African American Victims
A Painful Dilemma
• Are you hesitant about seeking services for domestic violence due to African American racial stereotypes and a misunderstanding of your culture?
• Do you feel you may be ostracized from your community for reporting domestic violence by your partner, thus exposing them to a criminal justice system that is sometimes perceived by your community as bias towards people of color?
• Have you tried to get help only to find that you weren’t taken seriously or discriminated against instead of supported?
• Do economic realities make it impossible to leave an abusive relationship?
• Do you feel conflicted about how to balance wanting to end the abuse with your spiritual traditions and teachings?
These are some concerns that our African American clients have expressed are very important to them.
You are not alone. Domestic violence crosses all racial, class, economic and cultural lines. African American victims often face unique challenges when seeking domestic violence services. We are here to provide information and support as you explore your options. There is no one choice or decision that is right for everyone – and only you can decide what is right for you.
Whatever your decisions, there are steps that can help increase your safety and community resources that may help. Please keep in mind the importance of your safety and your children’s safety – and your right to respectful and healthy relationships.
Ujima is the third Kwanzaa principal and means Collective Work and Responsibility. It stands for a renewal of efforts to build and maintain the community while working with others to solve problems.
Ujima services include:
1. Support Groups and Educational Classes – confidential weekly peer-based professionally led support groups which provide women with support and information, reducing the isolation that many women feel
NEW! Free 7-Week Educational Domestic Violence Class located on the east and west sides of Cleveland
2. Education and Support with Re – entry focus – Many women who are currently incarcerated report histories of domestic violence and abusive relationships. Following incarceration, with the challenges that often follow, women are at an especially high risk of re-establishing abusive relationships and/or repeating past patterns in new relationships.
NEW! Ujima provides domestic violence support group and 5-week educational classes at North East Pre-Release Center.
Advocacy, education and support are also provided for women reconnecting with the community following incarceration.
3. Community Education, Speaker’s Bureau and Technical Assistance – Professional training and community awareness programs on domestic violence for social services agencies, law enforcement, medical professionals and businesses. Speakers are also available for community groups, schools. churches and other organizations
Ujima also provides technical assistance to community groups and churches interested in starting a domestic violence support group in their community.
Some Facts about Domestic Violence in the African American Community
- In a national survey, 29% of African American women and 12% of African American men reported at least one instance of intimate partner violence.¹
- African Americans are the victims of 1/3 of the domestic homicides in the United States each year. African Americans have a domestic violence homicide rate four times that of whites.²
- Higher rates of domestic violence in the African American Community are strongly related to higher levels of poverty and economic oppression. When income and neighborhood characteristics are controlled for, racial differences in domestic violence rates are much lower.³
- African American victims of domestic violence were more likely to be killed by their partner if there had been incidents in which the partner had used or threatened to use a weapon on her and/or the partner has tried to choke or strangle her.4
- Domestic violence often re-occurs. A study of African American victims of domestic violence founds that in about half of the cases physical violence did not happen again - however, over 1/3 of women participating in the study reported one or more further incidents of severe domestic violence in the same year and one in six reported at least one less severe act of domestic violence.
The African American Church
Historically, the African American Church has been the rock of our community, a place of refuge where important issues are addressed. Understandably your church may be the first place you think of turning for help. Many victims of domestic violence find the strength they need to make difficult decisions about abusive relationships through the support of their church. Domestic violence can be a complicated situation. If you are a victim of domestic violence and are thinking about talking with someone in your church here are some things to consider.
Some spiritual leaders or advisers do not fully understand domestic violence and its impact. Experience working with both victims and abusers has shown that couple's counseling is not a safe or effective way to end abusive behavior in a relationship. If you speak up about what is going on you run the risk of facing more violence or abuse once you leave the safety of the counseling office. If you keep quite there can be no honest, open dialogue and no real picture of what is going on. Before there can be couple's counseling the abuser needs his own counseling where he can work on changing his attitudes and behaviors.
You many also be interested in your own counseling as you try to cope with and process your experiences. While wanting to fix things is normal remember you can't do his changing for him. Before disclosing your abuse make sure your information will be kept confidential Ask your pastor if they have had training in the area of domestic violence
Within the Cleveland area there are several African American Churches that have been trained on how to respond to a victim of domestic violence.
If you would like a list of churches or information about Ujima, please contact Victoria Grant, Ujima Program Coordinator at 216.229.2420
¹ Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000
² Greenfield et al, 2001
³ Hampton et al, 2004
4 Jenkins, Block, & Campbell, 2004
5 Jenkins, Block, & Campbell, 2004