Photo via Shutterstock

In preparation for an upcoming event, I spoke with a Black woman and fellow survivor of domestic violence. As we shared our stories, it became apparent we had so much in common, with some differences that led to a greater understanding of individual circumstances and decisions.  

However, we both know it is hard to rationalize my story because I hid in the shadows of patriarchal thinking and how we (women and men) traditionally position Black men as unlikely domestic violence victims. I have chosen to come out of the shadows and connect with other women and men to build a different future for us all.   

As a survivor of domestic violence and systemic bias, I believe there is a more empathetic path for Black men in discussions with Black women around domestic violence and other family dynamics. For that to happen, our law enforcement systems and advocates must deal with facts that often contradict their biased notions of justice and binary thinking. 

The data and our cultural landscape demand more honest conversations, policies and resources that lead to justice beyond the soundbites of social and political narratives.

Data, narratives and resources

The experiences of Black women and men are statistically similar in many ways and different in others. 

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 45.1% of Black women and 40.1% of Black men have experienced intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner sexual violence or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes. Black experiences across gender are closer than any other social group, lost in everyday discourse.

Differences between Black female and male statistics do matter. The CDC estimates that over 50% of Black female homicides are related to intimate partner violence. Thus, I can understand why some organizations focus only on women, and I encourage it. Just as critical, African Americans represent 13% of the population but represent 47% of the falsely accused. The vast majority of these victims are Black men and illustrate the fallacies in our perceptions. 

Due to a large number of male domestic violence victims, Black men, in particular, there is also a need for resources targeted at males who under-report more than other groups. Three years ago, there were only two shelters reserved for men facing domestic violence, for example, and only a few accepted men across the country. We need resources that match the data. This requires gatekeepers of our judicial systems and advocates to acknowledge the truths about male victims in addition to female victims. The inclusion of one group takes nothing away from the other.  

As part of my advocacy and therapy journey as a victim, I submitted to a polygraph test with reputable polygraph examiner Jeremiah “Jerry” Hanafin, a 24-year veteran of the Federal Bureau of Investigations. I passed the polygraph exam with a probability of deception of less than .01 or a 99.99% assurance of credibility, the highest you can score. I positively answered questions, such as did my alleged assailant initiate physical contact by striking me with her fist and continuing the assault by hitting me while I held my child. I already knew the results before I sat down. The exercise made me face my victimhood and motivated me to engage in a new dialogue and narrative between Black women and men. 

Imagine the possibilities 

The Charlotte-based women and men participating in the conversation, The Domestic Violence Victim I Never Knew, will engage the audience in a new paradigm of thinking about where Black female and male victims intersect. The dialogue is a virtual event that seeks to engage advocates and victims across gender. The talk is based on a similar model at the Valley Oasis in Lancaster, California. At the Valley Oasis, female and male victims talk to members of the opposite sex who are not out to harm them but share experiences and uplift them.

Can you imagine Black men sharing an empathetic platform with Black women through victimhood and survival on an issue that impacts us all? Can you imagine us as a Black community serving as an example that exceeds binary thinking and creates new resources for women and men? We can imagine it.

Reserve a spot to join us on Monday, Nov. 16, for “The Domestic Violence Victim I Never Knew: Engaging Black Men with Black Women.” The virtual discussion begins at 6:30 p.m. on Zoom. Space is limited.

Patrick Graham, Ph.D, is a social and public policy leader with over 20 years of executive-level experience and an advocate for equity and justice.

