Caught in the crossroad: An intersectional examination of African American women intimate partner violence survivors’ help-seeking.

Waller, B.Y., Harris, J., & Quinn, C.R. (2021).
Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 1 -14.
Type of Profession:

This study conducted a review of existing literature to create a better understanding of the intersections of IPV and help-seeking behavior among African American women.

Expanded Abstract: 

African American women are more likely than women of other racial and ethnic groups in the United States to be murdered by their intimate partner (Violence Policy Center, 2020). Furthermore, African American women experience IPV-related homicide at younger ages. The average age that survivors are murdered by their intimate partners is 36 years old, which is 5 years younger than the national average (Violence Policy Center, 2020). While that severe risk exists, African American women are more likely to remain with an abusive partner rather than seek help from service providers. That reluctance to reach out for help is due, in part, to the racism and racial discrimination they experience during help seeking (see Bent-Goodley, 2013; Petrosky et al., 2017). Additionally, African American women are often socially perceived as betraying their partner and the entire African American community when they reveal their abuse, as that is seen as violating their socially prescribed role of protecting their man from the police rather than secretly suffer from victimization (Bent-Goodley, 2013; Nash, 2005; Waller, 2016). This is particularly true since research shows that the criminal justice system historically gives African American male offenders harsher penalties than their White male counterparts (Alexander, 2012; Waller, 2016).

Research on why survivors of IPV do or do not reach out for help, finds that African American survivors experience rejection and anticipatory stigma as barriers to their help-seeking. Additionally, African American women report experiencing racism and racial discrimination as obstacles that may further preclude their help-seeking. Among the findings from this review was that African American survivors defer engaging with the criminal justice system and when they do, they often receive significantly delayed and/or inadequate assistance from providers (Anyikwa, 2015; Davies et al., 2007; Deutsch et al., 2017; Few, 2005; Frasier, 2006; Fugate et al., 2005; Lucea et al., 2013).

While significant research reveals that barriers exist for African American women, there is a lack of research that examines the subtle ways that African American women survivors experience rejection resulting from the interlocking nature of race, class, and gender oppression. Fundamental to developing more culturally salient interventions is more fully understanding African American women’s help-seeking experiences.

Findings from this study emphasize the importance of eliminating barriers African American women experience when trying to access the domestic violence service system.