IPV or intimate partner violence is a public health concern that effects more women than you would think. It is very important that we as a society have an understanding of the nature and causes of IPV in order to direct our efforts at its prevention. Efforts have been put forth on these fronts, but largely they focus on white women, leaving out black women and women of other ethnicities. For this reason, the authors of our reading focus specifically on African American IPV and the factors contributing to it.
The observance of IPV within the African American community first began with the National Family Violence Survey in 1975. This found that African American men were much more likely to report being perpetrators of IPV and African American women were more likely of reporting being victims of IPV than their white counterparts. In fact, according to the NFVS, black women were 1.23 times more likely to experience minor IPV than white women. The problem with this measure though is that there seems to be an outside factor affecting IPV prevalence. When socioeconomic status is accounted for, rates of IPV in black and white populations seem to be equal. Rather than seeing the disparity in the numbers as race based, it should be looked at as class based; class is a stronger indicator of IPV than race. In the U.S. class and race are inextricably linked, where 11% of those in persistent poverty are white women and 25% of them are black women. There are some theories on why rates are higher in African American communities.
The feminist political theory posits that the patriarchal society we live in teaches men that they are superior and this dominance is the largest contributor to abuse. It has been argued that this cant be generalized easily to African American men. The way that race as inherently shaped their lives in the U.S. context has not availed them the same dominance complex that white men have. On the other hand, masculinity in the traditional context involves power and wealth. Those African American men that have been hindered by racism and classism may be forced to hyper-masculinity somewhat as a coping strategy. The impact of macro-structural forces is important. researchers have argued that rates of IPV are higher in black communities because there is a higher proportion of black people living in extreme poverty in the U.S. than other races and ethnicities. Not to be ignored are the impacts of stereotypes. There has been a long living stereotype of the “black superwoman”. While there are positive aspects of this stereotype (strength, resilience) It is harming because in our patriarchal society it enforces the notion that black women are too wild or something to be tamed. Stereotypes can be extended to mass media as well. Many portrayals of black women are derogatory, dehumanizing, and hyper-sexual. These stereotypes can further be internalized by women and men alike and contribute to IPV.
Interventions are important for IPV survivors as there is a host of mental effects of being a IPV survivor. Unfortunately there are some disparities across racial lines with use of interventions. Obviously social class is again going to have a large impact on the disparities. According to a testimonial of one black woman who was part of a study, in the city she lived, it seemed as though they would always send the black women who were survivors of IPV to the shelter downtown, unlike the white women. The quality of the shelters differed greatly. This could be a large reason why black women tend to forgo the shelter services more often than white women. The real problem here is the stress from racism that black women have to deal with on top of the stress from being and IPV survivor.