Marginalized Domestic Violence Survivors Report Bias When Seeking Help in Ohio

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Fifty-nine percent of Black domestic-violence survivors surveyed said they avoided calling the police out of fear of further violence from their abuser. - Photo: Anete Lusina/Pexels
Photo: Anete Lusina/Pexels
Fifty-nine percent of Black domestic-violence survivors surveyed said they avoided calling the police out of fear of further violence from their abuser.

A new survey reveals instances of bias in the ways police, courts and social services respond to domestic-violence survivors in Ohio in times of crisis.

According to the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, victims from marginalized communities - women of color, immigrants, LGBTQ+ and hearing-impaired - were more likely to report difficulty in getting help, and to feel their concerns weren't taken seriously.

And among the roughly one in three who said they were not likely to call the police again, there were varying reasons. Emily Kulow - director of Housing and Meaningful Access with the network - explained that for white survivors, the primary concern was the stigma.

"Whereas African American and Black survivors and other survivors of color said that overwhelmingly their concern was their actual physical safety from the police," said Kulow, "if the police were called, and then the safety of also their abusive partner."

More than one-third of those who said they were fearful to call the police in the future said it was because they were worried their children would be removed from the home.

Women of color were more likely to have child protective services involvement than white women, and LGBTQ+ parents were the group threatened most often with their children being taken away.

Kulow added that another significant finding is that difficulty accessing interpreters with police, courts and social-service providers was common among hearing-impaired survivors.

"Then sometimes even survivors who were deaf and hard of hearing were not interviewed," said Kulow. "Police officers would interview their abusive partner and not them, and in some instances they would have the abuser translate for them, which of course would be very problematic."

Kulow said the network is sharing the results with those involved in Ohio's domestic-violence response system to better understand and improve safety for marginalized survivors and their children.

"At the end of the day," said Kulow, "we want survivors to feel comfortable in accessing these systems and feel that justice has been served and that it's equitable. And that they're receiving the same support and the same help as anybody else."

Overall, regardless of race, two thirds of the survivors said they were satisfied with their experiences with law enforcement, prosecutors, courts and social services.
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