Domestic Violence and Women of Color: Complex Dynamics

Rita A, Webb, ACSW, DCSW

Behavioral Health, Diversity & Equity, Health, Peace and Social Justice

Practice Perspectives


Violence and abuse have profound costs for all communities. Yet, for communities of color, the preponderance of violence can be linked to a host of outcomes that have both immediate and long term implications. Though domestic violence, also called intimate partner violence (IPV), is not limited to any one socioeconomic, ethnic, racial, or religious group, the burden of exposure for racial minorities to domestic violence is reported to be significantly high. The findings indicate that minority women experience higher rates of domestic violence then their white counterparts. In order to address the prevention of domestic violence in communities of color, federal, state and county agencies continue to work cooperatively in support of research, community capacity building projects, reports and initiatives that increase understanding, and to identify possible ways to approach the needs of individuals in a culturally responsive way. For social workers and others who provide services to women of color who are survivors of domestic violence, consideration needs to be given to how the women characterize help and the social and cultural context in which they have experienced violence. Despite the increase in education, legal intervention, medical and community awareness, and the dissemination of more accurate information on the extent of domestic violence, it is difficult to determine overall incidence due to under-reporting. For women of color, under-reporting is a greater concern because they are statistically overrepresented as victims and survivors of domestic violence. Even between racial and ethnic groups of African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians/Alaskan Americans, Asians and Pacific Islander women, there is considerable variation in the rates of domestic violence. Surveys indicate that key components of these findings are the respondents’ willingness to disclose domestic violence and the role of social, demographic, and environmental factors (USDOJ, OJP, 2000).

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