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Black Girls Matter, The Misconception of Strong Black Women by Shanel Crusoe

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Black Girls Matter, The Misconception of Strong Black Women by Shanel Crusoe

Today’s new blog post was written by Shanel Crusoe, Board Member of Serene Harbor.

Society often labels black women as being divas, and uses the term “strong black women.” The societal pressures of being a strong black woman can often lead to depression and abuse. Many black women speak about being strong and how that has helped their ancestors, their mothers, grandmothers, and aunts, and how they survived during times of enslavement and endearment during the Jim Crow laws; and how it has helped them to navigate present day oppression. They go on to talk about the expectations of being a strong black woman and how that is interpreted as being self-reliant and independent.

In fact, many black women are embarrassed by abuse, as it contradicts the self-imposed image of a “Strong Black Women.”

My sister was viewed as a strong black woman. She was self-sufficient and independent; she loved to give back and help the youth. She was valedictorian of her high school graduating class and was a recipient of the Bill Gates Scholarship. She graduated from UCLA, and received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. She was working towards her doctorate degree to obtain an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership with a focus in Early Childhood Development. Her research mainly focused on the curriculum that helped create a sense of inclusion and belonging for African American/Black students. She also mentored at risk youths at local middle schools and high schools. My sister represented what it meant to be a strong black woman, but she also suffered from depression and was a victim of domestic violence. My sister and my aunt were fatally shot at her home in Antioch, California on the morning of July 5, 2018.

In the end my sister decided to take a stance and end the relationship with her abuser; she never received the help that she needed and is now a slain victim of domestic violence.

My sister worked diligently with the inner-city youth; she was all about giving back and helping young people overcome adversities and succeeding in life. Unfortunately, many young black girls are disproportionately punished in school and funneled into the criminal justice system after surviving physical or sexual abuse, disproportionately subjected to racial profiling, and police brutality, and incarcerated at rates far exceeding their share of the population.

The data shows that:

“More than four in ten Black women experience physical violence from an intimate partner during their lifetimes. White women, Latinas, and Asian/Pacific Islander women report lower rates.”
“Black women also experience significantly higher rates of psychological abuse—including humiliation, insults, name-calling, and coercive control—than do women overall.”
“Sexual violence affects Black women at high rates. More than 20 percent of Black women are raped during their lifetimes—a higher share than among women overall.”
-Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (Surveillance Summaries / Vol. 63 / No. 8)

Black women face high rates of intimate partner violence, rape, and homicide. Also, black women experience institutionalized racism at far higher rates than other nationalities.

Society teaches us that we are not supposed to care about the sanctity and safety of black women. Therefore, black women provide an invisible shield around themselves and hide their fears and depression underneath this invisible “strong black women” cloak. Their abuse is often down played, and they are often led to believe that it is their own fault for their own abuse. People often tell them that “it wasn’t that bad”, “you’re a strong black woman”, “you’re as strong as an ox.” Black women are also viewed as combative than in comparison to their white counter parts. Also, black women choose to remain silent because our society has made them to believe that they are strong, and as such they are told “you should suck it up” and that they should deal with the situation themselves rather than involve others in their personal affairs. And, when black women do reach out for help; they are often over looked by law enforcement, healthcare workers, and social workers.

Women in general are often punished and blamed for their own abuse rather than holding men accountable for their own actions.

When Black women are abused it is viewed as not being as severe as other nationalities, and that their situation is not as much as a detriment and can wait. It is a fact that the police are slower to respond to domestic violence in African American communities. Society makes conscious and unconscious decisions about who matters and who does not.

Black women are self-silencing their pain underneath the cloak of a “strong black woman.” Self-silencing is a pathway that leads to further abuse and depression. There is definitely a positive aspect to the title of being a ‘strong Black woman’ and has many benefits, however these benefits have the potential to come at an expense. The title helps black women cope with life struggles and to cope with hardships in life, and it even makes black women feel connected to their culture. But, it can also lead to increased stress and a maladaptive coping mechanism that can result in abuse and depression. Domestic violence has become the silent unspoken, hush-hush horror that not many people are willing to confront, and to speak out against. Don’t be self-silencing and allow societal labels to prevent you from speaking out and sharing your truth and to get you the help that you need. Speak out to increase awareness and to stop the cycle of domestic violence and abuse.


Family and Friend quotes-

“We never think that stong women could ever be victims of domestic abuse. But in reality it could happen to anyone.” – Nanette Douglas Sykes

“I’m a fixer by inherent design. It took me a minute to realize that I couldn’t fix him, but I could fix me.” – Andrea Douglas Hanford

“Abuse knows no color but society determines the real victims solely based on race. We are the label no one wants to wear.” – Ebony Daniels

“I think this would be a great way to share who your sister was and keep her legacy alive. You will touch so many women with this.” – Lolona Coleman 🦋

“My prayer is for you is that God bless you with the strength, wisdom, and guidance to carry this out.” – Lolona Coleman 🦋

“I have gone through both emotional and physical abuse. I had to be strong and stiff to it, I had to move on which took years to do, because there was no help. – Barbara Young


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