Police Officers Less Likely To Give Support To Black Women Suffering Domestic Abuse
Black women experiencing domestic abuse are found to be less likely to receive support from police officers, according to new data from the charity Refuge.
Coming ahead of Black History Month in October, Refuge released findings gathered between March 2020 and June 2021 and looked at who was being referred to the charity for support after reporting domestic abuse to police.
Over the 16-month period, much of which England spend in lockdown, Black survivors of domestic abuse were found to be 3% more likely than white survivors to report the abuse they experienced to the police.
In spite of the higher likelihood of reporting, Black women were found 14% less likely to be referred to Refuge for support by police than white survivors of domestic abuse over the same time frame.
The data suggests police are ‘routinely failing Black women’, Refuge states in a release, explaining: ‘By not referring them to specialist domestic abuse services, the police are effectively cutting Black women off from a lifeline that is crucial for their safety.’
Refuge points out that police are often the first professional agency to be alerted to domestic abuse cases and as such have a ‘unique insight’ into what is taking place behind closed doors. The charity, which supports more than 7,000 women and children on any given day, argues that it is ‘crucial that the police refer survivors to specialist agencies’ so those affected can receive support.
The newly released findings also reveal Black women supported by Refuge during the pandemic were 3% more likely to have experienced physical abuse and 4% more likely to have experienced sexual abuse than white survivors of abuse, suggesting Black survivors are more likely to reach Refuge’s services when they are experiencing the most visible and extreme forms of abuse.
In turn, this may indicate they are not being taken as seriously when reporting more hidden forms of abuse, such as psychological and financial abuse.
Erica Osakwe, a Black woman who is a survivor of domestic abuse, drew on her own experience with police to highlight the issues of the findings, explaining: ‘One of the officers involved in my case immediately assumed that it was my [white] friend who’d come to report a crime. What does this say about how seriously the police take abuse against Black women?’
She continued: ‘My case was mishandled and delayed from the beginning, resulting in no charge being brought against my abuser. Nor did the police refer me for additional support to an organisation like Refuge, or even inform me that support is out there. The experience made me feel like my story wasn’t valid, like the police didn’t believe I was a victim.’
Ruth Davison, CEO of Refuge, has urged all agencies to ‘work better to protect Black women and ensure they are able to access support swiftly and easily’, and expressed support for the organisation Sistah Space, which has set up a campaign known as Valerie’s Law which would mandate culturally specific training for police officers.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, please know that you are not alone. You can talk in confidence 24 hours a day to the national domestic violence helpline Refuge on 0808 2000 247