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Family Secrets Can Kill

Couple arguing

Among the more shocking statistics about domestic violence is that African American women die at the hands of a spouse or family member much more often than men or women of other races. Domestic violence happens year round, so let’s remain aware of the signs.

The  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports, “African-American women are more likely to be victimized by an intimate partner than are white women, and they are more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than white women.” Time magazine reported last year, “Black women are almost three times as likely to experience death” from domestic violence compared to white women.

Domestic Violence — AARP Online Community »

In our families, we tend to keep family secrets — rules that say what happens in the home must stay in the home. What’s worse, “ Children who witness domestic violence often experience lifelong trauma,” President Obama said in an October proclamation for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This means our children are also affected at a more disparate rate.

Overall, nearly 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men in the United States have been injured by a spouse, family member or loved one. While we often feel helpless because we don’t want to intrude, we can do plenty to help an abused loved one. Here are a few important actions from the National Domestic Violence Hotline:

  • Be supportive and listen.
  • Reassure them that they are not alone and that there is help and support.
  • If they won’t talk, let them know you’re available to help whenever they need it.
  • Don’t judge, criticize or make them feel guilty if they choose to stay.
  • Encourage them to participate in family activities outside of the relationship so it will be easier for them to take steps toward a safe place.
  • Help them develop a safety plan by giving them numbers they can call in an emergency.
  • One important number to offer is the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 800-799-SAFE (7233). The counselors can recommend programs in any state and U.S. city. Of course, 911 is always best if someone is in immediate danger.


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Whatever you do, don’t ignore obvious signs of abuse. And remember, not all abuse is physical. Emotional and psychological abuse can be just as harmful. For more information, go to

Photo: ManoAfrica/iStock by Getty Images 

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