Intimate partner violence is a problem that spans across the country. African American women are victims of intimate partner violence at staggering rates, but studies on IPV have previously focused only on caucasian women affected by violence. The review we read focused on African American women who were only heterosexual and experienced intimate partner violence from a male.
The first survey to study the experience of African American women was the National Family Violence Survey, which was conducted in 1975. The study found that African American men were more likely to perpetrate partner violence at 11% than caucasian men at 3%. However, the study found that once income was accounted for, African American men were less likely to perpetrate than white men except for those in the $6,000 – $11,999 income level – 40% of African American men fall under this income bracket. Therefore, SES does matter, because African Americans are overrepresented in lower income brackets, making them more likely to be perpetrators of partner violence. The second National Family Violence Survey found that African American women were a little over 1% more likely to be victims of minor IPV and 2% more likely to experience severe IPV than caucasian women.
The National Violence Against Women Survey examines the incidence of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and stalking among 8000 men and 8000 women nationally. The study found that race wasn’t the biggest indicator of intimate partner violence, but that when income level was considered, race wasn’t an indicator. Higher levels of income, for both African American and caucasian women, was correlated with lower IPV rates. Additionally, caucasian women account for 11% of people living in poverty, compared to African American women accounting for 25% of those living in poverty.
Some researchers assert that African American men aren’t socialized the same as caucasian men, saying that gender roles aren’t as differentiated in African American households as in caucasian households, which can be confounded by a lack of education, economic, or political resources. Hypermasculinity is a coping mechanism used by African American men to make up for racism and classism. Hypermasculinity is when men adopt masculine roles, like “hustler” and “gangsta” to prove their manhood and assert their masculinity in the face of discrimination.
Theorists argue that structural forces contribute to intimate partner violence. Some examples of these structural forces include poverty, especially when looking at differences in poverty rates between different races. Social disorganization theory suggests that communities have difficulty regulating crime when there is ethnic heterogeneity and poverty, which makes it so that structural forces like schools and families are weakened in their control over members of the community.
Brice-Baker argued that internalized racism plays a role in the development of self-esteem among African Americans. She asserts that internalized racism causes African Americans to develop self-dislike, and that his can be a factor in the harming of others (male perpetrators of IPV on women).
It is hard to deny that the media portrays negative stereotypes of African Americans. Within these stereotypes exist the stereotype of African American women as hypersexual and dehumanized, which includes stereotypes such as the “welfare queen” and “pornographic video star”. These portrayals can seep into the mindsets of African American men, and even people of authority that should be protecting African American women, like judges and police officers. Additionally, African American women are often subject to the stereotype of “superwomen”. This is problematic, because it creates this idea that African American can cope with anything that comes at them, which could increase their risk of experiencing intimate partner violence. This stereotype also leads to a lack of response by society to the victimization of African American women – society doesn’t see them as vulnerable, meaning there is no attention given to the fact they are victims of violence. Another consequence of the “superwomen” stereotype is that women may internalize it and not reach out for help when they experience violence.
The authors note that African American women are less likely than caucasian women to go to shelters, because they are either unaware that they are a resource, or because they need more time to prepare to leave a shelter than white women in the same context.
Depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidal ideation are all responses to intimate partner violence. African American women were nine times more likely to report being depressed, and almost two times more likely to report symptoms of anxiety. In regard to suicidal ideation, women who are victims of IPV are more likely to report thoughts of suicide. Also, African American women who committed suicide were more likely than caucasian women to have been victims of intimate partner violence. Intervention might seem helpful for victims of intimate partner violence, but the problem with intervention programs is that they treat all victims the same, meaning they don’t take cultural or ethnic differences into consideration. African American women experience many things, racism, poverty, more than caucasian women do, and intervention programs should consider these extra factors.