Read More

Join the Conversation


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. The Real Cherry-Pickers: The Panel, Polygraph and The Danger of the Recordings Most Have Not Heard
    Like only one other person on this thread, I was intimately involved with what happened to Dr. Graham as an agent of our local government at the time. It is up to us with firsthand accounts and intimate engagement to offer a testimony based on evidence, not campaigns designed to ignore what is in the polygraph.
    The Panel
    The event last Monday was one of the most open conversations on domestic violence I have been involved in for a long-time. As a family advocate with dozens of years of experience, Graham moderated in a way that included women and men. Interestingly, his largest policy recommendation was about extending protections for female victims, with some counseling resources for male victims. Just as important, one of your commentators missed his citations and recommendations for women in his op-ed. Talk about “cherry-picking.”
    The Polygraph
    Based on an audiotape and evidence obtained after the initial hearings, the ignorance of what the polygraph implies is even more disturbing. If advocates are really for justice, the fact a person passes a polygraph with the lowest probability of deception you can get, they would at least consider perspectives others than their own. The polygraph indicates the plaintiff/alleged assailant attacked him with her fist and continued to do so with a child in his hands! It also shows he does not retaliate abusively or never engaged in offensive attacks against women. It seems campaigners for the plaintiff/alleged assailant are cherry-picking with something they usually would consider.
    For example, the polygraph examiner, Jeremiah Hanafin, is the same polygraph examiner for Christine Blasey Ford, the professor who accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Advocates suggested Ford’s polygraph was concrete proof she was telling the truth. This same FBI decorated examiner did Graham’s, and his probability of deception was lower than Ford’s! Should I say cherry-picking?
    The Dangerous Recordings
    Finally, only those witnesses and those intimately involved know about the audiotape and other evidence Graham’s defense did not receive until after the start of June 2018 and the initial hearings. The audiotape contradicts statements made in previous hearings, but it corroborates Graham’s statements in his testimony and polygraph. It may suggest that laws were broken, including false arrest, significant misleading of a judge, and assault. Another woman also appeared twice to testify on Graham’s behalf that people illegitimately reference, opening up every person reciting it to civil action.
    Graham could end this affair by revealing the audiotape compared to audio from previous hearings and records. As much as some people would like to cherry-pick, it would be hard to deny those comparisons. Graham has taken a higher-ground approach by never mentioning the plaintiff/alleged assailant. I think it is dangerous if he feels forced to reveal his hand. It will crush critics but ultimately hurt his family. I ask Graham to keep walking on higher ground, but we are making it hard.

  2. This is a thoughtful article with critical data that is not properly being elevated with the resources necessary to support the male gender as it relates to domestic violence. Both women and men, young and old, require equitable resources as they navigate these traumatic circumstances that can result in homelessness, job loss and long-term mental health issues.
    Dr. Graham’s experience as a servant-leader, organizational CEO, scholar and DV survivor, position him well to elevate this conversation to shed light on the 40% of men that are impacted by partner violence without losing the focus of how essential it is to support women. That said, the unwarranted and unjust attacks leveraged against him as he journeys through his experience, is exactly what abuse looks like. The character assassination, manipulation and goal to silence is what we commonly see in abuser/abused relationships.
    The “legal court documents” referenced in a previous post, stem from a case in which he successfully defended himself against the accusation of domestic violence in March 2018 (where I was also a called witness in that trial). Dr. Graham was taken into custody without being questioned by police or without any physical evidence entered into court. Based on the evidence presented, and eyewitness testimony, he was exonerated of charges. That verdict stands and accounts for a process that included an audio tape admitted into evidence containing substantial detail, which may have aided in the final outcome as rendered by the judge. Taped evidence that was not obtained until after the initial hearing in April 2018. Beyond that, this recent conversation on domestic violence (held on 11/16) had nothing to do with the former plaintiff (the physician referenced). Moreover, Dr. Graham intentionally covered their name out of any related documents out of respect for privacy.
    Separately, the repeated reference to the former plaintiff’s occupation is disturbing, as it suggests that we are more credible based on level of education or station in life-classism. Domestic violence affects all, and extending grace to one that is selectively not extended for Dr. Graham, a man who has selflessly served the community for over 25 years, is an ill-advised, lowbrow practice given the continued challenges for equity as black and brown people. Furthermore, Dr. Graham provides context around his true motivation for elevating this conversation in the following piece, which outlines the call-to-action for those affected by domestic violence in Black and brown communities.

    Attached is the initial conversation detail and FBI-expert polygraph which serves to foundation of this platform.

  3. Please check into the credibility of this author and the scholarly nature of the sources of domestic violence statistics indicated. There are legal court documents, as well as a widely respected physician’s first hand account of the incident that supports a completely different narrative. Further more #RetaliationEqualsRevictimization.

