by J. Williams-Gibson
Special from the Indianapolis Recorder
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.—Beware of strangers, right? That is a frequent warning given to us all, but particularly women and children. However, the majority of African-American females killed by men die at the hands of guys that they know—not strangers.
Black females murdered by men are most often killed with a gun, and almost always by someone they know, according to a recent report by the Violence Policy Center, a national educational organization that works to reduce violence.
“There was a myth out there saying women need to protect themselves against strangers but that’s not the reality,” said Kristen Rand, legislative director for the Violence Policy Center. “It’s much more of a domestic violence risk.”
The details of the VPC report are alarming: Black women were murdered at a rate more than two and a half times higher than White women.
Firearms, especially handguns, were the most common weapon used and the number of Black females shot and killed by their husbands or an intimate acquaintance was more than four times as high as the total number murdered by male strangers using all weapons combined in incidents in 2008.
Most often, Black females were killed by males in the course of an argument and 10 percent of Black female victims were 18 or younger.
“There are identifiable, preventative measures to be taken to prevent these sorts of homicides,” said Rand.
Some domestic violence experts cite jealousy, anger and rage as reasons behind the numbers. Police and social workers continue to be baffled by how someone can kill a supposed loved one.
The fact that the women were most often killed with a handgun is troubling to Rand. She questions whether or not law enforcement is cracking down on gun ownership by people with histories of domestic abuse, which is prohibited by law. She takes the position that the presence of guns can escalate domestic violence to homicide.
“More resources need to be directed to preventing these sorts of incidences. Local shelters need to be better funded and local authorities need to be better educated about this risk and removing guns from the home,” said Rand.
The VPC study also ranked each state by its rate of total homicides for females of all races. Nevada ranked first followed by Vermont, Alabama, North Carolina and Tennessee to round out the top five. The majority of the top 10 states were located in the South— states with a strong gun culture. Indiana was tied at 27 with Wyoming.
While the study focuses on Black women, the truth is, domestic abuse knows no race or socioeconomic status—it can happen to anyone.
“People don’t understand. It’s almost like it’s a taboo subject,” said Julie Marsh, CEO of the Domestic Violence Network of Greater Indianapolis.
Marsh is not surprised by the center’s findings and suggests that all people become educated on the signs of domestic abuse. She encourages people, particularly women, to be proactive in protecting their lives. Red flags include hurtful comments, constant calling and checking on where she is and who she’s with, control over things such as finances or wardrobe, punching or slapping, and isolation from family and friends.
No woman deserves to be abused under any circumstances because the abuser always has a choice, Marsh said. Things might be bad, but the domestic abuse educator went on to say that a woman should never tell her abuser she is leaving because breaking away from him is the most dangerous period of the conflict.
“Don’t do that unless you have a full safety plan in place,” said Marsh. “Leave when he’s not there and do not go to a relative’s house, either. Seek out a place like a shelter and get help from a domestic abuse counselor.”
To find safety, she suggests calling 211 from a secure phone. If in immediate danger, just get out of the house and go to a place he would not think you’d go.
If there’s no way to get out of the home, an abused woman should think of safe places to find solace in the home.
To reduce the numbers of abused women and murdered women due to abuse, experts believe people should be more vocal about domestic violence. Rand, the Violence Policy Center administrator, said there should be more focus on gun violence and how it relates to domestic violence, and recommends people share this information with local officials.
“Black women should also make people understand it’s just not acceptable that they’re at such an increased risk,” said Rand. “There should probably be special programs for them and the men in their lives.”
(You can e-mail Jessica Williams-Gibson at Jessicafirstname.lastname@example.org.)
(Reprinted from the Indianapolis Recorder.)