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January 16, 2007
Contact: Mark Rosenthal, <>

Abuse Laws Have Disparate Impact on African-American Communities

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 / U.S. Newswire / – Domestic violence programs are having a disparate and possibly devastating impact on Black communities, according to a recent report, "VAWA Harms African-American Communities." The summary was compiled by RADAR, a domestic abuse research and education group.

Twenty-two states have enacted controversial laws that mandate arrest for allegations of domestic violence, even if the policeman on the scene thinks an arrest is unwise. As a result, Blacks are arrested at a disproportionate rate, 2-3 times higher than the national average. African-Americans represent 23% of all spouses arrested for partner abuse and 35% of all boyfriend/girlfriend arrestees, according to FBI reports. This translates into about 300,000 arrests each year.

Many women say these mandatory arrest laws ignore the wishes of the women involved, and harm the fabric of the broader black community. "Criminalization of social problems has led to mass incarceration of men, especially young men of color, decimating marginalized communities," notes a report from the Ms. Foundation for Women.

One person who experienced this first-hand was Mr. General Parker of Peoria, Ill. "I was accused of domestic violence and child kidnapping and then arrested. Even after the jury found me innocent, I still haven't been allowed to see my son." Parker was acquitted of all charges by a St. Louis County, Missouri jury in January 2006.

Research shows women engage in partner violence at similar rates as men. But Black men often encounter discrimination when they seek legal advice. According to one evaluation, only 3% of persons who receive help from the Legal Assistance for Victims program are male.

The RADAR report highlights the case of NFL football star Warren Moon. Despite the fact that he had acted only in self-defense, he was arrested and tried for allegedly assaulting his wife. She later admitted she had instigated the incident. Moon was acquitted by a Texas jury.

Ironically, "get-tough" prosecution policies for domestic violence may actually be putting women more at risk. One study funded by the Department of Justice puts it like this: "Increases in the willingness of prosecutors' offices to take cases of protection order violation were associated with increases in the homicide of white married intimates, black unmarried intimates, and white unmarried females."

The RADAR summary can be seen at http://www.mediaradar.org/docs/VAWA-Harms-African-American-Communities.pdf.

R.A.D.A.R. – Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting – is a non-profit, non-partisan organization of men and women working to improve the effectiveness of our nation's approach to solving domestic violence. http://mediaradar.org.

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