LeAnna M. Washington is busy at work these days like many of her colleagues in the state senate, looking to push through Pennsylvania’s budget, finally freeing needed dollars to strapped social service agencies that aid the most vulnerable.
Washington once was among them.
Well before she was called “senator,” looking to right wrongs, she was called “Cookie,” looking for love. When she was 18, she figured she found it.She became a married woman, with a black eye as a honeymoon present from her new groom – the first of many.
“It was the big secret,” Washington told BlackAmericaWeb.com. “But women being beaten was not unfamiliar to me. And I got used to being beaten.”
As have many black women across the country.
While the sensational incident between pop stars Rihanna and Chris Brown recently snagged headlines and electrified airwaves, the struggle against domestic violence among African-Americans is an age-old and often silent battle. Those fighting to end it hope the spotlight from Domestic Violence Awareness Month will draw recruits.
It’s not just about donning purple ribbons or playing celebrity public service announcements. It’s about absorbing the reality that close to five in every 1,000 black women aged 12 and up are victims of domestic violence, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. It’s understanding that among those abused aged 15 to 34, murder by a husband or boyfriend remains a leading cause of death.
More importantly, it’s about actively working on changing those outcomes, said Dr. Oliver J. Williams, executive director of the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African-American Community.
“We have to figure out ways for our communities to own it,” Williams said. “We have to devise ways to get communities to see what actions and activities they can do to be engaged and involved, to develop solutions to it.”