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Domestic violence in the African American Community Research Paper

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Updated: Nov 14th, 2018


This research paper discusses domestic violence, which is also known as intimate partner violence. It also looks at the subsequent effects it inflicts on the day-to-day lives of individuals from the African American Community. Prior research has found out that the prevalence of intimate partner violence is higher within this community of persons when compared to the Caucasian communities.

Previous research has suggested this due to the many causes and effects that are experienced by the members and especially the male members of the African American community. This has been attributed to structural, cultural, situational and community contexts. Apart from discussing issues, this paper also tries to look into the source of this scourge in an effort to seek lasting solutions.

A survey carried out nationally revealed that 29% of the African American women and 12% of men from the same community have experienced at least an incidence of intimate partner violence from their partners. The survey also affirmed that the African American individuals exhibited higher cases of homicide than those from the Caucasian community. This basically reveals the extent to which intimate partner violence (IPV) has sunk its root deep into the community.


Domestic violence, also known by a number of other names such as spousal abuse, family violence, battering and many others, is a form of an abusive behavior exhibited by a partner against another with who they are in an intimate relationship with. The relationship may be a marriage relation, family, dating or even cohabitation.

The abusive behaviors may take different patterns such as physical abuse. This is also known as assault, sexual abuse, emotional torture, domineering tendencies, intimidation, stalking, passive abuse (for example neglect), economic abuse – which entails economic deprivation, and many other forms of abuse (Benson et al., 1989).

Domestic violence is recognized and documented differently for different countries around the globe. All these forms of abuse targeted against another partner always present themselves in the form of repetitive or habitual occurrences whereby one partner makes it a tendency to demean the other. Otherwise, the violence can still be carried out infrequently and still qualify to be categorized as abuse.

It can be well affirmed that domestic violence can happen in any form of intimate relationship regardless of race, religion, age or even sexual orientation (Essed, 1991). What may differ is simply the prevalence of the intimate violence in these various contexts. Research has found that domestic violence is a common phenomenon in the African American community. Various reasons have been researched and discussed but never has a lasting solution been found.

Problem Statement

Domestic violence is a scourge that, for a long time, has continuously rocked families and all other forms of intimate relations in the African American community. The situation has been worse to the extent of resulting to the death of some unfortunate victims. The big question thus is, can all these factors affecting the life and especially the life the African American males be looked into and a solution gotten once and for all?


It is wide knowledge that violence has become the nation’s endemic and epidemic healthcare issue. It is also well documented that the African Americans are at a much higher risk of suffering from domestic violence amongst the many other forms of violence than any other ethnic or racial group of communities (Johnson, 1999).

It is thus time for different individuals and stakeholders to collaboratively put an end to this vice. If not tackled in good time, this is a scourge that would alter perspective ethnic and social groups. True benefits of diversity are realized when communities and ethnicities support each other.

Literature Review

A sociologist known as Michael Johnson postulates that there are four major categories of domestic violence. The first is a postulation, which has been supported by a number of other independent researchers. These categories have been described below.

Common couple violence

This form of violence occurs in a single argument or disagreement and involves physical lashing out of one or both partners to the other.

Intimate terrorism

This may also entail psychological and emotional forms of abuse in addition to the physical form. It presents itself in the form of a partner exercising absolute control over the other. Intimate terrorism may occur infrequently in comparison to the common couple violence but rather escalates over a period. Intimate terrorism always involves serious injuries.

Violent resistance

Violent resistance, just as the name suggests, is an act of violence conducted in the form of self-defense. It is violence against an abusive partner.

Mutual violent control

Mutual violent control, as John Michael postulates, is quite a rare type of intimate violence. It takes place when both partners perpetrate violence against one another, all seeking control over the other.

Literature on domestic violence contains a few details on how the African American community perceives domestic violence. Most data merely give information on the prevalence and rates of incidence while doing very minimally to look into the cultural and perceptional part of the big issue. So to speak, most data have traditionally squared in on specific or individual cases of intimate violence and overlooked the community’s behaviors and perceptions towards intimate violence.

