Report: Violence against black women in LA remains high
- US News
- March 18, 2023
- No Comment
Although Los Angeles’ serious crime rate has been declining, black women and girls remain at higher risk of victimization than any other demographic, according to a report by the city’s Civil Rights Department.
At the same time, the report says, their deaths and disappearances receive far less attention from law enforcement and the news media than other races.
The findings reflect the added burdens placed on Black women, who are being forced to overcome “financial instability, income inequality, housing insecurity and a host of other potential social security risks” even as they face the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on the communities of color, according to the report.
“Black women experience a unique position of precariousness due to decades of discrimination based on both racism and sexism,” the report said.
Council members Curren Price and Marqueece Harris-Dawson commissioned the study last year after the killing of Tioni Theus, a 16-year-old black girl who was fatally shot and abandoned beside a freeway in south Los Angeles.
Citing LAPD statistics, the report found that while black women make up about 4.3% of the city’s population, they often account for 25% to 33% of victims of violence.
Between January 2011 and August 2022, 481 women were killed in LA. Nearly a third, or 158, of those victims were black, and the deaths were concentrated in poorer neighborhoods, according to the report. Many have been killed in acts of intimate partner violence. The number of Latina women murdered increased by more than 38% during that time span, but black women were “statistically most overrepresented” relative to their percentage of the population, the report said.
Black women were the victims of about one-third of the 62,264 serious assaults on female victims reported to the LAPD during the reporting period. The likelihood of being seriously injured in an attack was almost twice as high as that of women of other races.
“Basically, when things go wrong, women of color, especially black women, have the worst of it,” said Capri Maddox, executive director of the city’s civil rights department, whose full name is Department of Civil and Human Rights. “This is just another example of how we are ‘different.’ I mean, we deal with prejudice in the workplace, prejudice in medicine, and even prejudice about how to protect our personal safety.”
Racial disparities in violent crime rates are nothing new in LA. Statistics of disproportionate bloodshed in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods have historically been used by civic and police leaders to encourage more aggressive policing there.
But after the societal turmoil of recent years, the report reflects a shift in political discourse about the role of the police and what public safety will look like in the future. The authors argue that the city should increase funding for community groups working to address these inequalities that drive crime and “explore alternative community responses to domestic violence that don’t require a call to the police,” states in the report submitted to the City Council’s Civil Rights Committee on Friday.
The report recommended investing in prevention strategies such as youth development and empowerment, training healthcare professionals in how to identify victims of abuse, and victim-centered responses to violence that “do not re-traumatize the survivor.”
The report called on the LAPD to reconsider some of its policies on dealing with domestic violence and to strengthen its relationships with community organizations that provide crisis intervention and violence prevention services.
The results were hardly unexpected, said Marsha Mitchell, communications director for nonprofit advocacy group Community Coalition.
“There is a history of inaction regarding violence against [B]Shortage of women,” Mitchell said in an email. She noted that police and news media indifference to Black grief goes back at least as far as the so-called Grim Sleeper serial killings, when the LAPD kept the killings secret despite suspicions that a killer was stalking young Black women.
For Bernita Walker, the lack of empathy for black women comes as no surprise in a country slow to come to terms with the racism ingrained in its history.
“We know there’s a problem with black women’s lives not being reported as widely as they should be,” said Walker, who directs Project: PeaceMakers Inc., a domestic violence organization based in South LA Women People who find themselves in cycles of abuse are ignored until it’s too late because people “feel we’re exaggerating” — and police don’t always treat these cases with the same level of urgency, she said.
The report offers a tinge of optimism — the LAPD solved 77 out of 81 murders of black women between 2016 and 2022. However, due to inconsistencies in reporting, he has questioned the accuracy of LAPD statistics and also pointed out that many crimes go unreported, particularly in communities of color. Broken trust in law enforcement remains a key issue in some Black and Hispanic communities.
Theus was last seen on January 7th, 2022. She had told a family member that she was going to a party with a friend.
The California Highway Patrol is investigating her body after she was found on the ramp to the 110 Freeway.
The report said that news articles, which began as a trickle, overemphasized the possibility that “theft and prostitution” could have played a role in her death.
Such “victim-blaming” language and framing “normalizes” acts of violence against other Black women, the report said.
Longtime community organizer Najee Ali said the report “only confirmed what black activists have known for decades.”
The fatal stabbing of a young white woman named Brianna Kupfer around the same time made national headlines. According to Ali, coverage of Theus’ death only began after he and her family began publicly calling out “hypocrisy.”
Thereafter, city and county leaders promised tens of thousands of dollars in rewards for information leading to an arrest.
Nafeesah Kincy, Theus’ cousin, said she was glad Theus was still on people’s minds but that the loss was difficult.
“Here I am, a black woman who has to go out every day and deal with all this depression knowing my life doesn’t matter,” Kincy said. “Tioni was a beautiful soul and she didn’t deserve that and I just want her name to stay out there and live and I just hope someone remembers it when it gets reported.”
Another cousin, Solona Theus, said people should stop condemning a murdered teenager who was connected to her mother’s death.
“A lot of people want to speak up and say, ‘Well, she was online, or she was dressed like that, or she was out there on the street,'” Solona Theus said. “But she was human. A lot of these girls are just human.”