A new study conducted by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that an overwhelming majority of Black women considered it a good time to be a Black woman in America. Yet, nearly half of the Black women surveyed feared being a victim of a violent crime. As disturbing as we may view this finding, what is even more disturbing is the reality that many Black women are a victim of intimate partner violence and sexual assault by someone they know.
The Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation study polled more than 800 Black women to explore their lives, opinions, and goals. Although this study did not specify which forms of violence Black women feared, existing studies indicate Black women experience high rates of intimate partner victimization and sexual assault. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in three Black women will experience sexual assault, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner during her lifetime.
We, at the Black Women’s Health Imperative, see the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act as an opportunity to strengthen efforts to combat violence against women. Enacted in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) helped to establish programs, policies and prevention practices that protect and assist victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. It also includes provisions that allocate funds to programs that provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services to victims of violence.
Although intimate partner violence and sexual assault crosses all races and ethnicities, using a “one size fits all” approach is inadequate when responding to the complexities, cultural considerations, and unique needs of Black women. Ensuring that VAWA supports community based programs is essential to effectively addressing violence in communities of color. Black women who turn to community based programs, instead of traditional service providers, need programs and providers who are more likely to share and embrace her culture, ethnicity, and language.
When I think of the violence Black women fear, it is difficult to reconcile the poll results when so many Black women experience physical violence that often ends in death. Domestic violence and sexual assault take a tremendous toll on women – physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and financially. But there is hope—that the poll findings are a positive indicator that Black women can come together to take definitive action in the efforts to eliminate violence against women. To help effectuate change when women no longer fear violence, we need Congress to reauthorize VAWA and continue to build on its 17 year history of accomplishments to end intimate partner violence and sexual assault.
Then it will be a good time not only for Black women, but all women!