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1 1 Introduction The Call I use myself as an example. I was dealing with the issues of being Black, a descendant of Black people that have been enslaved, being a person displaced from their country, dealing with incest of my dad, dealing with rape, with depression and suicide. How the hell are you supposed to get out from under? And you’re Black, too? And I think I had more variables than some Black women. For some people it’s easy to say maybe I deserved it, maybe I did wrong by fighting back, maybe I was too strong. . . . Or if you’re dealing with the issues, you’re also trying to raise kids, and the kids become the priority instead of you. You don’t even take a chance to heal because you’re too busy taking care of everybody else. And that’s what you’re supposed to do, somebody says. I think for Black women it’s harder. They deal with imaginary expectations as well as real expectations. —Lola, age 42 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. The motivational speaker Debrena Jackson Gandy describes this as the Strong Black Woman Syndrome. The syndrome is steeped in the historically powerful images of the Mammy or the Matriarch who “was the nurturer, ‘the omnipotent caregiver,’ the always-listening ear, the ‘everlasting arm.’ . . . She was the Rock of Gibraltar, the Strong Black Woman who constantly gave out love, attention, and affection but who didn’t ask for it, appear to 2 Introduction need it, or require it in return.”2 This image of the Strong Black Woman is a misleading notion that permeates the lives of many present-day Black women. Indeed, many Black women have strength, resiliency, and other tenacious and laudable qualities (as do countless other women); however, to continue to accept this stereotype of Black women, without question, overlooks the real challenges of their life struggles and needs for assistance . This is particularly troubling when considering intimate partner abuse3 in the lives of Black women. Often, Black women enduring intimate partner abuse forgo their right to be free of endangerment and harm by internalizing this identity of the Strong Black Woman.4 Consequently, the welfare of even the most resilient woman can be compromised as a result of intimate partner abuse.5 Although survey research and arrest records indicate that the number of battered Black women is relatively large,6 battered Black women as a group are often obscured and ignored because of their race, gender, class, and victim statuses. Black women who endure abuse by their intimate partners are often invisible to the general public (conceivably because of the racialized and gendered priorities of news media outlets) or are further victimized by institutions that are intended to assist battered women. When official entities have intervened, ostensibly on behalf of these women, they have frequently relied on biased beliefs and often caused more harm than good. Intimate partner abuse against Black women has also been ignored or discounted within the communities from which these women originate. Blacks in the United States have many focal points in their struggle for equality, including inadequate access to suitable housing, health care, and education; underemployment and poverty; substance abuse and high rates of HIV/AIDS; and excessive police contact, criminal prosecution, and imprisonment—all of which tend to be the result of historical and contemporary race and class discrimination. However, violence against women is not often deemed a high priority within the Black community. Even though intimate partner abuse has been addressed by several Black feminist scholars and novelists (such as Patricia Hill Collins, Angela Y. Davis, bell hooks, Toni Morrison, Beth Richie, and Alice Walker),7 Black leaders have seemingly ignored this epidemic.8 In discussing the lack of interest within the Black community, Marcia Smith argued, in a 1997 article in The Nation, that “Putting domestic violence on the front burner would allow the community to rally all the troops for the tough battles ahead. Failure to do so not only abandons the women who must live Introduction 3 with violence every day, but undermines families, communities, and political solidarity.”9 Given that women of color do not always experience racism in the same ways that their male counterparts do and that the experience...


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