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Violence against black women in Los Angeles remains high, even as serious crime declines

Despite the downward trend in the serious crime rate in Los Angeles, black women and girls remain at higher risk of victimization than any other demographic group, according to a report from the city’s civil rights department.

At the same time, according to the report, their deaths and disappearances receive far less attention from law enforcement and the media than other races.

The findings reflect the additional burdens placed on black women, who are forced to overcome “financial instability, income inequality, housing insecurity, and a myriad of other potential social security risks,” even as they navigate the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on communities of color, according to the report.

“Black women experience a uniquely precarious position as a result of decades of discrimination, based on both racism and sexism,” the report says.

Councilmembers Curren Price and Marqueece Harris-Dawson commissioned the study last year after the murder of Tioni Theus, a 16-year-old black girl who was fatally shot and abandoned along a south Los Angeles freeway.

Citing LAPD statistics, the report found that while black women make up about 4.3% of the city’s population, they often make up 25% to 33% of victims of violence.

During the period from January 2011 to August 2022, 481 women were murdered in Los Angeles. Nearly a third, or 158, of those victims were black, and the deaths were concentrated in the poorest neighborhoods, according to the report. Many were killed in acts of intimate partner violence. The number of Latina women murdered increased by more than 38% in that span, but black women were “statistically the most overrepresented” compared to their share of the population, according to the report.

Black women were victims in approximately one-third of the 62,264 aggravated assaults with female victims reported to the LAPD during the period. They were almost twice as likely to suffer serious injuries in an assault than women of other races.

“Basically, when things go wrong, women of color, particularly black women, take the brunt of it,” said Capri Maddox, executive director of the city’s civil rights department, whose full name is the department of equity and civil + human rights. “This is just another example of how ‘other’ we are. I mean, we deal with bias in the workplace, bias in medicine, and even bias about how to protect our personal safety.”

Racial disparities in violent crime rates are nothing new in Los Angeles Statistics on disproportionate bloodshed in Black and Latino neighborhoods have historically been used by civic and law enforcement leaders to push for more aggressive policing there.

But after the social turmoil of recent years, the report reflects a shift in political discourse about the role of the police and what public safety will look like in the future. Its authors argue that the city should increase funding for community groups working to address these disparities, which drive crime, and explore “alternative community responses to domestic violence that do not require calling the police,” the report says, which was presented to the City Council civil rights committee on Friday.

The report recommended investing in prevention strategies such as youth development and empowerment, educating health professionals on how to spot victims of abuse, and victim-centered responses to violence that do not “retraumatize the survivor.”

The report urged the LAPD to review some of its policies for handling domestic violence and strengthen its ties with community organizations that provide crisis intervention and violence prevention services.

The findings weren’t unexpected, said Marsha Mitchell, director of communications for the nonprofit advocacy group Community Coalition.

“There is a history of inaction regarding violence against (B)lack women,” Mitchell said in an email. He noted that police and media indifference to black pain dates back at least to the so-called Grim Sleeper serial murders, when the LAPD kept the killings secret despite suspicions that a killer was harassing young black women.

For Bernita Walker, the lack of empathy for black women comes as no surprise in a country that has been slow to come to terms with racism embedded deep in its history.

“We know that there is a problem with the lives of black women that is not covered as widely as it should be” by the media, said Walker, who runs Project: PeaceMakers Inc., a United States-based domestic violence organization. South Los Angeles. Sometimes the voices of black women who find themselves in cycles of abuse are ignored until it’s too late, because people “feel like we’re overreacting” and police don’t always treat these cases with the same urgency, she said.

The report offers a glimmer of optimism: The LAPD solved 77 of 81 homicides of black women between 2016 and 2022. But it cast doubt on the accuracy of LAPD statistics due to inconsistencies in reporting and also noted that many crimes go unreported, particularly in the communities. of color Fractured trust in law enforcement remains a key problem in some Black and Latino communities.

Theus was last seen on January 7, 2022. He had told a family member that he was going to a party with a friend.

Because her body was discovered on an access road to the 110 Freeway, the California Highway Patrol is investigating the case.

The report said the news articles, which began as a trickle, overemphasized the possibility that “theft and prostitution” may have played a role in her death.

Such “victim blaming” language and framing “normalizes” violent acts against other black women, according to the report.

Najee Ali, a longtime community organizer, said the report “only confirmed what black activists have known for decades.”

The fatal stabbing of a young white woman named Brianna Kupfer around the same time made headlines across the country. According to Ali, news coverage of Theus’s death only began after he and his family began publicly denouncing “hypocrisy.”

After that, city and county leaders promised tens of thousands of dollars in rewards for information leading to an arrest.

Nafeesah Kincy, Theus’s cousin, said she’s glad Theus is still on people’s minds, but the loss has been hard.

“Here I am, a black woman who has to go out every day and cope and deal with all this depression, knowing that my life doesn’t matter,” Kincy said. “Tioni was a beautiful soul, and she didn’t deserve this, and I just want her name to stay out there and stay alive, and I just hope it gets reported, jolts someone’s memory.”

Another cousin, Solona Theus, said people should stop judging a murdered teenager who was dealing with the death of her mother.

“A lot of people want to speak up and say, ‘Oh, well, she was online, or she was dressed this way, or she was on the streets,’” Solona Theus said. “But she was a human being. A lot of these girls are just human beings.”