Black Domestic Violence Survivors Are Criminalized From All Directions

Domestic violence survivors are one of the most criminalized groups of women in the United States. A Department of Justice report found that more than half of women in jails and prisons were victims of abuse prior to incarceration.

Trans women of color also face disproportionate rates of violence and incarceration. People who are transgender are 1.9 times more likely to experience domestic violence than other people in the LGBTQ community. Instead of receiving help and protection, they often experience further violence at the hands of police, including harassment and arrest. Trans women are more likely to experience violence when interacting with the police after a domestic violence incident.

When women have no choice but to injure or kill an abusive partner to save their own lives, they are punished for it.

Research by both the NY Department of Corrections and a California state prison concluded that the majority of women incarcerated for killing someone close to them had been abused by that person. In fact, the California study found that an astronomical 93 percent of women convicted of killing an intimate partner had been abused by that partner. Black women are three times more likely to die at the hands of a current or former partner and are also disproportionately criminalized for survival strategies and defending themselves.

Mandatory arrest policies for domestic violence police calls have not only led to more women being arrested, but devastatingly for Black women in particular, increased likelihood of being killed by the abusive partner. A Milwaukee Domestic Violence Experiment study found that among African-American victims, arrest increased mortality by 98 percent, while among white victims, mortality increased 9 percent.

Clearly, our predominant system for “helping” victims of domestic violence, which relies on police, courts and prisons, isn’t actually helping them. To make things worse, when women have no choice but to injure or kill an abusive partner to save their own lives, they are punished for it. The following three women’s stories are illustrative of how the criminal legal system heaps further violence on survivors of domestic violence who defend themselves.

Read the entire article by Tasasha Henderson in Truthout.org here.

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