Battle Cries

Battle Cries: Black Women and Intimate Partner Abuse

Hillary Potter
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 295
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  • Book Info
    Battle Cries
    Book Description:

    Contrary to the stereotype of the strong Black woman, African American women are more plagued by domestic violence than any other racial group in the United States. In fact, African American women experience intimate partner violence at a rate 35% higher than white women and about two and a half times more than women of other races and ethnicities. This common portrayal can hinder black women seeking help and support simply because those on the outside don't think help is needed. Yet, as Hillary Potter argues in Battle Cries: Black Women and Intimate Partner Abuse, this stereotype often helps these African American women to resist and to verbally and physically retaliate against their abusers. Thanks to this generalization, Potter observes, black women are less inclined to label themselves as "victims" and more inclined to fight back.Battle Cries is an eye-opening examination of African American women's experiences with intimate partner abuse, the methods used to contend with abusive mates, and the immediate and enduring consequences resulting from the maltreatment. Based on intensive interviews with 40 African American women abused by their male partners, Potter's analysis takes into account variations in their experiences based on socioeconomic class, education level, and age, and discusses the common abuses and perceptions they share. Combining her remarkable findings with black feminist thought and critical race theory, Potter offers a unique and significant window through which we can better understand this understudied though rampant social problem.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6847-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 Introduction: The Call
    (pp. 1-10)

    Popular rhetoric often portrays Black1 women as being strong, independent, and resilient. Although these are seemingly positive qualities to possess, they also have the potential to stereotype Black women in ways that can restrict their seeking help or needed support. The motivational speaker Debrena Jackson Gandy describes this as the Strong Black Woman Syndrome. The syndrome is steeped in the historically powerful images of the Mammy or the Matriarch who “was the nurturer, ‘the omnipotent caregiver,’ the always-listening ear, the ‘everlasting arm.’ . . . She was the Rock of Gibraltar, the Strong Black Woman who constantly gave out love,...

  5. 2 Black Feminist Criminology and the Power of Narrative: “I Just Wanted to Tell My Story”
    (pp. 11-26)

    Billie is a 42-year-old who has remained in the same western U.S. city and lived in low-income status her entire life. Although she has completed some formal vocational training, she left high school in her final year and throughout her life has maintained sporadic employment. Billie experienced abuse from a number of family members during her upbringing, including her mother, a brother, an aunt, and her grandmother. During adulthood, she has encountered four abusive heterosexual intimate relationships, including that with her current common-law husband, Odell, whose main form of abuse is mental and verbal. Billie began abusing alcohol and other...

  6. 3 Dynamic Resistance: “I’m a Strong Black Woman!”
    (pp. 27-55)

    Beginning in her formative years, Billie was faced with a multitude of circumstances that she had to regularly resist. These battles not only included the intimate partner abuse she endured during adulthood but involved events during childhood that included combating child abuse by her mother, sexual molestation by her brother, and teasing by other school children because of her low-income class status. As she aged, Billie had to deal with recurrent financial stress, the authority of the criminal justice system, employment discrimination because of her arrest record, her alcohol and cocaine abuse, and physical health problems. She summed up her...

  7. 4 Surviving Childhood: “I Learned to Stand up for Myself”
    (pp. 56-80)

    Medea endured a distressing childhood filled with abandonment and mental abuse by her parents. She did not feel that she fit in anywhere, whether it was in her home among her family or at school with her peers. As a result, Medea acknowledged, “I learned to stand up for myself.” Medea’s poor treatment by several of her family members left an indelible mark on her and, in retrospect, helped her understand how she came to be in abusive relationships and her resulting responses to the intimate partner abuse:

    Using my relationship with my father as a filter, I could understand...

  8. 5 Living Through It: “He Made Me Believe He Was Something He Wasn’t”
    (pp. 81-114)

    After Billie quit high school and left her mother’s home, she had dreams of returning to school to earn her diploma and romantic hopes of falling in love. However, it was not long after leaving her mother’s home that she became pregnant with her first child and found it difficult to survive. She was living in a government-funded housing development and receiving government subsidies when she met her first husband. Billie’s desire to be swept away from “the projects” by a man who was holding stable employment, “made a lot of money,” and would be a father to her toddler,...

  9. 6 Fighting Back: “You Want to Fight? We Gonna Fight!”
    (pp. 115-137)

    By the time Medea and her abusive husband, Henry, were approximately five years into their relationship, they were sleeping in separate rooms and Medea was already seriously contemplating getting a divorce. During their relationship, Medea called the police on a regular basis to intervene in Henry’s battering toward her. Sadly, the police in the Caribbean town where Medea resided were especially indifferent to woman battering. After what was to be the final battering incident, the police responded but left soon after. Later that evening, Medea took it upon herself to prevent any future battering by Henry:

    I waited till he...

  10. 7 Getting Out: “We Have to Pray to God and Hope Everything Works Out.”
    (pp. 138-186)

    As Billie progressed through her abusive relationships, her dynamic resistance, sowed in her childhood, continued to build. She found it easier to resist the relationships and ultimately found that “Basically, if you just stand up to ’em, stop being such a wimp, stop letting this man do this to you” a woman can stop the abuse or get out of an abusive relationship. In discussing the differences between White and Black women’s methods of escape from these relationships, Billie demonstrated the lifelong exasperation she believed Black women felt and their more stalwart efforts in abusive relationships: “White women would kill...

  11. 8 Conclusion: The Response
    (pp. 187-206)

    During my time spent with Billie, her daughter, Nia, was present throughout the entire interview. Nia was generally quiet during the three-hour discussion but did interject periodically. Even though she knew much of her mother’s story—and lived some of it—I was aware that some of Billie’s recounting was new to Nia and that it caused Nia some pain to listen to her mother’s distressing tales. Cassandra was also accompanied by a family member. Cassandra told me she brought along her younger sister (by 15 years) because she wanted her sister to finally learn about her extremely volatile relationships...

  12. Appendix A: Research Methods and Demographics of the Women
    (pp. 207-226)
  13. Appendix B: Pseudonyms and Demographic Information
    (pp. 227-228)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 229-248)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 249-268)
  16. Index
    (pp. 269-274)
  17. About the Author
    (pp. 275-275)