VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - One week ago, three Black women were killed and two others were injured after a domestic violence incident turned deadly in Norfolk's Young Terrace neighborhood. Ziontay Palmer, 19, is facing second-degree murder, malicious wounding and firearm charges in connection with the shootings.
Violence against Black women is an epidemic that a local domestic violence agency says has spiked recently.
After the mass shooting in Norfolk, the hotline at the Samaritan House Domestic Violence center surged in calls from women needing help.
"Women of color are killed at a more disproportionate rate than any other race. It’s a disturbing trend we are seeing," said Robin Gauthier, the executive director of Samaritan House.
The statistics are hard to swallow. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Black women are three times more likely than white women to experience death as a result of domestic violence.
In addition, 22% of domestic violence events ending in homicide are against Black women.
Domestic violence is one of the leading causes of death for Black women between 15 and 35 years old, according to the CDC.
"I think it deals with the ongoing disparities - the economic disparities, the ongoing discrimination," Gauthier said. "These women are less likely to have jobs; maybe they are more dependent on their abusers than other races."
Other reasons for the epidemic, according to experts with the Samaritan House, include fear of isolation, not knowing how to navigate the legal system, fear of arrest and even skepticism of intervention and shelter services.
But some of the reasons go deeper.
"Because the marginalization of Black and African American women here in the U.S is due to historical discrimination, economic hardship and social injustice, reaching out for support and assistance from law enforcement has been difficult for Black women," said Courtney Pearce, a victim advocate with Samaritan House.
The Samaritan House said another alarming trend involves bystanders being killed in domestic violence incidents.
Samaritan House employee Alicia Hereford was killed while trying to help her daughter, Morgan Bazemore, after she was allegedly fatally shot by her boyfriend.
In the case of last week's shooting in Young Terrace, three innocent women were killed while rushing to help the 19-year-old woman Palmer shot first.
"I have never seen helpers getting hurt and killed and shot. Never seen anything like it in 20 years," Gauthier said.
So, what can be done to assist in the trepidation these women of color may have? Experts say it's about speaking up.
"Folks that are allied to the Black community, we really need your support. It's important you stand up," Pearce said.
You can even call the Samaritan House's crisis hotline at (757) 430-2120 and answer a series of 10 questions in what is known as a "danger assessment," where they can help you determine if you are in a violent situation.
For families seeking support for domestic violence, people can call the VA Family Violence Hotline at 1-800-838-8238.
If you are in an abusive relationship and need help, here are some resources: