Violence against Black/African-American women

Written by Mariah Justus White

Black and African-American women are disproportionally impacted by violence across the country, including in Central Texas.

A staggering report from the National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community states that more than 45 percent of Black women have experienced sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetimes. And more than half of homicides of Black adult women are related to intimate partner violence.

Even more evidence from a recent American Psychological Association article by Dr. Jameta Nicole Barlow lists a host of alarming facts about sexual assault and domestic violence against Black Women:

  • For every Black woman who reports rape, at least 15 Black women do not report.
  • One in four Black girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18.
  • One in five Black women are survivors of rape.
  • Thirty-five percent of Black women experienced some form of contact sexual violence during their lifetime.
  • Forty to sixty percent of Black women report being subjected to coercive sexual contact by age 18.
  • Seventeen percent of Black women experienced sexual violence other than rape by an intimate partner during their lifetime.

Data collected in Central Texas mirrors what is happening on a national level. Locally, a statistic from AustinTexas.Gov states that “As low as nine percent of all sexual assault cases are reported in Texas.” And sexual assault is “the most underreported violent crime in the U.S.”

In her article for Time magazine, mental health expert Feminista Jones refers to the horrific 2014 case of intimate partner violence committed by former NFL running back Ray Rice against his fiancé at the time, Janay. The event, which was caught on video and went viral, was a pivotal awakening that mobilized more awareness and encouraged advocacy in the fight against domestic violence and intimate partner violence across the country.

In her article for, civil rights attorney Sonja C. Tonnesen describes gender-based violence as an innate part of many African American girls and young women’s lives. “In trying to explain Black girls’ experiences with violence,” Tonnesen writes, “scholars have pointed to the structural aspects of African American neighborhoods, state and institutional violence aimed at Black people and families, the impact of slavery and a long history of oppression on Black women and girls, the combined effects of patriarchy and racism, and the lack of social and state services in poor, urban communities where many Black families live.”

Lastly, an article from United Nations Women summarizes some powerful advice on ways to end violence against women, such as listening to and believing survivors, teaching the next generation and learn from them, and understanding consent.

Identifying and owning that systemic racism is what leads to these statistics is part of the work to prevent future violence. Along with this recognition, we must speak out against instances of violence and abuse, alert our elected officials to pass legislation that will improve the chances of cases being heard, and change the way police departments handle cases so citizens are more likely to report these instances. This can improve the likelihood that more voices will be heard.

Mariah Justus White was a former SAFE volunteer and student at Huston-Tillotson University.