The high toll gun violence exacts on black males is all too well known. Less known is the fact that black women also face a disproportionate risk of lethal violence.
That's what we found in a new study released by my organization, the Violence Policy Center, for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Using data from the FBI's unpublished Supplementary Homicide Report, we found that black women are murdered by men at a rate more than two and a half times higher than white women.
In 2011, the most recent year for which such data is available, black females were murdered by males at a rate of 2.61 per 100,000 in single victim/single offender incidents. For white women, the rate was 0.99 per 100,000.
To understand these numbers, here are some important facts to keep in mind. First, the primary risk of violence does not come from strangers. Ninety-four percent of black women were murdered by someone they knew (a proportion that is equally high for white women).
And the vast majority of homicides of black females were not related to any other felony crime. Most often, they were killed in the course of an argument. In cases where the circumstances could be identified, 87 percent were not related to the commission of any other felony.
If not strangers, then who are the killers? At least half of the murders were a result of domestic violence. Among the black female victims who knew their offenders, 52 percent were wives, common-law wives, ex-wives, or girlfriends. Also, 93 percent of the homicides were intra-racial.
Gun violence plays a predominant role in homicides among black women. When the murder weapon could be identified, 51 percent of black female victims were shot and killed with a gun. Within that group, 82 percent were shot and killed with a handgun.
That's why women tempted to buy a gun for their self-protection should know that guns aren't the answer to domestic violence. In fact, several studies have found that having a gun in the home actually increases a woman's chance of being murdered. For African Americans as well as other women, guns are used not to save lives but to take them.
We should not sit back and accept a society where black women face a higher chance of getting killed. Women should be aware of resources that are available to help them escape domestic violence situations. And we simply cannot wait any longer before we pass effective laws to stop our national epidemic of gun violence.
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