion today, we will focus primarily on the numbers where women are the victims.
The Women of Color Network has compiled some extensive and eye-opening research on incidents of domestic violence among different races and ethnic groups. Let’s take a closer look at their findings:
- African-American women. About 29 percent of African-American females become victims of domestic violence over their lifetime, compared to 25 percent of the total population of women. One report shows that Black women suffer domestic violence at a rate 35 percent higher than that of white females. The number of Black victims who are killed due to intimate partner violence is also well above the national average.
- Asian and Pacific Islander (API) women: The API community experiences some of the highest rates of domestic violence per capita among people of color, according to the Women of Color Network report. Surveys have put the estimated percentage of API domestic violence victims between 41-60 percent, compared to the 25 percent overall baseline mentioned above. In one instance, more than 81 percent of API women surveyed claimed they had been victimized within the last 12 months.
- Native American and Alaskan (Indigenous) women: While exact numbers are more difficult to track due to tribal differences, researchers estimate that 37.5 percent of women within this group become victims of domestic violence, compared to the 25 percent overall baseline.
- Hispanic/Latina women: Among the BIPOC community, Hispanic and Latina women were statistically closest to the national baseline as far as the percentage of domestic violence victims (about 23.4 percent). However, in one study, 48 percent of Latina women reported increased violence from their partners after emigrating to the U.S.
Underlying Causes for BIPOC Domestic Violence
What is causing the disparity between the BIPOC community and the white community regarding domestic violence rates? The factors are layered and complex, and most experts agree that it’s likely not just one thing, but a combination of factors working against the victims. Remarkably, none of these factors necessarily have anything directly to do with race. Let’s discuss some of the most common drivers of increased domestic violence in the BIPOC community.
Financial stress is often a huge factor in domestic violence, and unfortunately, many of the poorest neighborhoods have a higher minority population. Tamara Turner of the Neopolitan Lighthouse tells the Family Justice Center Alliance that this is a significant factor in the higher rates of domestic violence against Black women. “I believe that domestic violence occurs more often in communities where there is a prevalence of poverty and other types of violent crime,” she says.
Lack of Services
One factor that drives DV rates higher is when the violence is allowed to continue in households unabated. This often happens in underserved communities (again, often with high minority populations) where victims don’t have as much access to help, don’t know where to turn for help, or don’t trust the offered help. One survey of BIPOC women in an underserved community revealed that 70 percent of victims had not received any help in dealing with the trauma after being victimized. In many of these communities, Black women specifically may also be more reluctant to report their partners due to an overall distrust of law enforcement.
This driver is varied and complicated, but it’s often a very real issue in BIPOC communities: Some victims simply are reluctant to come forward due to socio-cultural pressures or even religious beliefs. Within religious belief systems that place women in a subservient role to men, domestic violence may remain normalized or hidden because it would be considered inappropriate to break the silence. Tamara Turner adds that in many Black communities, there is an inherent social pressure not to speak up. “Domestic violence is…a taboo subject in the Black community,” she says. “A common sentiment is that domestic violence is just between the victim and the abuser. Whatever the case, these pressures ultimately allow domestic abuse to continue unreported, causing DV rates to be higher in these communities.
Regardless of the factors that make domestic violence more likely within the BIPOC community, domestic violence is a crime carrying significant penalties if convicted. If you have been charged with domestic violence, we can help you navigate the difficult process ahead whatever the circumstances. Call our office today for a free case evaluation.