Violence Against Black Women – Many Types, Far-reaching Effects

One Pagers

By Susan Green, IWPR Affiliated Researcher

Black women disproportionately experience violence at home, at school, on the job, and in their neighborhoods. The Status of Black Women in the United States details these many types of violence. Black women face high rates of intimate partner violence, rape, and homicide. Black girls and women also experience institutionalized racism; they are disproportionately punished in school, funneled into the criminal justice system after surviving physical or sexual abuse, disproportionately subjected to racial profiling and police brutality, and incarcerated at rates far exceeding their share of the population. By drawing on available studies the report helps lay the foundation necessary for positive change. 

The data show that:

  • More than four in ten Black women experience physical violence from an intimate partner during their lifetimes. White women, Latinas, and Asian/Pacific Islander women report lower rates.
  • Black women also experience significantly higher rates of psychological abuse—including humiliation, insults, name-calling, and coercive control—than do women overall.
  • Sexual violence affects Black women at high rates. More than 20 percent of Black women are raped during their lifetimes—a higher share than among women overall.
  • Black women face a particularly high risk of being killed at the hands of a man. A 2015 Violence Policy Center study finds that Black women were two and a half times more likely to be murdered by men than their White counterparts. More than nine in ten Black female victims knew their killers.

Racial disparities pervade the educational and criminal justice systems. Black girls are suspended or expelled from public schools at much higher rates than other girls. School administrators are more apt to perceive Black girls as “disruptive” or “loud” compared with other groups of boys and girls, and Black girls are more likely to be punished for dress code violations, talking back to teachers, and “defiance.”

Not surprisingly, multiple suspensions and expulsions impede some Black girls’ educational success. School discipline disparities can also contribute to girls’ disproportionate involvement with the criminal justice system. Black girls make up nearly one-third of the girls referred to law enforcement, and over 40 percent of girls arrested in connection with a school incident.

For too many Black girls school leads to imprisonment.  Black girls aged 18-19 were four times more likely to be imprisoned than White girls. Girls and women of color are the fastest growing populations in American prisons. Scholars cited in the report ascribe disproportionate incarceration rates to racial disparities in school discipline, “War on Drugs” policies, and other forms of institutionalized racism and sexism.

Formerly incarcerated Black women experience long-term economic, political, occupational, educational, and physical consequences. The report comprehensively describes the urgent need to prevent violence against black women.

Read the report and the accompanying policy recommendations.