By Anissa Durham | Word In Black

from left to right is Christina Jones, Genoa Barrow, and Angela Lee

(WIB) – ‘What happens in this house, stays in this house’ — that’s a saying most Black families are used to hearing. But when it comes to domestic violence in our community, this statement can leave folks stuck in abusive relationships.  

That’s why in an October 26 Twitter Space discussion, “Stop Domestic Violence in the Black Community,” we took a deep dive into addressing stigma, the justice system, and holding our community accountable to see how we can put an end to domestic violence and heal from its generational wounds.  

Our panel included former prosecutor Christina Jones, who is now the Chief Executive of External Relations for the Battered Women’s Justice Project; Angela Lee, the director of Love is Respect, a project of The National Domestic Violence Hotline; and Genoa Barrow, the senior staff reporter at The Sacramento Observer

“We can’t arrest or prosecute our way out of this problem.”

CHRISTINA JONES, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF EXTERNAL RELATIONS FOR THE BATTERED WOMENS JUSTICE PROJECT.

As a Black woman and former prosecutor, Jones said adding more laws may adversely affect and impact those from historically marginalized communities. But, she said the justice system can do a better job of enforcing the laws to protect women who are in domestically abusive relationships.  

Still, it’s not all on the justice system, Jones said. Our community has to do a better job of holding itself accountable, starting with the household, our family, and our friends.

Lee, who has worked on the front lines of The National Domestic Violence Hotline, said it’s crucial to recognize domestic violence can happen to anyone — and it’s happening more and more to our youth.  

“The earlier we intervene, the earlier we can end domestic violence. I think it’s important for storytelling and to hear stories from survivors, it’s important for us to address the laws that protect (people).”  

ANGELA LEE, DIRECTOR OF LOVE IS RESPECT A PROJECT OF THE NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE.

A common theme throughout the discussion was how current laws and policies do not recognize certain kinds of domestic abuse, like emotional abuse. Lee said by the time emotional abuse escalates, “someone has been killed or seriously hurt.”  

“We believe what the survivor says, we believe what the caller or the contact says, and we try to offer as much support whether that shows in the form of resources,” they said about the NDVH. “In the Black community, saying call the police is not always the best option — so we have to make sure we are listening and also addressing the issue … to make sure we’re fitting their needs.” 

Barrow extensively reported on a series of stories on domestic violence this summer. Her article A World Of Hurt: The Link Between Domestic Violence And Community Gun Violence, examined how abusers with domestic violence charges end up killing their partners through gun violence. 

“Folks are still largely minimizing domestic violence, what it is, who is impacted by it, and oftentimes we see even when you get the folks that do these shootings, they may get them on domestic violence charges … but by the time it gets to the end of the case those charges have been dropped and pleaded away,” she said.  

During our segment on solutions to end domestic violence in the Black community, all panelists acknowledged a lot of work to be done.  

Some simple steps can include communicating with our loved ones, reaching out for resources, believing those in our community who are saying they are being abused, and learning healthier patterns of behavior. In addition, Lee said education is fundamental to helping folks understand what appropriate behavior is and what is harmful. 

“We need to get to the root. I think the root of it is how we view what’s wrong and what’s right,” Barrow said.  

Listen to the entire conversation on why we need to stop domestic violence in the Black community on our Soundcloud, and read Durham’s series on domestic violence, The Hidden Form of Domestic Violence and We Keep Failing Black Victims of Domestic Violence.