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Why Do Black Lesbians Keep Quiet About Domestic Violence?

One in three women living with a same-sex partner has suffered domestic violence. Why aren't women of color speaking up?
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According to The Advocate, 35.4% of women living with a same-sex partner have experienced domestic abuse or Inter-Personal Violence (IPV), but many black women are often so intimidated by political, cultural and racial factors that they don’t feel safe reporting their abuse.

What are these factors, and how can anti-domestic violence coalitions account for them?


Police have a history of murdering black women.

Sandra Bland. Rekia Boyd. Korryn Gaines. Yvette Smith. Tanisha Anderson. The list of black women killed by the police grows longer every day – and many victims were not committing crimes at the time of their murder. Rekia Boyd was standing next to a man holding a cell phone; police assumed the cell phone was a gun, shot at the man, and accidentally killed her instead.

For that reason, black women are hesitant to call the police on an abusive partner. Police could kill the partner – or even the woman who made the call.

Furthermore, just because a woman calls the police doesn’t mean the police will believe her. Police often don’t take same-sex cases IPV seriously. How can a woman hurt another woman?


The church teaches that homosexuality is an abomination.

Many black queer women raised in church have been told, at some point in their lives, that homosexuals will burn in hell.

When a religious woman comes out of the closet, she loses the support of her church and her internalized homophobia intensifies. If she becomes a victim of domestic violence, she may believe that it’s her punishment for being homosexual. If she were straight, after all, her girlfriend would not be abusing her.


Black women don’t want to fuel racism.

Black people are stigmatized as being lazy, poor, unintelligent, violent and criminal. Many black women believe that if they report domestic violence, they will prove these stereotypes true.

The white gaze is strong and judgmental. Black people don’t have the luxury of being an individual – one misstep allows white people to judge their entire community. That’s why black communities are notoriously private about HIV, AIDs, domestic violence, and mental illness; they’re private not to avoid fixing these problems, but to avoid facing constant judgment.


Black women need a safe space.

For black Americans, racism is a daily struggle. They’re stopped and frisked while walking in their own neighborhoods. They’re glared at or ignored by taxi drivers, store clerks and waitresses. They can be followed around a store, even if they have a six-figure salary and a white teenager is shoplifting one aisle over. They open their newsfeed to read the names of three more black people killed by the police. They deposit their checks, aware of the fact that they make 25% less than a white man doing the same job.

For black women, home is the safe space. It’s one of few places where they can be themselves separate from the pressures of the outside world.

If a queer black woman reports domestic violence, then she will lose that safe space – evenings will be spent filling out police reports, trying to convince people to believe her story, sleeping on friends’ couches, and possibly being separated from her children. Not to mention, if an abused woman has no choice but to move back in with her girlfriend afterward, then the abuse might be even worse than it was before since the abuser knows she can get away with it.

Instead, it’s easier for a black woman to keep her head down and hope for her evenings to pass uneventfully. Under the current system, it’s easier to deal with a black eye than it is to upend her entire life.


With these factors in mind, anti-IPV organizations need to make resources easily accessible to LGBT victims of color. Black women need to know that they can report violence without police intervention, they need to be able to access counselling, they need to be able to work with advocates of color to avoid racism and stigma, and they need to know that they have a safe space with these organizations.

For more information, visit Gay Star News.

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Author
J. Marie graduated from Duke University with a degree in International Relations and dreams of being a creative writer--dreams she's now realizing as a musical theatre writer in NYC. She's passionate about global black identities, black representation in media, and leather-bound notebooks. She also loves backpacking through a new country at a moment's notice, and speaks Spanish, Swahili and Standard Arabic.

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