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Battle Cries

Black Women and Intimate Partner Abuse

Hillary Potter

Publication Year: 2008

Contrary to the stereotype of the “strong Black woman,” African American women are more plagued by domestic violence than any other racial group in the United States. In fact, African American women experience intimate partner violence at a rate 35% higher than white women and about two and a half times more than women of other races and ethnicities. This common portrayal can hinder black women seeking help and support simply because those on the outside don't think help is needed. Yet, as Hillary Potter argues in Battle Cries: Black Women and Intimate Partner Abuse, this stereotype often helps these African American women to resist and to verbally and physically retaliate against their abusers. Thanks to this generalization, Potter observes, black women are less inclined to label themselves as "victims" and more inclined to fight back.

Battle Cries is an eye-opening examination of African American women's experiences with intimate partner abuse, the methods used to contend with abusive mates, and the immediate and enduring consequences resulting from the maltreatment. Based on intensive interviews with 40 African American women abused by their male partners, Potter's analysis takes into account variations in their experiences based on socioeconomic class, education level, and age, and discusses the common abuses and perceptions they share. Combining her remarkable findings with black feminist thought and critical race theory, Potter offers a unique and significant window through which we can better understand this understudied though rampant social problem.

Published by: NYU Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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p. vii


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pp. ix-x

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1. Introduction: The Call

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pp. 1-10

Popular rhetoric often portrays Black1 women as being strong, independent, and resilient. Although these are seemingly positive qualities to possess, they also have the potential to stereotype Black women in ways that can restrict their seeking help or needed support. ...

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2. Black Feminist Criminology and the Power of Narrative: “I Just Wanted to Tell My Story”

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pp. 11-26

Billie is a 42-year-old who has remained in the same western U.S. city and lived in low-income status her entire life. Although she has completed some formal vocational training, she left high school in her final year and throughout her life has maintained sporadic employment. ...

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3. Dynamic Resistance: “I’m a Strong Black Woman!”

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pp. 27-55

Beginning in her formative years, Billie was faced with a multitude of circumstances that she had to regularly resist. These battles not only included the intimate partner abuse she endured during adulthood but involved events during childhood that included combating child abuse by...

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4. Surviving Childhood“: I Learned to Stand up for Myself ”

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pp. 56-80

Medea endured a distressing childhood filled with abandonment and mental abuse by her parents. She did not feel that she fit in anywhere, whether it was in her home among her family or at school with her peers. As a result, Medea acknowledged, “I learned to stand up for myself.” ...

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5. Living Through It: “He Made Me Believe He Was Something He Wasn’t”

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pp. 81-114

After Billie quit high school and left her mother’s home, she had dreams of returning to school to earn her diploma and romantic hopes of falling in love. However, it was not long after leaving her mother’s home that she became pregnant with her first child and found it difficult to survive. ...

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6. Fighting Back: “You Want to Fight? We Gonna Fight!”

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pp. 115-137

By the time Medea and her abusive husband, Henry, were approximately five years into their relationship, they were sleeping in separate rooms and Medea was already seriously contemplating getting a divorce. During their relationship, Medea called the police on a regular...

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7. Getting Out: “We Have to Pray to God and Hope Everything Works Out”

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pp. 138-186

As Billie progressed through her abusive relationships, her dynamic resistance, sowed in her childhood, continued to build. She found it easier to resist the relationships and ultimately found that “Basically, if you just stand up to ’em, stop being such a wimp, stop letting this man do this...

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8. Conclusion: The Response

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pp. 187-206

During my time spent with Billie, her daughter, Nia, was present throughout the entire interview. Nia was generally quiet during the three-hour discussion but did interject periodically. Even though she knew much of her mother’s story—and lived some of it—I was aware that some of...

Appendix A: Research Methods and Demographics of the Women

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pp. 207-225

Appendix B: Pseudonyms and Demographic Information

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pp. 227-228


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pp. 229-247


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pp. 249-267


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pp. 269-273

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About the Author

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p. 275

Hillary Potter is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780814768471
E-ISBN-10: 0814768474
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814767290
Print-ISBN-10: 081476729X

Page Count: 295
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 647699960
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Battle Cries

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Intimate partner violence -- United States -- Case studies.
  • African American women -- Abuse of -- Case studies.
  • Abused women -- United States -- Case studies.
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