Highlighting a Disturbing Trend — On and Off Campus

I first read about the murder of Florida A&M University professor Dr. Sheryl Shivers-Blackwell last July while doing my daily scan of online newspapers from around the country. The Tallahassee Democrat’s headline, “FAMU Faculty Member Found Dead at Home,” caught my attention.

A 36-year-old business school professor, married with two young children, 3 and 6, was murdered by her husband. Her colleagues and students say there were no indicators that she was in an abusive marriage, but family members were aware that the marriage was troubled. News reports say her stepmother, Evelyn Shivers, called her every day to make sure she was OK.

“We told her several times that this thing wasn’t going to work, that he was going to end up hurting her,” Evelyn Shivers said in an article in the Tallahassee Democrat. “She just had faith that that wasn’t going to happen.” But it did happen, and in that particular case, the tragedy ends with the husband dying two days later from self-inflicted injuries.

 A month later, I ran across an article about 2006 Prairie View A&M University graduate Mina Rosenthall Eames, who was killed by her estranged husband. Rosenthall Eames was PVAMU’s first graduate of its Undergraduate Medical Academy. At the time of her death, she was a second-year dental student at the University of Texas Dental Branch in Houston. According to a university statement, Rosenthall Eames, 31, was known for her “tenacious spirit, unmatched drive and intellectual prowess.” She, too, was the mother of two children, and her husband also killed himself.

One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. More than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in this country every day. The data speaks for itself, and there are countless examples to be sure, but after reading a few news accounts, we thought domestic violence was an issue we needed to look into as it pertains to Black women and how it’s affecting the Black college community. Domestic violence is often thought of as an issue that affects lower-income communities, but not so says Dr. Carolyn West of the University of Washington, Tacoma. “We haven’t done as good of a job researching violence among higher functioning African- American families,” she says.

What’s also interesting to note about the circumstances of the two above-mentioned women is that both were excelling in their professions, but the careers of their husbands had stalled. West, in “Relationship Violence Strikes HBCU Campuses” written by Diverse correspondent Pearl Stewart, says incidents of domestic violence often occur when women are faring better than their partners academically or professionally. She also touches on the “scarcity” of Black men contributing to deteriorating relations between the sexes.

Years ago in an article about Black males on campus in this magazine, Dr. Michael Lomax, then president of historically Black Dillard University, discussed how the university’s increased incidents of relationship abuse could be a result of the uneven ratio of Black women to men on campus. In short, the abundance of Black women and lack of Black men on campus was upsetting the male-female dynamic.

March marks women’s history month. Some might think it odd to cover with an article about domestic violence and not something more “upbeat,” but what better opportunity to highlight such an important issue that overwhelmingly affects women — of all races — on campus and off.

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