An estimated 56 percent of all abusers -- physical, mental and sexual -- are women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Black women are also becoming more violent in their relationships. Studies reveal that Black males experience intimate partner violence at a rate of 62 percent higher than that of white males, and that women initiate physical assaults on their partners as often as men do. Marquita Sutton made headlines after being charged with second-degree murder for stabbing her husband to death. Lei McDaniel was also in the news for the stabbing-death of her husband, Roosevelt Ealey She was also found guilty of second degree murder.
According to CBS News, Tyra Holmes and her husband Michael Holmes, got into a violent argument when she found text messages from other women on his cell phone. Tyra then went downstairs to get a butcher knife, rushed back upstairs to confront Michael. At some point, she claims she “blanked out.” Michael died at the hospital. One of the main issues that often go overlooked is the emotional state of Black women. A lot of Black women are hurting, and are not getting the emotional and mental health support that they need to be successful mothers and partners.
According to www.Blackwomenshealth.com, Black women seek mental health care less than White women; and, when they do seek it, do so later in life and at later stages of their illness. However, Black women are not totally to blame for the state of their mental health. There are a lot of women who simply aren’t aware of the resources that are available to them or they don’t meet the qualifications to get help. Many of them do not have the finances to pay for their mental health needs because some of them are single mothers with one income who are struggling to survive. Newsone.com states that 72 percent of Black children are raised in a single parent household.
Even though there are free resources in some areas, Black women are often pressured to take care of home and family first, and work 80 hours a week just to make ends meet. Many of them who do take advantage of free help aren’t always properly diagnosed, which exacerbates the problem. The other side to this story is that Many Black women who abuse learn to become abusive from their mothers or caretakers, or other influential figures and repeat the cycle. They have unconsciously adopted a dysfunctional pattern of thoughts or behaviors that they learned in their childhood and since many of them don’t get the proper help they need. They are expected to take on enormous responsibilities as wives, mothers and employees and are encouraged to be Superwoman, but it often comes at a price, and the consequences can be deadly.
A lot of people in the African-American community are taught that depression, bipolar disorder, and other mental health issues are something to be ashamed of, and that it is a personal weakness, so Black women suffer in silence, but their anger, rage, and fear often comes out in their relationships with their mates and children. According to the American Anthropological Association, more than 200 women a year kill their own children in the United States, and the cases with Black mothers seem to be increasing. According to newsone.com, Ebony Wilkerson, the mother who was accused of driving her three young kids into the Atlantic Ocean and fighting rescuers who were trying to save her children from the surf, may have been suffering from a mental disorder. Wilkerson is just one of hundreds of Black mothers who made national headlines for abusing or killing their children. According to nbcnews.com, Tonya Thomas fatally shot her four children, who ranged in age from 12 to 17, and killed herself, and Jacole Prince locked her 10-year-old child in a closet in their Kansas City apartment, not letting her out even to sleep or use the bathroom.
Prince allegedly acknowledged neglecting to feed her daughter daily and tying the door to her closet with shoe strings. Why are more Black women committing these heinous crimes? “There are many reasons why Black women become abusive. Some abusive women may suffer from a variety of aggression-causing mental illnesses such as borderline personality disorder, PTSD or schizophrenia. But one of the main issues is a lack of self-love and self-awareness. When a person struggles with low self-esteem, or don’t know who they truly are, they are usually unhappy, unable to truly love themselves and others, and are therefore unable to have healthy relationships. They often feel trapped and hopeless and don’t know who to trust or where to turn. They suffer from feelings of shame, guilt and an overall sense of helplessness.
Physical abuse and homicide, although tragic, is not the only kind of abuse that is affecting Black families. Verbal abuse is just as painful, and has long term emotional and psychological effects for victims. Some of the long-term effects from verbal abuse include low self-esteem, depression, and even suicide. According to sciencedaily.com, children who had been psychologically abused suffered from anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, symptoms of post-traumatic stress and suicidality at the same rate and, in some cases, at a greater rate than children who were physically or sexually abused.
Adult children also suffer the effects of verbal abuse. In recent news, celebrities and children of celebrities have been speaking out about their allegedly verbally abusive mothers. Jackie Christie's daughter, Chantel Christie, alleged that Jackie was verbally and emotionally abusive and wouldn't allow her ("the dark one") to pose in family portraits. Chantel also said that her mom allowed her to be homeless for 3 months.
In a candid interview with Necole Bitchie, rapper Azalia Banks revealed that her mom would hit them with bats, throw out food so that they wouldn’t have anything to eat, and that her mother would tell her that she was unattractive. The scars of verbal and physical abuse can last a lifetime. What can be done to heal the cycle of abuse that is present in many African American families?
The first step in healing any issue is being honest that a problem exists. A lot of people focus on male perpetrators, but women can also be violent and abusive. We must acknowledge that as a community. One of the most important things we need to do is educate more women on how to deal with stress, trauma, rage, and low self-esteem and provide free workshops and groups to people who cannot afford to get help. There should also be Internet classes and therapy sessions through Skype offered to women with busy schedules. This will help them obtain the knowledge they need to make different choices and not act out when they are angry. While education alone will not stop all women from becoming violent, especially if they suffer from mental illness, it will help give many women the tools they need to be better mothers and wives and stop the cycle of abuse and save thousands of lives in the process.
We also need to also change the language we speak in the Black community in regards to therapy. Getting therapy doesn’t mean that a person is crazy or weak. It means that people are taking full responsibility for their lives and are on the path to creating a successful and happy life. It actually takes a lot of courage to face your fears and get healed so women as well as men in the African American community need to be encouraged by the church, family, and friends to get the help that they need.
Vladimire Calixte is the owner of Life Rebuilding in New York, and the author of Naked and Transparent: Six Vital Tools for Knowing Yourself and Attracting Healthy Relationships. She has been featured in Here and Now with Sandra Bookman, Centric TV.com (BET Networks), Ebony Magazine, Hot 97 FM’s Street Soldiers with Lisa Evers, The Jennifer Keitt Show, and many others. Visit www.LifeRebuilding.com, or call (646) 470-2365 for more information.