Black women are being killed at disproportionate rates compared to white women. They often know their offender, are in an intimate relationship with them, and are of the same race.
The Violence Policy Center (VPC) released their annual report titled, “When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2011 Homicide Data,” which contains shocking figures that place the Black community under a much-needed microscope.
The study covers year 2011 (the most recent year for which data is available) and homicides between one female murder victim, and one male offender using information from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
These findings boldly stand out in the report:
- 94% (415 of 443) of Black females killed in a single-victim, single- offender incident knew their killer
- 52% (216 of 415) of Black women who knew their offenders were wives, common-law wives, ex wives, or girlfriends of the offenders
- 93% (459 of 492) of the homicides of Black females were intra-racial
- Firearms, especially handguns, were the most common weapons used by males to murder Black females.
- In homicides where the age of the victim was reported, 12% of Black female victims were less than 18 years old (55 victims), and five percent were 65 years of age or older (22 victims). The average age of the female victims was 34 years of age.
- The vast majority of homicides of Black females murdered by males were unrelated to any other felony crime. Most often, Black females were killed during an argument.
This information brings a new perspective to cases like Marissa Alexander’s.
Alexander is the Black Florida woman who fired a warning shot during a fight with her estranged husband, Rico Gray, who had been previously arrested on charges of abusing her.
The shot, which rang out in the presence of Gray’s two children, did not harm anyone, but it did get Alexander an initial 20-year sentence after being convicted on three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon – and now with a July retrial pending, she could face up to 60 years.
Alexander maintains the defense that she was standing her ground.
As evidenced by the VPC report, more often than not, Black women are not surviving to tell their stories in cases like this—inside or outside of courts.
Awareness of the lack of adequate protection for Black women is not enough. There needs to be policies and laws in place to anchor the much-needed change.
“Many elected officials and community leaders are working tirelessly to reduce the toll of domestic violence,” said Kristen Rand, Violence Policy Center Legislative Director. “Yet despite these efforts, the numbers remain unacceptably high. We need new policies in place from local communities to the federal government to protect women from harm.”