Aug 21, 2023 - News

Report: Black Iowa women are being killed by gun violence at higher rates

A woman in front of the civil rights monument

Luana Nelson-Brown helps families of homicide victims with essential needs, through the Iowa Coalition for Collective Change. Photo: Danny Wilcox Frazier/The Guardian

More than six times the number of Black women were killed in Iowa in 2020 than in 2019, according to a new investigation by The Guardian.

Why it matters: The U.S. experienced an unprecedented rise in homicides in 2020 and 2021, but the violent racial disparity stands out in our majority white, rural state.

  • The majority of the homicides of Black women involve someone they knew, including a partner, family member or friend, according to the Violence Policy Center.

By the numbers: Black Iowans made up half of the state's 106 homicide victims in 2020, despite representing just 5% of the population.

  • The majority of these homicides involved someone they knew, according to the Violence Policy Center.
  • All but one of the 13 Black women killed that year died from a gunshot wound.

State of play: Families and advocates from around the state blame the rise in homicides on how easy it is to illegally acquire a gun, as well as inadequate support for local social services.

  • They also point to Iowa's disproportionately high incarceration rates for Black men, which can later result in generational barriers such as housing and employment access, according to a 2021 IPR report.

What they're saying: All of the systemic inequities Black Americans have faced came to a head in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing struggles, Luana Nelson-Brown, head of the Iowa Coalition for Collective Change, told The Guardian.

  • "I think we're seeing the result of a pandemic of racism and sexism combine with COVID to create something new," Nelson-Brown said.

What's next: Des Moines has funded $745K in a violence reduction program run by Creative Visions. But the program's ambiguous benchmarks have made it unclear if it's helping.

Worthy of your time: "What a surge in murders means for Black women in Iowa" by Abené Clayton.


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