Last week, I was invited to Liz Claiborne’s "It’s Time to Talk Day" –a national day of dialogue on domestic violence and teen dating abuse, where leading voices come together for a day of radio and blogging about an issue that doesn’t get enough talk time. (Learn more at www.loveisnotabuse.org)
I couldn’t help but feel a bit emotionally spent dealing with such a heavy and important issue. But there is another area of domestic violence that rarely gets discussed—domestic violence during pregnancy.
It is estimated that one in five women will be abused during pregnancy. What’s worse, homicide during pregnancy now surpasses the previous leading causes of death (automobile accidents and falls), for pregnant women.
It is more important than ever that we know the signs of domestic violence and start talking about these issues in our community.
Enter activist and philanthropist Malaak Compton Rock. The wife of my favorite comedian, Chris Rock, takes service very seriously (check out her many projects at http://www.angelrockproject.com/) .
But last week Malaak and I had a candid conversation about domestic violence in the Black community. And I think all black women and black men need to listen:
Kimberly: How is domestic violence different for us?
Malaak: "The silence is killing us. I think the white community has done a good job showing that domestic violence is not a poor woman’s problem. They have changed the face of domestic violence to show that educated, career women suffer as well. We haven’t. "
Kimberly: I think that if you are "successful" and you have that positive black family image going on, there’s even more pressure to keep up that appearance and not break up another black family.
Malaak: “You’re right. There’s a lot of fear of breaking up the family, and we need more affluent women to come out of the closet. There is a fear that I’m alone. We have to take the stigma out of the issue and add more faces and voices to that pain. I think it needs to start in Black magazines and even websites like yours.”
Kimberly: What can our men do?
Malaak: "I will tell you this, my husband is very aware of how he treats me because he knows our two daughters are learning how to be treated by a man by his dealings with me. It all starts in the home. Fathers need to be involved with their daughters, teaching them what they deserve and should expect in any future relationship."
Kimberly: That’s powerful.
Malaak: "I know this, women who are strong, confident and secure in who they are were raised by fathers who instilled that into them."
Even though our community has disproportionately high levels of single female-headed households, we can’t get around how important our black men are to saving our communities, our babies and ourselves.