Domestic violence, in this context of the African American community, can be equally viewed as men of color perpetrating violence against women of color – who they are in intimate relations with. To begin an insight into this issue, it is appropriate to start by looking at what exactly triggers acts of violence within this community. The factors include the following.


Race, as an independent factor, can never be held responsible for the intimate partner violence (IPV) but plays a role when it denies the African Americans access to resources that would help them fend for themselves. This results in frustrations and discontentment most especially within the African American men. This kind of frustration is best expressed through picking up quarrels and men may even end up battering their wives and womenfolk.

Another aspect of racism is how the perpetrators and the victims of domestic violence of African American descent are treated by the criminal justice system. Purportedly, women of color are looked upon and stereotyped as loose and not worth any form of judicial assistance. To make it worse, they are at times said to be the ones who ask for the violence. The fact that the perpetrators of domestic violence at times go scot free without execution is enough evidence that very little is being done to stem the vice.

When talking about domestic violence amongst the African American community, the womenfolk of this community are the biggest victims. The African American women are more or less marginalized. They are marginalized in a way that their access to resources is limited.

This, in effect, has continuously compromised their economic status. This is a condition that makes them almost completely dependent on their male counterparts for their living and upkeep. This has left them at the mercies of the males who are also, to some extent, handicapped as far as their earnings are concerned.


Another factor that comes to play as far as domestic violence within the community of color is concerned is poverty. This is an aspect that every single research on this topic has deduced to be of great concern. As a result of racial segregation, the community of color has not received an equal portion of the nation’s economic resources.

Poverty has consequently denied the people of color quality education, job opportunities, quality nutrition, decent and clean housing, amongst many other necessities. A man who feels inadequately capable of providing for his family tends towards acts of violence to secure his position as the family head.

A research done by the representatives of the African American people reports that Boston area, for example, has an astounding inadequacy in terms of housing for its inhabitants. The prevailing cost of housing in Boston creates a community of stressed individuals since they are unable to afford a place to sleep, let alone something to eat. The people are leading disparate lives and this is manifested by the numerous cases of domestic violence in the area.

Previous studies have shown that the males or rather the men of color feel emasculated when their wives earn more in a month than they do. The feeling of emasculation is followed by violence against the woman.

The time-tested traditional economic model of the family places the male head as the sole family breadwinner. This is, in a way, not reflected in most African American families whereby both partners play a role in the breadwinning. Both partners are expected to have jobs. However, the situation gets grim when the male gets domineering and commandeers the wages that the wife earns.

African American Children Who Are Victims or Witnesses to Violence

It has been proven that most perpetrators and even victims of domestic violence have childhood experiences of the same kind of violence (Reidel & Welsh, 2001). Childhood exposure to intimate partner violence is a sure recipe to engaging in domestic violence during adulthood.

It is also indicated that the boys emanating from violent families have higher chances of doing the same as compared to the ladies. While addressing an augural meeting of the Jane Doe safety fund, the then district attorney of Quincy county, Mr. William Delahunt reiterated that a research carried out on young males incarcerated for violence revealed that 70% of them confessed physical abuse by their fathers. In addition, a whole 90% reported having witnessed intimate partner violence in their families.

Low self-esteem

Low self-esteem exhibited by both partners in an intimate relationship is a great contributor to domestic violence amongst members of the community of colored persons. In the case of males, self-esteem concerns interrelated with the feeling of being oppressed and deep-seated rage (as a result of marginalization), contributes to domestic violence.

For women, the low self-esteem is very closely linked to matters of appearance and self-hate. For males, low self-esteem trigger domestic violence but for the women it brings about what is known as internal violence. The name suggests it all and it is affirmed that the females experiencing low self-esteem lack self-respect, exhibit destructive tendencies and even make wrong decisions when it comes to choosing mates.

