Hidden in the footnotes section of Bené Viera’s 2011 blog post, “The Faces of Domestic Violence Part I,” she writes, “I never referred to myself as a victim of domestic violence. It actually took me five years to even write about this incident because of how ashamed and stupid I felt. I also never wanted people to feel sorry for me. Or worse, say I deserved it.”
I met Bené three years after she wrote this post, sitting across from her at Erica Nichole’s Bloggers’ Brunch back in August. I’ve always admired Bené as a woman and writer—amazed by her ability to be frank, authentic and confident in her words. She is the kind of writer you feel like you know personally just from reading her work—something that is just as beautiful for a reader as it is unnerving for the writer. But, she is the kind of woman with piles of life buried in her arsenal. So is Erica. They both have that uncanny ability as writers to smack a whip of reality on the reader and also give that reader a verbal cup of tea as if to say, “Make yourself at home and stay awhile.”
So, when I struggled with how to begin Part 3 of The War on Black Women’s Bodies—The Battle for Recovery: Domestic Violence, I turned to Bené’s resonant voice and I invited Erica to co-write this piece with me. After writing the first two parts which drew largely upon my own experiences as a woman, I knew I had to trust the freedom songs of other women. I knew I had to uplift their narratives. The more research I dug through, the more I realized the narratives of the women who survived are plentiful, but there are also so many women who have not lived to tell their stories. A recent report by the Violence Policy Center cited that in 2011, black women were murdered at a rate two and half times higher than that of their white counterparts (2.61 per 100,000 as opposed to 0.99 per 100,000.) The report also stated that of black victims who knew their offenders, 52 percent (216 out of 415) were wives, ex-wives or girlfriends of the offenders.
Media has catapulted domestic violence to the front and center of a national conversation, but that is not where this conversation deserves to begin or end. In Part 3, I have chosen to look at media’s biased portrayal of domestic violence and how that same portrayal shifts completely when seen through the lens of the victim. We’ll hear from one woman who has become my lifeblood about her own experience surviving domestic violence and becoming brave enough to spill her truth on the page. We’ll also look at how the pervasive culture of violence in the black community coupled with a grave mistrust of police intervention sabotages many victims’ chances of surviving.
Next page: Media Tilts Its Portrayal of Domestic Violence