Understanding The Relationship Between Racism And Domestic Violence

Written by Meg Aprill

Over the past two weeks, protests supporting the Black Lives Matter movement have sparked important conversations regarding systemic racism in the United States. The continued violence and police brutality toward the Black community stems from a long history of social inequality. As a domestic violence prevention organization, we are dedicated to ensuring all forms of violence come to an end. It is important to reflect on how violence, specifically domestic violence, is connected to racism and oppression.

Domestic violence impacts individuals from all genders, races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds. However, according to research done by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, sexual violence is inextricably tied to oppression. The Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs (WCSAP) says that this includes, “disproportionate rates of violence people of color experience, how the criminal justice system mass incarcerates and punishes more harshly people of color over white people, and how the movement to end sexual and domestic violence replicates oppression, power imbalances, and racism within mainstream and other organizations.”

Domestic violence victims from historically oppressed groups constantly face many of these challenges. A study done by the Women of Color Network says that people of color, people in poverty, and those with poor education, limited job resources, language barriers, or fear of deportation often have difficulty finding help and support services. Researchers Natalie Sokoloff and Ida Dupont explain Black women might fear calling the police on their partner due to the danger of police brutality and racism in the criminal justice system. 

Sokoloff and Dupont also emphasize that “intersectionalities color the meaning and nature of domestic violence, how it is experienced by self and responded to by others, how personal and social consequences are represented, and how and whether escape and safety can be obtained.” Individuals from different races, classes and backgrounds all respond to domestic violence in different ways. Domestic violence prevention practices that are inclusive and intersectional will help benefit victims from all walks of life. 

Lydia Guy took one of the first steps in making domestic violence prevention more diverse. She redefined the Sexual Violence Continuum in 2006 to visually show the connection between the many forms of oppression and violence. She categorizes the oppressed into six groups at the center of her diagram, including those who experience sexism, racism, ableism, anti-Semitism, classism, and heterosexism. Surrounding these groups are different forms of sexual violence spiraling into a circle. Guy says she created this graphic to be more inclusive of intersectionalities and to “remind and inspire us to develop a vision of comprehensive sexual violence prevention work which routinely encompasses all forms of oppression.”

As an anti-violence organization, Day One condemns all forms of violence. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Ahmaud Arbery, and the many killed by racist police brutality weigh heavy on our hearts. The violence and oppression that has plagued the Black community needs to come to an end. Day One is committed to preventing domestic violence for all individuals and is continuously working to seek justice for those who experience discrimination. It is time for everyone to come together and protect one another from violence. Mo Lewis, a domestic violence prevention educator with National Sexual Violence Resource Center, says that “we won’t ever end sexual violence without ending all forms of oppression.”

You can find resources to support the Black Lives Matter movement here

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