A Painful Dilemma
Do you feel trapped between an abusive relationship and the feeling that you will betray your community if you report domestic violence or try to get help? Have you tried to get help only to find that you weren't taken seriously or were discriminated against instead of supported? Is it difficult to find services that respect your beliefs and culture? Do you feel conflicted about how to balance wanting to end the abuse with your spiritual traditions and teachings? Do economic realities make it seem impossible to leave an abusive relationship? These are some of the concerns African American victims whom we have talked to and worked with have told us are very important to them.
You are not alone. We are here to provide information and support as you explore your options. There is no one choice or decision that is right for everyone - and only you can decide what is right for you. Whatever your decisions, there are steps that can help to increase your safety and there are community resources that may help.
The Double Bind
Racism has played a historical role in how African American men have been treated by the criminal justice system. African American men for example are seven times more likely to be incarcerated than Caucasian men. Involving the criminal justice system may bring up concerns that you could be subjecting a loved one to police brutality or a long prison sentence. Convictions and jail time can further complicate matters by making it harder for men to find jobs or support their families after they get out. Family and friends may tell you that involving the police would mean betraying your community. The decision as to whether you should involve the police or criminal justice system can be a difficult one to make. Please keep in mind how important your safety and your children's safety is - and your right to respectful and healthy relationships.
Ujima is the third Kwanzaa principal and means Collective Work and Responsibility. It stands for a renewal of efforts to build and maintain the community while working with others to solve problems.
Domestic Violence Center's Ujima Program provides free, confidential services to African Amercian women and children who are living with violence and abuse or who have left an abusive relationship and are in need of support. The culturally specific programs include support groups, safety planning, crisis intervention, advocacy, information and referrals, while seeking to build healthy relationships. Ujima also offers training and technical assistance to organizations seeking to create educational or support groups in their communities.
There are 3 core services in Ujima which include:
- Support groups or Help in Starting a Support group - confidential weekly peer-based professionally led support groups which provide women with support and information, reducing the isolation that many women feel.
- Education and support with Re-entry focus - Many women who are currently incarcerated report histories of domestic violence and abusive relationships. Following incarceration, with the great challenges that often follow, women are at an especially high risk of re-establishing abusive relationships and/or repeating past patterns in new relationships. Ujima provides domestic violence support and education groups in several Ohio prisons. Advocacy, education and support are also provided for women reconnecting with the community following incarceration.
- Community Education and Speaker's Bureau - Professional training and community awareness programs on domestic violence for human service agencies, law enforcement, medical professionals and businesses. Public presentations for community groups, schools, churches and organizations who wish to increase their awareness of domestic violence.
For more information on DVCAC's Ujima program, please contact Victoria Grant, Ujima Project Coordinator at 216-688-7280.
Some Facts about Domestic Violence in the African American Community
In a national survey, 29% of African American women and 12% of African American men reported at least one instance of violence from an intimate partner ( Tjaden & Thoennes 2000). African Americans are the victims of 1/3 of the domestic homicides in the United States each year. African Americans have a domestic violence homicide rate four times that of whites (Greenfield et al 2001). Higher rates of domestic violence in the African American Community are strongly related to higher levels of poverty and economic oppression. When income and neighborhood characteristics are controlled for, racial differences in domestic violence rates are much lower. (Hampton et al 2004). African American victims of domestic violence were more likely to be killed by their partner if there had been incidents in which the partner had used or threatened to use a weapon on her and/or the partner has tried to choke or strangle her (Jenkins, Block, & Campbell 2004). Domestic violence often re-occurs. A study of African American victims of domestic violence founds that in about half of the cases physical violence did not happen again - however, over 1/3 of women participating in the study reported one or more further incidents of severe domestic violence in the same year and one in six reported at least one less severe act of domestic violence (Jenkins, Block, & Campbell 2004).
Historically, the African American Church has been the rock of our community, a place of refuge where important issues are addressed. Understandably your church may be the first place you think of turning for help. Many victims of domestic violence find the strength they need to make difficult decisions about abusive relationships through the support of their church. Domestic violence can be a complicated situation. If you are a victim of domestic violence and are thinking about talking with someone in your church here are some things to consider.
Some spiritual leaders or advisers do not fully understand domestic violence and its impact. Experience working with both victims and abusers has shown that couple's counseling is not a safe or effective way to end abusive behavior in a relationship. If you speak up about what is going on you run the risk of facing more violence or abuse once you leave the safety of the counseling office. If you keep quite there can be no honest, open dialogue and no real picture of what is going on. Before there can be couple's counseling the abuser needs his own counseling where he can work on changing his attitudes and behaviors. You many also be interested in your own counseling as you try to cope with and process your experiences. While wanting to fix things is normal remember you can't do his changing for him. Before disclosing your abuse make sure your information will be kept confidential Ask your pastor if they have had training in the area of domestic violence.
Within the Cleveland area there are several African American Churches that have been trained on how to respond to a victim of domestic violence. If you would like a list of churches, please contact Victoria Grant, Ujima Project Coordinator at 216-688-7280.