Black History Month is a national celebration that has been marked every October since 1987. Throughout the month, a series of events take place across the UK to promote and celebrate contributions to British society by the Black community, and to foster an understanding of Black history in general. In 2022, the theme for Black History Month is “Time for Change: Action Not Words”.
As highlighted by the “Black History Month magazine”, “a number of recent reports have called out racism across a range of sectors, from international aid and education to healthcare and policing. As a society, we all know there is a problem with institutional racism. Now we need to work together to tackle it”.
In taking action, IRISi delivers this article to show some important facts and research about the barriers faced by Black women when disclosing domestic abuse. We also reference studies that reveal how Black women in the UK are failed by the healthcare system. Together, the three topics below give us just a picture of a wider problem.
#01 Domestic violence and abuse is under reported among Black women, consistent with what we also find in our own data from IRIS sites
Domestic violence and abuse has been recognised as an international public health problem. However, the extension of the problem is unknown due in part to underreporting, especially among Black women.
For instance, women referred via the IRIS Programme are asked to provide demographic information when they meet with an IRIS Advocate Educator. This is helpful to identify each individual woman’s needs and to show us who is accessing health care and being asked about DVA. The data collected includes age, ethnicity, religion, number of children, pregnancy status, mental/ physical health, including disabilities and alcohol/drug use.
In the fiscal year ending on 31st March 2021, as shown by IRISi national report, 52.5% of women referred to the IRIS Programme classified themselves as White British, while 18.2% classified as Black and Asian British, 12.5% Asian and 2.3% Black/Caribbean/African. This is a higher proportion of Black women than registered in previous years, but we know we need to do a lot more and determine how women from all ethnicities and backgrounds can be better supported.
In order to improve the identification and referral of Black Women, in 2020 and 2021, IRISi delivered training sessions to its network especially focused on the most common barriers experienced by Black women when wanting to disclose abuse and get support. Among other things, limited access to specific services, the invisibility of Black women, and a distrust of the legal system are some of the obstacles in this situation.
#02 Therapeutic interventions must improve the way they assess Black women facing emotional distress
Produced by Rachel Graham and Victoria Clarke, “Staying strong: Exploring experiences of managing emotional distress for African Caribbean women living in the UK” is an article published in 2021. The authors explained: “the “strong Black woman” (SBW) is a Western cultural stereotype that depicts African-heritage women as strong, self-reliant, independent, yet nurturing and self-sacrificing. US research indicates that this stereotype negatively impacts the emotional wellbeing of African-heritage women, while also allowing them to survive in a racist society.”
Using five focus groups, with a total of 18 women, their research explored how these women experienced and managed emotional distress in relation to the SBW stereotype. The importance of “being strong” consistently underpinned the participants’ narratives. However, this requirement for strength often negatively impacted their ability to cope effectively with their distress, leading them to manage it in ways that did little to alleviate it and sometimes increased it.
The study concludes: “the analysis has several implications for therapeutic practitioners in the UK and elsewhere, and some possible avenues for therapeutic intervention. For example, given that the participants felt comfortable to some extent with expressing their vulnerable feelings during the focus group sessions, interventions such as group therapy for Black women should be considered as an alternative way of supporting these women when they experience emotional distress (Jones, 2017).
Since psychological distress is rarely discussed in African Caribbean communities, and because of the self-silencing effect of the SBW construct, hearing other African Caribbean women discuss their emotional struggles could potentially help in many ways. Group therapy could highlight to African Caribbean women that they are not alone, normalise experiences of distress, and work towards alleviating psychological distress stigma in African Caribbean communities and the wider society.”
#03Most Black people in the UK face discrimination from healthcare staff, survey finds
Most Black people living in the UK have experienced prejudice from healthcare professionals because of their ethnicity, with younger people feeling especially discriminated against, a survey has revealed.
Produced by Gareth lacobucci and published in September of 2022, the survey indicates that almost two-thirds (65%) of Black people respondents said that they had experienced prejudice from doctors and other staff in healthcare settings. This rose to three-quarters (75%) among Black people aged 18 to 34.
The report was commissioned by the Black Equity Organisation, a national civil rights organisation launched earlier this year to tackle systemic racism in the UK. The survey received 2051 responses from people of Black or mixed Black ethnicity, including 1014 people aged 18 to 34.
The report cited particular issues around the experience of Black women in maternity care and the diagnosis of certain special educational needs. Survey participants felt as though they were not seen and that their concerns were not listened to or incorporated into their treatment decisions.
“Specific to Black women, participants felt that due to the misguided stereotype of ‘strong Black women,’ practitioners were dismissive of their pain,” the report said.
Black African individuals were at least six percentage points more likely than those from other ethnic groups to believe that they were being discriminated against by NHS professionals because of their ethnicity.