By Charreah Jackson, NNPA Special Correspondent
April 30, 2007
(NNPA) – As students around the country prepare for graduation, Black women who walk across the stage and receive college degrees become 145 times more likely to suffer sexual, domestic or other abuse than those who did not finish high school, according to a recent study.
“When a woman makes more money, it is already known she is at a higher risk for abuse. What I had not expected was the intensity of my findings,” says University of Arkansas Assistant professor Kameri Christy-McMullin. “It shocked me to find a number like 145.”
Christy-McMullin analyzed data from the 1999 U.S. Census and the U.S. Bureau of Justice on economic resources, education, race and abuse in her dissertation study published last year.
The study included data compiled from more than 55,000 Black, White and Hispanic women and took two years to complete. Of the Black women, eight percent had college degrees leading Christy-McMullin to conclude those who were educated found little comfort in society when they were abused.
“Our society doesn’t do a good job of embracing and integrating different groups into the workforce and education,” she said. “Stereotypes of African-American women feeds to a lack of support so they have less resources as well in situations like abuse.”
Ninety percent of the patients at Adolescent and Family Counseling Specialists in Silver Spring, Md., the private practice of Shane Perrault, Ph.D. are Black. Many of his patients are college educated women in their 20s and early 30s.
“A lot of the abuse I encounter is emotional abuse and not as much physical,” Perrault says. “Sometimes they don’t recognize what they are going through as abuse and I clearly see it as abuse.”
In the U.S. Census data Christy-McMullin studied, women were asked specific questions, like if they had been hit or choked, instead of being asked right out if they were abused. From that information they were categorized of whether encountering 41 different abusive behaviors including sexual, emotional and physical.
One reason offered for the major increase of the likelihood of college-educated Black women being abused sexually, among others, is the backlash theory. It states that as women become more successful outside of the home, men become abusive due to resentment of their move outside of the traditional roles of women.
Christy-McMullin says as women take on more leadership roles the backlash theory will hold less relevance. Therefore, she stresses that the key to behavior reform is better education becoming accessible to all cl*!@$%&**!@$%&**!@$ %&*es and races.
Another resolution in the Black community will be greater communication about domestic violence and other abuses. The issue of abuse is often not discussed in the Black community, which Perrault says is the first step to lowering the abuse rates for educated Black women and all women.
The fight for respect, should not be only left up to the women, says Christy-McMullin.
“Men need to step up to the plate,” she says. “When they start challenging each other as we have seen in other countries, and holding each other accountable we will see big changes.”
Abuse of women, Black and White, has a long history throughout the ages, Perrault points out, therefore, with or without a degree, women should never blame themselves.
“Before you had Women’s Suffrage, you had abuse,” Perrault says. “This problem stems way back so a woman getting a degree is not the problem. The problem is abusive behavior of their partners, not the women.”
Charreah Jackson is a writer for the Capstone News Service.