Doctors' Notes

Domestic Violence in the Black Community

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Welcome to Doctors’ Notes, our newest contribution from Urban Health correspondents (and husband and wife) physicians Dr. Rob and Dr. Karla Robinson.  The dynamic duo will be fielding questions about health, as it relates to African Americans.  Please feel free to send them questions via digitalpitches@ebony.comWe promise to keep it anonymous. 


We dare to say that the ongoing controversy surrounding the infamous Ray Rice video has at least one silver lining- it has started the much needed conversation about domestic violence in the Black community. Regardless of which side of the fence you may find yourself in placing blame, the fact is that domestic abuse is more common than you may think. Unfortunately, most stats also show that the rates of abuse in our community are significantly higher than in other groups.

Approximately 1.5 million women are victims of physical abuse in this country and an estimated 1 in 4 women will experience some form of partner violence in their lifetime, according to The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Domestic violence is defined as behavior in a relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.  While often times used to referred to physical violence, abuse can also be in the form of sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions.  This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound another person.

If you haven’t discussed this with any teens in your life, you should. Studies show that this pattern of abuse often begins early on, with teenagers being affected at alarming rates.  Physical or sexual abuse is estimated to occur in 1 of 3 high school relationships, according to

While many have questioned why Janay Rice went on to marry someone who abused her, we know that this is not unusual. We don’t know her reason why, but victims of abuse can often feel “trapped” and continue to remain in the abusive relationship for extended periods of time.  This is often seen at much higher rates in our community as compared to abused women in other groups.

While 85 percent of domestic violence victims are women, this is not an issue limited to women.  Studies show that Black males experience intimate partner violence at a rate of 62 percent higher than that of White males.  While not commonly discussed, women initiate physical assaults on their partners as often as men do.

These statistics are sobering considering most domestic violence goes unreported.  It is estimated that less than 20 percent of African-American domestic violence victims report their abuse to their police and criminal charges are often never sought.  We’ve all got to do our part to break the cycle of abuse that threatens the family unit in our community.

For support and more information please visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline at or call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)/TTY 1-800-787-3224.


It’s a health thing…we’ve got to understand!

About the Doctors: Dr. Karla and Dr. Rob are the founders of Urban Housecall, a multimedia health and wellness resource, and also hosts of the Urban Housecall Radio Show.  For more from the doctors, visit their website at, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter @urbanhousecall!