Gender-Based Violence against Black Women

U.S. Historical Context

Gender-based violence against Black women has always existed in the US. From historical accounts of chatell slavery to analyses of present day society, Black women have endured multiples forms of violence including labor (Hartman, 1997; National Partnership for Women and Families), sexual (Collins, 2006; Donovan & Williams, 2008), and medical (Owens, 2017; DEPO Provera: Deadly reproductive violence against women) exploitation.

Gender-based violence against Black women is normalized by a range of controlling images, created by dominant groups since slavery, that portray Black women as strong, dedicated, assexul, and submissive servants (mammy and Black lady), overly aggressive, unfeminine and bad mothers (matriarch), lazy and economic drains on state resources (welfare mother, welfare queen) as well as hypersexual and gold diggers (jezebel and “hoochie”) (Collins, 2000; 5 controlling images that affect Black women). These controlling images have been used to control

  • black women’ sexuality and fertility as well as their participation in the larger society
  • blame Black women for social inequalities that impact them and Black communities
  • dismiss the role of structures in creating and perpetuating social inequalities
  • preserve power in the hands of white elite
  • and, justify the violence Black women are subjected to in different aspects of their lives

Black women have always engaged–individually and collective–in efforts to resist, survive and live in spite of structural and experiential gender-based violence. Drawing from research and the work of community organizations, we present information on Black women’s experiences with domestic violence, sexual abuse, workplace harrassment, state-sanctioned violence, reproductive health and healing to discuss the ways in which gender-based violence against Black women is ingrained in the everyday happenings of US society as well as to highlight Black women’s resistance.

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