    1. As an expert in the domestic violence community with over 20+ years of experience in working with abusers I’m concerned with several misleading and incorrect statements and statistics quoted by this author and conclusions drawn by him. With a Ph.D. he should know better than to cherry-pick numbers and shoddy research. I don’t know him and have no float in this parade other than a desire to properly educate the community so they we’re equipped to fight DV in our community.
      First, abuse of women by men is often more serious, causes more injuries (many more) and is often more fatal. If you want to look at how this plays out in our community take a look at studies provided by Atrium-Main: every year, 95% of serious injuries and deaths due to DV that come to the hospital are to women. A few are caused by other women, but the overwhelming majority are by men. And those numbers of male victims he cites? Many of them are victims of other men in same-sex relationships. There is also no difference in the severity of incidents reflected in these numbers.
      More: in Charlotte about 23% of those charged by the police with DV are women. Again, some of these are in same-sex relationships, but if you will compare this number to the number of women hospitalized with DV injuries you’ll see that we have a problem- and you can only draw one conclusion: victims are often charged with DV.
      Dr. Graham, I’m not a lawyer but I should point this out: a “not guilty” verdict does not mean innocence, nor does it mean a wrongful arrest. By saying this; in fact with a LOT of the things you say, you are blaming the victim. And she, unlike you, has no way to fight back. The facts are there. Very few victims report even serious assaults to the police. Studies range from 7%-25%; Black women may be less likely to call the police than most others because they don’t want their men in trouble; they don’t want them caught up in the system. They just want him to not abuse.
      But almost every man who abuses believes himself to be the abuser; they are so convinced of this themselves that it’s so easy to convince their friends and family and colleagues and reporters and fraternity members.
      Are there male victims? Sure; but it’s usually not those who claim to be “wrongfully arrested”- their the 4-5% of victims who show up at the hospital. And guess what? The same services available to women victims ARE ALSO AVAILABLE TO MEN! That’s right! Even the Shelters! Dr. Graham- were you implying that you needed to flee your home and seek shelter for your own safety from this woman? Because that’s what you’re implying here. So if that’s not what you meant perhaps you’ll clarify – and while you’re at it, pull your victim(s) back from under the bus where you threw them.
      By the way, there are programs available in this community for both women and men who have abused intimate partners in any way, whether criminal or not. And they don’t have to be ordered by the court; they just have to want to stop abusing the people they love- including their children. (That’s another whole article, but as Lundy Bancroft says, if a man abuses the mother of his children he IS abusing the children, whether or not he ever puts his hands on them.)
      The only way that victims will be safer is when they know that a community will believe them; will protect them. It starts with- if not accountability on the part of the abuser, at least not giving them a platform from which to throw their victims under the proverbial bus.

      1. The commentary by the anonymous “B.C” is eloquently written with a few points that have merit, like the percentages for women being the most impacted when it comes to DV matters that result in death (94%, CDC 2014). The DV advocates in Dr. Graham’s program confirmed all of that and various related topics were included in the discussion Dr. Graham moderated on 11/16, which actually included a former male abuser turned advocate.
        That said, B.C’s commentary is especially specific for someone that doesn’t have a “float in this parade.” We know better than that. This onslaught of messaging from colleagues and others associated with the former plaintiff, is evidence of the strategic goal to discredit and silence a man who has been an activist/servant-leader for over twenty-five years prior to the events of March 22, 2018. Data is data and it is real, so no “cherry-picking” required. The actual numbers support more advocacy around men and DV. This conversation facilitated by Dr. Graham addressed DV for all and specifically, for those in Black and Brown communities. The positive feedback has been fantastic.

        To clarify comments around fleeing the home, Dr. Graham’s statement was around the fact that this event resulted in the separation from his job and unexpectedly, having to relocate for a new opportunity.
        Having been a witness to some of what Dr. Graham experienced first-hand, including personal encounters, I have kept my opinion to myself and stood on the facts that speak for themselves, along with the FBI-expert polygraph Dr. Graham voluntarily submitted to related to the events of 3/22/18. Considering I attended every single court session and was a called witness under oath in this matter, I am floored by the audacity of anyone who blindly makes commentary, flooded with generalizations and scenarios that have zero to do with this case specifically. At any given time in court, the former plaintiff barely had more than 2-3 people present on her behalf outside of counsel. This is relevant because the offerings being shared online to condemn Dr. Graham, are being raised by people who have no idea what was heard in that court room, and do not know him or his experiences personally. If anyone…..I mean ANYONE heard the full audio evidence presented in the trial on 6/28/18, you would likely find other things to do with your time. That evidence hasn’t gone anywhere.
        As a testifying witness, my statements on 6/28/18, essentially support the findings of the polygraph, my own personal experiences and separate encounters excluded. Read that report closely before highlighting the obvious priority of protecting children from such traumas.
        Domestic Violence requires all hands on deck, and all to be represented. Dr. Graham’s purpose is not self-serving or an outing of any kind, but is in line with what he has always done as a leader for marginalized communities. In 2018, Dr. Graham found himself as one of those systematically disenfranchised in more ways than one. This valuable forum was a response to those experiences and serves as a platform to advance all domestic violence victims more adequately.