Impacts of domestic violence

Just like any other form of violence, domestic violence has grave consequences and impact greatly on the lives of the people affected. First, it seriously degrades the victims and apart from the physical injury, the victims might be faced with trauma. It also does great harm on the afflicted person’s psyche.

It causes mental disturbance and a feeling of serious rejection, which might follow the person even long after the abusive event. The physical harm that it has on the victim is limitless. The person may sustain great injuries and it may even cause permanent bodily injuries at times. These are injuries that may lead to death.

A report done by African Americans from San Francisco/Oakland and California areas reported that the consequences of domestic violence experienced in these areas is grave and profound. It is so profound that an entire family and community life has been affected by it. This group of representatives also reiterated that the violence has done away with the ranks of male leadership. It has also diminished their potential as positive role models in these African American communities.

Another consequence of domestic violence or rather intimate partner violence is the multiple intergenerational impacts. In this case, children and the elderly are of great concern. The great number of African American children in the foster care system is a great manifestation of the extent of the vice in this community.

As a result of even more children living in unsafe conditions, majority grow up not knowing the appropriate behaviors towards other people. These children are potentially likely to, in the future, get involved in violent behaviors and this is so especially because the media and the popular cultures in vogue have taken the position of their teachers. This is where they learn bad behavior.

Apart from the future social tribulations that the children are faced with, these children grow up without proper education – a situation that spells future joblessness and the cycle of poverty begins or rather continues.

Just like the young ones, the elderly are not spared. The elderly are a group of persons who need to be taken care of adequately and this simply becomes impossible if a family is marred with violence. When a home is turned into a battlefield, the feeble members perish.

Dr. Oliver J. Williams, who is the head of the Institute on Domestic violence in the African American community at the University of Minnesota, once reiterated that conflicts do happen in all relationships. He further stated that some partners have a way of resolving their conflicts in peaceful ways.

These partners acknowledge the fact that violence has never been a way of resolving conflicts. In addition, he stated that in situations that violence occurs, men who end up battering their intimate partners have the view that violence is the natural consequence of a conflict.

Another aspect of domestic violence is the fact that most violence cases end up unreported. The women mostly shy off from reporting cases of violence against them for fear of social stigmatization. Women have a tendency of submitting to their relationships no matter how abusive and inhospitable the relationships may be.

Women also put up with abusive partners due to their lack of trust on the judicial system. They are never sure of getting protection from the law enforcement organs. These women are also not sure of their own security should the violence perpetrators be let free from incarceration.

Finding lasting solutions

Domestic violence is an issue that needs to be addressed with immediacy since human life is at stake and a further waste of time translates to more lives lost. The solution to this scourge has to emanate from within the people of this aggrieved community since a fruit does not fall very far away from the tree.

One very vital avenue where a solution can be meted is the Black Church. This has to do with spiritual nourishment. The Black Church has to play the vital role of understanding and tackling the issues of intimate partner violence within the black community.

One very necessary step the Church should take is to recognize that domestic violence exists (Boyd, 1989). It is common knowledge the whole world that women refer to heir church leaders in search of solutions to problems haunting them. The clergy need to refrain from demonizing the women but to make them appreciate that domestic violence is a sin and a crime. Both the victims and the perpetrators should be made to know that domestic violence is a crime punishable by law.

Apart from imparting the knowledge of consequences of the heinous act of violence, it is also important for the pastor (or any other church leader handling an issue of domestic violence) to undertake sessions of counseling to both the perpetrators and the victims.

Another important aspect within the context of the Black Church is gender. Women, just like their male counterparts, need to be given equal opportunities in terms of leadership in the church.

The church should send a message to the entire populace that women too could take up leadership positions and perform just as the men do. Should women acquire leadership positions in the church, a structural change is likely to happen and matters unique to women or rather issues that have negative impacts on the women of color will be tackled from a leadership position.

