To our community,
After the Buncombe County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team reported their findings to commissioners on February 1, the YWCA, Faith 4 Justice, and the RJC collaborated with survivors of domestic violence who live at the intersections of racial and gender injustice to develop some requests of our commissioners and we invite you to read the letter yourself, which we will print in full below. We also invite you to reach out to the County Commissioners yourself and express your support for Black victims and survivors of domestic violence. You can email them using this form. Here is some content you can adapt and use as you see fit:
Dear County Commissioners,
I am writing today about the important intersections between racial justice and the need to prevent and address intimate partner violence. I encourage you to listen to the wisdom of survivors of color, and particularly Black women, and to carefully consider the guidance offered by the YWCA, Faith 4 Justice, and the Racial Justice Coalition in their recent letter to you.
Thank you for your service.
The RJC Team
Dear County Commissioners,
We are grateful that the county has invested in the Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team (DVFRT) that has power to make recommendations that could bring meaningful change in systemic response to domestic violence and to prevent homicide. At the February 1st commissioner’s meeting, Helpmate shared that the vast majority of women in their shelter are at extremely high risk of homicide and that 40% of their residents are Black women. This statistic is staggering, as Black women are only 7% of our population, and it reflects national data that shows overwhelmingly that domestic violence is not a singular issue about individual gender violence, but that for the demographic most impacted, it is very much a racial justice issue.
Despite significant investment in a criminal justice response to domestic violence, intimate partner violence continues to be the leading cause of death for Black women ages 18-45 nationally. They are 3 times more likely to be murdered by their partners than white women, and they disproportionately suffer a myriad of negative impacts from the criminal justice response to it.
In 2020, 47 state and territory coalitions responded to Black leaders in the movement who had been sounding this alarm for decades, and they signed the following moment of truth letter. We believe this conversation should be happening locally as well.
We acknowledge that it is nuanced and difficult to address race and gender justice together, but if Buncombe County is to turn the tide on the disproportionate impact of domestic violence on its Black residents, the DVFRT and all other entities that address this issue must expand their knowledge and understanding of the intersectionality of this issue.
As the DVFRT and the Coordinated Community Response (CCR) Team (that is responsible for implementing their recommendations) are predominately white, and as a white-led approach to ending domestic violence has been largely unsuccessful in addressing domestic violence in the Black community, we request that the county use their resources and influence to:
- Appoint an at-large member to the DVFRT and CCR who has extensive knowledge of the impact of the criminal justice system on Black families and will bring a racial justice lens to the review, its findings, and recommendations.
- Fund, make available, and strongly encourage all DVFRT and CCR team members to attend racial equity training (and include updates on this process in their next report) so that they have a shared understanding and language of the impact of racism on those most impacted by domestic violence.
Again, we thank the county, the individual team members, and the entities they represent for their commitment to ongoing collaboration to address both racial and gender justice in our communities. Black families matter, and for those impacted by domestic violence, the need is urgent.
Onward in Gratitude,
Diana Sierra, LCSW
Chief Executive Officer,
YWCA of Asheville and WNC