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Institutional Racism and Domestic Violence: Why African-Americans suffer the most


According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 3 women have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime. Furthermore, Time Magazine states that Black Women are three times more likely to die as a result of Domestic Violence. Being that Domestic Violence is one of the leading causes of death for African-American women it is obvious that it has become a very prominent issue in our community. At 19 years old, I was strangled by the man of my dreams. I had been blinded by his manipulation and felt like I lost my power as a black woman. I had to wrap my head around the fact that this attraction had become fatal. Not only did I seek counseling to help me through my diagnosed PTSD, I started seeking help from the women around me. The amount of Black Women that have supported me through my healing by telling me their own stories was astonishing. This lead me to a spiral of thoughts. Why had so many Black Women been able to relate to me about being domestically abused? Why hadn’t I heard these stories before it happened to me? Most importantly, why was this happening at such a substantial rate?

Surprisingly enough, Institutional Racism is at the root of African-American men's physical rage against their own women. Chegg defines the term: “Institutional racism is a pattern of social institutions — such as governmental organizations, schools, banks, and courts of law — giving negative treatment to a group of people based on their race.”. Megan Mausteller says, “According to IDVAAC, domestic violence occurs more frequently in black households among couples with low incomes, those in which the male partner is underemployed or unemployed, particularly when he is not seeking work, and among couples residing in very poor neighborhoods, regardless of the couple’s income.”. Engraved into our structure, Institutional Racism has caused anger, hatred and frustration in our romantic relationships. Due to structural, communal and societal deficiencies Domestic Violence has become an issue within the African-American community.

The Problem

There is a direct correlation between domestic violence and marginalized people, specifically African-American people.

The problem is that there is an obvious lack of acknowledgement, a lack of action to fix the issues at hand and an absence of unification. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 women (24.3%) aged 18 and older in the United States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime and an estimated 10.7% of women have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime. The Bureau of Justice Statistics states that African American females experience intimate partner violence at a rate 35% higher than that of white females, and about 2.5 times the rate of women of other races. This poses problems for the advancement of A.A. people because violence runs so deep within the community.

Domestic Violence is miniscule to the web of problems that it presents. While assessing how domestic violence runs so deeply in the black community, institutional racism, mental health and family values are all brought to the table to be discussed. What is happening is that the black community is ignoring issues that really matter. Some of the concerns relate to stigmas and stereotypes attached to the African-Americans seeking therapy and broken family dynamics. These are just some of the obstacles that D.V. presents and has to be resolved before the statistics of black women being assaulted increase.


This topic is highly relevant to today's society and has been a problem for a while now. Domestic Violence is not solely an issue for African-Americans. A worldwide battle that still needs solutions, Domestic Violence affects all people of different ethnicities, races, religions and genders. All things considered, because I am a black woman and D.V. is a prominent issue within the A.A. community, the following will explain and support research in regards to the black community. Not to mention the fact that I have been in an abusive relationship, this is extremely important to me. Bringing attention to issues like Domestic Violence will only yield a plethora of solutions to help reduce cases in the United States.

Institutional Racism in relation to Domestic Violence

“Institutional racism is distinguished from the explicit attitudes or racial bias of individuals by the existence of systematic policies or laws and practices that provide differential access to goods, services and opportunities of society by race.” says Lietz. Being an African-American living in the United States is not easy. Regardless of the many civil rights efforts, African-Americans are still put at a socioeconomic disadvantage. The odds are usually against the A.A. Community, leaving anger to run rampid. It is known that institutional racism affects housing, quality of education and income. This means that marginalized people are not afforded the same opportunities that others can easily receive. This makes daily life a little hard to live causing stress and depression. How does this correlate with domestic violence?

“We know that domestic violence is linked to a web of oppressive systems such as racism, xenophobia, classism, ableism, sexism, and heterosexism.” (Ortiz). Marginalized groups of people experience violence at a staggering rate. Megan Mausteller says, “According to IDVAAC, domestic violence occurs more frequently in black households among couples with low incomes, those in which the male partner is underemployed or unemployed, particularly when he is not seeking work, and among couples residing in very poor neighborhoods, regardless of the couple’s income.”. Struggling like this is what causes anger within the African-American community. To be such hard working people and still be at the bottom of the totem pole is excruciately upsetting when one understands how the system is strategically placed against them. The problem is the way black men chose to handle their frustrations. Rather than getting help, they take their anger out on others. Plus, Black men are often stereotyped. Quickly shot by authorities for just being a black man. The pressure is on them to act like a white man in a society that refuses their very existence.

The U.S. Census Bureau states that 25.8 percent of black people in the U.S., a percentage drastically higher than the 13.5 percent poverty rate of white people suffer from poverty. Living in these low-income communities means that amenities like therapy, counseling and even domestic violence resources for victims are not available. As a result, many suffer the consequences of no getting help for what they are going through. Therefore, there is a direct connections to institutional racism, mental issues and domestic violence.