Many national and local groups are making efforts to fight abuse in the African American communities through preparing awareness programs, educating and even intervening within this community of the colored individuals. These groups, as a result of their vast research, suggest the following:

  1. The minorities should take the task of developing visible leadership and being able to speak out against any form of domestic violence.
  2. All community heads need to prepare and organize events that promote awareness of domestic violence in the neighborhoods.
  3. Communities have to refuse to ignore or accommodate any form of abuse.
  4. All families have to be made aware of how they can take effective measures to end abuse.
  5. Each person has to know the alarming statistics, especially the statistics on the impact of domestic violence on women and even children.
  6. Law enforcement and court systems have to view all abuse cases as important. The context in which the violence occurs does not matter, even if the violence is in a same-sex kind of relationship.

The solutions to domestic violence in the community of the colored individuals have to take a collective and holistic approach. A collective approach and consequent response demands community commitment and preparedness to jump to action. A systemic solution is achieved when all the stakeholders are brought on board and a way forward is forged with everyone’s blessing.

Racism plays a big role in this issue of domestic violence. Efforts have been made by various groups of persons. It is rather arguable that great strides have been made in this war but still, much need to be done. If racism were to be rooted out, then there would be equitable treatment of persons from different races. This situation would see individuals of African American communities get jobs and improving their living standards and conditions. This would effectively void off social stresses and consequently solve domestic violence issues.

In detailing on appropriate measures to curb domestic violence in the African American community setup, it would be appropriate to also look into the various steps that have been made towards the same. Programs such as the Kwanzaa programs have been instituted for the purpose of renewal of efforts in order to build and maintain the African American community.

The Kwanzaa program has a domestic violence center that provides free and confidential services to the African American women plus children who face situations of domestic violence and abuse.

The programs are culturally specific and they include specific groups, crisis building intervention groups, safety planning information and referrals, all with an intention of healthy family relationships. In addition to all these, the Kwanzaa group also offers technical assistance and training to other organizations working under the same agenda.

In addition, women have to be encouraged to report any form of violence directed towards them by their respective partners. They should be able to detect situations that may lead to violence earlier enough and in a way, learn how to deal with them to avoid the serious consequences of domestic violence.

The judicial system should protect women and it is a good thing that a perpetrator of domestic violence can now be prosecuted without the victims testifying. This is in order since a case can never be dropped simply because the victim could not bring herself to testify.


From the above information, it is quite evident that the most riveting factors that fuel domestic violence in the African American community setup are racism and poverty. These two factors are rather intertwined with one being the cause and the other is the effect. Racial discrimination results in poor schooling, joblessness and overall low living standards. To sum it all, racial discrimination causes poverty. African Americans have poor access to quality living conditions.

The resultant effect of social amenities being out of reach to a community of persons is social stress. Social stress is a serious ethical travesty amongst the individuals of the African American community.

The poor economic status accompanied with the maimed access to other resources makes it even more difficult for the aggrieved individuals to combat their abusive partners (Oliver & Caroline, 2006). They are unable to combat their abusive partners and are unable to handle the other issues that precipitate the same. The solutions suggested above are targeted at stemming this problem from its roots.


Benson, P. L., Donahue, M. J., & Erickson, J. A. (1989). Adolescence and religion: A review of the literature from 1970 to 1986. Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, 1, 153-181.

Bent-Goodley, T. (2001). Eradicating Domestic Violence in the African American Community: A Literature Review and Action Agenda. Trauma, Violence and Abuse, 2(4), 316-330.

Boyd-Franklin, N. (1989). Black families in therapy: A multisystems approach. New York: Guilford.

Essed, P. (1991). Understanding everyday racism: An interdisiplinary theory. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Johnson, J. (1999). Conversations About Domestic Violence. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Oliver, J., & Caroline, Y. (2006). Community Insights On Domestic Violence Among African Americans. The Journal of Gender, Race and Justice, 6 (22), 1-216.

Reidel, M., & Welsh, W. (2001). Criminal violence. Los Angeles, CA: Roxbury Publishing Company.

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