Five days a week, Melissa spends at least five hours a day talking on the phone with abused women in various levels of distress.
What does not vary, however, according to the hotline advocate for the Women Against Abuse 24-hour hotline, is the race of the women.
“There are all types of ethnicities and nationalities in the city,” she said, “but the overwhelming number of callers are Black.”
The shooting of African-American doctor Tamara O’Neal and several others by her ex-fiancé on Monday highlights the issue. O’Neal should have been safe at her job at Mercy Hospital & Medical Center in Chicago. But this didn’t prevent the man with whom she recently broke off her engagement from killing her, a police officer and pharmacist.
“Even at her own place of work she was not safe,” Melissa said.
The Centers for Disease Control reported in 2017 that “homicides occur in women of all ages and among all races/ethnicities, but young, racial/ethnic minority women are disproportionately affected.”
The CDC’s analysis of homicide data from 2003 to 2014 found that non-Hispanic Black women were murdered at a higher rate than any other race (4.4 out of every 100,000) and Native American women had the second highest incidence (4.3 per 100,000); white women were among the least likely to die at a partner’s hands (1.5 per 100,000).
Black women were more than twice as likely to be murdered by men than white women in 2016 (the most recent data available), according to a study from the Violence Policy Center.
The overwhelming majority of homicides of Black women by men in single-victim/single-offender incidents in 2016 in which the circumstances of the homicide could be identified were not related to a crime (84 percent), the study shows. And of those, two-thirds of the women were killed by men during an argument — most commonly with a gun.
Approximately 92 percent of the Black women killed in single-victim/single-offender incidents in 2016 were killed by Black men, the study shows. Of the Black women who knew their offenders, 58 percent were wives, common-law wives, ex-wives, girlfriends or ex-girlfriends of the offenders.
These numbers have remained fairly consistent over the past 18 years the Violence Policy Center has been including data specific to Black women in its report.
The murders most often were precipitated by jealousy and arguments, the CDC found.
And a 2017 report published by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research indicates:
More than four in 10 Black women experience physical violence from an intimate partner during their lifetimes. White women, Latinas and Asian/Pacific Islander women report lower rates.
Black women also experience significantly higher rates of psychological abuse — including humiliation, insults, name-calling and coercive control — than do women overall.
More than 20 percent of Black women are raped during their lifetimes, a higher share than among women overall.
There are a variety of possible contributing factors that come together and sometimes lead to deadly endings, said Philadelphia-based mental health therapist and wellness coach Rana Walker.
Black men are “disenfranchised and dehumanized” outside of the home and the only place that many can wield power is at home, which can lead to problems, Walker said.
Meanwhile, Black women are “raised to be mothers, sisters and caretakers who will stay in a situation, even when it might be detrimental to them to do so,” Walker said. “We believe in keeping the family unit together and what reigns supreme is we believe in the Black man and want to support and nurture him from potential to manifestation.”
Walker said there is no surefire means to prevent partner abuse.
However, she recommends counseling, which is available now both in person and online. She believes men, who represent the higher number of offenders, should look for “safe spaces” where they can work through issues collectively or as individuals.
“Men need to have places where they can be transparent about what they are feeling and what they are going though,” said Walker, who has conducted retreats for formerly incarcerated men that do just this. “If they can do this protected by a shield of confidentiality and be transparent, it can be beneficial.”
How to get help
While there is no cure for domestic violence, technology has put access to it in the palm of your hand. Here are four cellphone apps that can be helpful for battered women looking for help and assistance in dealing with or leaving — which is encouraged — an abusive relationship. Betterhelp ReGain MyTherapist Talkspace For those more comfortable with the traditional brick-and-mortar establishments, consider these standbys: Women Organized Against Rape (WOAR), 1617 John F. Kennedy Blvd., Suite # 100, 215-985-3333 Council for Relationships, 4025 Chestnut St., 215-382-6680