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Domestic Violence: What You Need to Know And What You Can Do


October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a time to shine a light on violence against women — an urgent and preventable public health problem.

In the media and often in our minds, the faces of domestic violence survivors are women who are white or of European ancestry, middle-class, U.S.-born, heterosexual, and who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. However, domestic violence transcends racial, ethnic, religious, socioeconomic boundaries.

What do you need to know?

Domestic violence is a serious crime that occurs across all racial and ethnic groups. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women in the United States. It is a crime that particularly victimizes and disproportionately impacts all women (a fact has led many to use the human rights term “gender-based violence” to describe the gender inequality that is the foundation for power and control used in intimate partner violence), women of color and those who are most vulnerable.

More than 67 percent of women with physical and cognitive disabilities have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime. Married immigrant women experience higher levels of physical and sexual abuse than unmarried immigrant women, 60 percent compared to 50 percent. According to the CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, the prevalence of domestic violence varies by race and ethnicity:

  • Black women - four of every 10 (44 percent)
  • American Indian or Alaska Native women – four of every 10 (46 percent)
  • Hispanic women – one in three (37 percent)
  • White women – one in three (35 percent)
  • Asian or Pacific Islander women – one in five (20 percent)
  • Multiracial non-Hispanic women – one in two (54 percent)

Transgender people, people of color, gay men and people under 30 were most impacted by intimate partner violence, according to a report from the Anti-Violence Project.

Domestic violence has negative health effects. Women who experience domestic violence are twice as likely to have a chronic illness and five times more likely to have coronary heart disease as those who don’t. Experiencing domestic violence may also contribute to chronic neck, back and stomach problems, depressed mood, and feelings of worthlessness and anxiety.

A multi-layered approach is needed to end domestic violence in all marginalized communities People do not come with only one identity or issue. For example, a deaf trans woman of color cannot choose which part of her identity is most in need of assistance. We do a disservice to survivors when healing strategies do not address the “whole” person’s experience.

The best resources to reach marginalized populations are advocates and activists from those communities. We all benefit when the voices of the most vulnerable become central and lead efforts for collective healing.

What can you do?

  1. Speak about domestic violence as a human rights issue — gender-based violence that impacts across all identities.
  2. Educate yourself, family and friends about the issue.
  3. Get support. Talk to your health care provider about domestic violence.

Authored By:

  • Tonya Lovelace Davis, MA, chief executive officer, Women of Color Network, Inc. (WOCN)
  • Lina Juarbe Botella, senior director of programs, WOCN
  • Zoë Flowers, program manager, WOCN


Dutton, Mary; Leslye Orloff, and Giselle Aguilar Hass. “Characteristics of Help-Seeking Behaviors, Resources, and Services Needs of Battered Immigrant Latinas: Legal and Policy Implications.” Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law and Policy. 2000: 7(2).

The Anti-Violence Project. 2013 Report on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and HIV-affected Intimate Partner Violence . 2014.

National Center for PTSD. Intimate Partner Violence.


Patients and FamiliesPTSD


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