Mental Health in relations to Domestic Violence

Culturally and historically, African-Americans have had trouble seeking help when it comes to their individual mental health. These beliefs thrive off of the negative stigmas and stereotypes that there are today. Such as; “Going to seek helps means that you’re weak” or “You don’t need therapy, you need prayer and church.”. Those thought processes are extremely toxic and unprogressive. A lot of the anger and mistrust stems from the stereotypes placed on them by caucasians. “There exists a serious problem and challenge that African Americans underuse mental health services and, therefore, their needs for mental health are not met.” (Williamson 1). Furthermore, these counselors and therapist often time are filled by caucasians causing hesitancy for A.A. people to go. Therapist and counselors have tried to make treatment more appealing so that mental health could become a priority for African-Americans. “1996 survey on clinical depression by Mental Health America (MHA) identified several barriers to treatment of African Americans. Out of the people interviewed their reasons for not going to treatment was denial of a mental health problem, embarrassment/shame, did not want help, could not afford treatment or did not have insurance, were too afraid, did now know enough about treatment or their problem and felt too hopeless to seek treatment (Mental Health America, 1996).” (Williamson 3). The A.A. community has had negative beliefs and attitudes towards therapy/counseling for years and it is becoming apparent. Additionally, most African-Americans are not afforded opportunities to go seek mental help if they did need it. Now more than ever, it is clear to see how mental health has an affect on a community as a whole. Thankfully, we are making advances in our community for the better slowly but surely. “ Mental health is beginning to be accepted and education about mental health treatment will be essential in encouraging African Americans to enter into therapy.” (Williamson 11)

Societal deficiencies in relations to Domestic Violence

Oftentimes, stereotypes play a role in why domestic violence is so prominent. For example, black women are often referred to as “Nurtures”. They are assigned to role of being the “healer” or “fixer”. This ascribed responsibility makes many black women feel that they are responsible for healing their abuser. African-American woman habitually put others before themselves making it complicated to let go of people and/or situations that are toxic. Chioko Grevious refers to this as “The Superwoman Syndrome”. “Historically this title has served as a positive description of the Black woman who was subjected to inequality in the workplace, blatant or subjective racism, the loss of their children, oppression and limited economic resources.” (Grevious 2015). Tyler Doggett explains in her article I AM SUPERWOMAN: The Superwoman Syndrome and it’s Affects on the Culture of Black Women, that being a “Superwoman” was not always frowned upon. “This stereotype has a long history of being the foundation of many Black homes starting with the mother of the household...What once was a symbol of progressive and times, now places an almost impossible expectation on to Black women today who are, then ridiculed once they’ve fallen short of balancing the entire world.” (Doggett 2018).

Moreover, black women face the hard decision of calling authorities on their abusers. “Black women often face a reluctance to report their abuse because it could mean involving law enforcement and the criminal justice system. According to the Women of Color Network, the current and historic presence of racism within the criminal justice system means that women reporting abuse often fear they will be placing their partner at risk of police brutality and negative stereotyping.” (Mausteller, 2017). Struggling with the choice of sending your abuser to jail and submitting him the already established stereotype of black men going to jail, stands in the way of many black women. The stigmas placed on black woman make reporting domestic abuse hard and attach the idea that they are in charge of taking the abuse and working to make him better.


To offer solutions for the issue of D.V. within the African American community would be a start. If we begin to acknowledge that Institutional Racism is the root of why African-Americans have such high rates of domestic abuse within romantic relationships, then we will begin to lessen the amount of cases we have. In order for that to happen the first step is to open avenues for black people to communicate about Domestic Violence within the community. To clearly acknowledge that Institutional Racism is the root of anger within our community will help us find a way to bond with each other. For a long time, we have strategically been placed to hate each other and that plan has succeeded. Open dialogue about problems within the A.A. community is not only extremely important, but it is extremely necessary. Secondly, to open the doors for African Americans to seek counseling and therapy would decrease the amount of D.V. cases. In the African-American community therapy and counseling is taboo. This idea is ridiculous considering the amount of mental instabilities. Open communication about mental issues and encouragement of others to seek counseling can result in solutions. This in turn will lessen the amount of D.V. cases in America. Being able to dissect feelings by verbally vocalizing it is extremely important. ‘therapy can help. A therapist can teach necessary skills to manage overwhelming emotions. They may also help a person address underlying emotions and memories that may be contributing to the distress.” (Good Therapy 2018) Lastly, the African-American community needs to start defining what healthy relationships look like and start employing them.This way future generations will have something to look up to. The problem with modern day, African-American relationships is that children do not have good back stories to look to. Most importantly, by not feeding into “The Superwoman Syndrome”, African-Americans can start holding both parties accountable. Holding black women accountable for fixing a toxic situation should stop. This will decrease the amount of D.V. cases in the long run and help the structural foundation of the black community.


Ngyen, Brian. Mausteller, Megan.”Intersection of Racism and Domestic Violence.” Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence, 16 Feb. 2017,

“Statistics.” The National Domestic Violence Hotline,

Crawford, Selwyn. “Black Women at Greater Risk of Becoming Victims of Homicidal Domestic Violence.” Dallas News, 22 Sept. 2013,

“Health Equity.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 Apr. 2018,

Jones, Feminista. “Ray Rice: Black Women Struggle More With Domestic Abuse.” Time, Time, 10 Sept. 2014,

“NCADV | National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.” The Nation's Leading Grassroots Voice on Domestic Violence,

“Institutional Racism Lesson.” Lifetime Physical Fitness and Wellness A Personalized Program 12th Edition | Rent 9781111990015 |, CENGAGE Learning,

Why is it important to bring a racial justice framework to our efforts to end domestic violence?. (2018). Retrieved from

Not That Kind of Racism. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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Grevious, C. (2015, May 14). The Superwoman Syndrome: Black Women and Depression Part 2. Retrieved from

I AM SUPERWOMAN: The Superwoman Syndrome and it's Affects on the Culture of Black Women. (2018, October 09). Retrieved from

M. L. (n.d.). What Racism Looks Like. Retrieved from Racism Looks Like.pdf (n.d.). Retrieved from

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