Within the African American community, we have a proud history of praising Black women–and rightfully so– for their remarkable resolve to overcome life’s most daunting obstacles. Be it raising children as single mothers or juggling three jobs to make ends meet while going to school part-time, there is nothing a Black woman can’t overcome, if she puts her mind to it.
However, the “strong Black woman” narrative has cultivated an unfortunate belief that they can somehow manage the pain of emotional and physical abuse better than other races.
But recent research reveals an opposite reality. Black women are two and a half times more likely to be killed by their partner than White women, according to a new study published by the Violence Policy Center. Even more startling, “Of black victims who knew their offenders, 52 percent (216 out of 415) were wives, common-law wives, ex-wives, or girlfriends of the offenders.”
These frightening figures hit very close to home for Quasona Cobb of New York, N.Y., whose abusive boyfriend nearly killed she and her mother several years ago. Cobb, 24, met Keith Bailey when she was 17-years-old and says the abuse began with verbal bullying and jealousy.
“Why are you going out with that person,” she says Bailey would ask her. Or he would say, “You need to spend more time with me.”
Eventually, the arguments turned violent. One night, Cobb was getting dressed to hang out with friends when she says Bailey blocked her path through a door in an apartment they shared. During the argument, she says he pushed her down to the floor and began kicking her repeatedly. She was 19-years-old and it was the first time he hit her, but it would not be the last.
“I was in shock,” Cobb said of the attack. “I couldn’t believe it happened.”
Watch Quasona talk to Katie Couric about her abusive relationship:
Cobb says he apologized for beating her, but blamed her for his actions. “If you would’ve just listened to me and stayed in like I said, it never would have happened,” Cobb recalls Bailey telling her. “It was like placing the blame on me, telling me I was the cause and the cure and for the next couple of years, I believed that I had a switched I could turn the abuse on and off, which is not true.”
In December of 2010, Cobb had enough of Bailey’s ways and moved into her own place. But he came to her apartment claiming he had no place to go. She let him stay, saying he had one week to find other living arrangements. But less than a week after Bailey moved in, he almost killed her after the two argued over their crumbling relationship.
She says he dragged her by the hair from her bed, threw her to the floor and doused her with air freshener oil. Bailey held a lighter over her, threatening to set her on fire. Cobb was able to lock herself inside of her bathroom and take a shower to wash the oil off of her body. All the while, she says Bailey was standing outside the door sobbing over why she was so unhappy with their relationship until he left the apartment.
The next day, Cobb told her family about the abuse she had been experiencing for the first time. They then went to the local precinct to file what would be the first police against Bailey. He retaliated by settling Cobb’s mother, Arlene Gordon, on fire, an attack that caused fourth-degree burns on over 40 percent of her body and put her in a coma for six months. She also suffered amputations and lost sight in her left eye.
He was eventually convicted of attempted murder, coercion and arson charges and sentenced to 18 years in prison for the attack.
Since then, Cobb has become a domestic violence advocate and devotes much of her time teaching abused women how to empower themselves. One way she has been doing this is through a photo project on her blog in which domestic violence survivors hold signs that challenge the misconceptions of abusive relationships.
Many of the participants’ faces are concealed by the signs they are holding, but the aim of the project is to empower people to speak out. “It’s OK to have a voice,” she said. “Your voice has been silenced for years. You can remain anonymous, but you can have a voice.”
But how do abused women regain their voice once it has been stolen by their abusers after years of emotional and physical torment. who or what will be in their cornor to help them gather a cadance of vocal confidence to articulate their pain which, therefore, wiil empower them to regain their womanhood.
in an interview with the Dallas Morning News, Dr. Tricia Bent-Goodley, a professor of social work at Howard University whose research focuses on Black women and domestic violence, says violence between intimate partners in the black community is still a taboo subject and that cultural and religious beliefs often confuse women who are seeking help.
“We don’t really talk about domestic violence,” Bent-Goodley said. “African-American women turn to either their friends or their faith-based community. Unfortunately, many of our faith-based communities tell them that divorce is a sin and that they should stay in the relationship. Some of the messages that we get can stop us from reaching out for help.”
Tiffany Lindley, a health care professional who has worked with domestic violence victims in Dallas for more than four years, told NewsOne that Black women see few representations of themselves in domestic violence relationships.
Watch Quasona Cobb’s share her story with Glamore Magazine:
”We don’t see ourselves being a victim, which sounds counterproductive,” she said. “It’s like we’re not allowed to have those kind of weaknesses. We’re not allowed to have those kinds of problems.”
Though, Cobb hopes that her project and personal story of survival will help abused women realize that speaking out is a form of self-empowerment.
“But it’s not about being weak,” she said. “I left my relationship without a bruise on me. My mother is 44-years-old. She will never work again. She has amputations. She’s blind in one of her eyes. It not only affected me, it touched my own family. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
If you are looking for help to leave your abusive relationship, you can reach out to the The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) or 1.800.787.3224 (TTY)