Advocacy For Racial Equity Can’t End With Domestic Violence Awareness Month: No Survivor Justice Without Racial Justice

By Samantha Ketter

Over the last several months, the Black Lives Matter movement has preempted a national conversation on race. The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among many others, have created an overwhelming demand to recognize institutionalized racism. Young peoples’ calls for equity have dominated newsfeeds and socials – with many posts including references to the Civil Rights Movement. Youth across America, especially young Black people, have come out to fight against racially-motivated police brutality – and all forms of violence perpetrated against black bodies across the U.S. 

Black Americans that are at high risk of being affected by domestic violence and sexual abuse. For this year’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) in October, the Domestic Violence Awareness Project of NRCDV chose the theme of “There is no survivor justice without racial justice”. Day One is committed to racial justice, and we resonate deeply with NRCDV’s explanation that “now is the time to boldly pivot our work to dismantle white supremacy, to center the needs and experiences of Black survivors, and as Laura Chow Reeve writes, to engage in ‘conversations around what actually keeps us safe, what actually allows survivors and communities to heal and thrive, and what will actually end violence.’”

That vision should not, and cannot, end with DVAM in October. The Black community is in need of support, continued advocacy, and justice against domestic violence at all times of the year.

According to the American Psychological Association, one in five Black women are self-reported survivors of sexual assault- and for every one woman who reports their experience, an estimated fifteen choose not to. Black women also have the highest rate of psychological abuse than women in general – including humiliation, coercive control and insults. Black women are two and half times more likely to be murdered by men than white women – with nine out of ten knowing their killer. The statistics worsen for those who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community.

The statistics for young people in New York specify:

  • 12.1% of high school students in New York State reported having been physically hurt (excluding sexual violence) by a significant other (NCADV, 2015).
  • One survey found that Black and Hispanic/Latino students in New York City public schools reported experiencing more relationship violence than non-Black and non-Hispanic/Latino students.

In a previous blog post, we highlighted the importance of intersectionality – the connections of social identities like race, gender, and class that impact personal experience. As racism persists, so do the constraints and pressures on survivors of domestic violence, be it in access to care, avenues of reporting, or finding any form of support.

Survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault within the Black community face extra challenges in reporting their abuse. With a deep seated and valid distrust of the police to hurdle first, those who do report also face racist stereotypes. Black women are characterized in popular culture as overly dramatic, described as angry, prone to overreaction and attention-seeking behavior. Worse is the idea of the “strong Black woman”; the narrative that “uplifts their strength, perseverance and survival and minimizes their emotional well-being, tenderness and humanity”. Survivors often feel a responsibility to their community to be “stronger”, to protect the community and their loved ones from discrimination or legal action. The fear of supporting the racial stereotype of Black men being aggressive predators can prevent these survivors from reporting.

“The…Civil Rights Movement, emerged out of black women demanding control over their bodies and lives, black men being killed for protecting black women, or ultimately, the fight for black women’s bodies and agency and against white supremacist rape and assault.” 

Nearly eighty years later, Black individuals are still in need of that protection. As we move out of #DVAM2020, Day One will continue to advocate for the Black community and use this advocacy to shape our mission to educate young adults on healthy relationships and relationship violence. Day One condemns all forms of violence. Love should feel safe from day one – for people of all colors and sexual orientation.

Join Our
Mailing List

Sign up for the latest news,
content, and updates!