According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Eighty-five percent of domestic violence victims are women. And women ages 20-24 are at the greatest risk of suffering from nonfatal intimate partner violence (IPV). Sadly, like rape, most domestic violence cases are never reported to the police.
The Institute of Domestic Violence in the African-American Community reports that black women experience IPV at rates 35 percent higher than their white counterparts. In 2005 black women accounted for nearly 1/3 of the IPV homicides in America. These alarming statistics should be cause enough for women, men, teens, black, white and Latino to take domestic violence seriously, realizing it affects us all.
Yesterday I recounted my domestic violence experience that occurred nearly six years ago. I never wanted to write about it publicly for various reasons, but was compelled to do so with all of the articles, blogs and interviews focusing on the Chris Brown and Rihanna situation once again. Two years later I’ve found that opinions of what happened the night of the Grammy’s in 2009 haven’t evolved. There are those who believe Rihanna did something to deserve to be beaten, the people who wish everyone would just move on, the Rihanna supporters, Chris Brown stans and then there are people like me who cringe and refuse to be a fan of Brown because of how he abused Rihanna and his lack of remorse since.
Full disclosure: As a journalist I am NOT objective when it comes to issues of rape, violence against women, pedophilia, homophobia, sexism, misogyny, racism, injustice or inhumanity.
In monitoring the comments and attitudes about the domestic violence situation involving two huge pop stars, I’ve noticed how as a society and as a community, we are too tolerant of violence against women.
Chris Brown’s recent outburst at “Good Morning America” after Robin Roberts asked him about the attack against Rihanna has brought attention back to the horrific events. With Rihanna agreeing to Brown’s request to lift the restraining order, and Brown throwing temper tantrums, the pop stars are getting the exact opposite of what they would like- for everyone to just move on. In the April issue of Rolling Stone, Rihanna told Josh Ells:
We don’t have to talk again ever in my life. I just didn’t want to make it more difficult for him professionally. What he did to me was personal thing- it had noting to do with his career.
But it seems impossible for the public to drop it as if it never happened when violence against women is overlooked, results in victim blaming or glorified (see: Charlie Sheen).
Last June I wrote “Redemption, Resurrection & Bull” after Brown’s Oscar worthy cry me a river performance on BET. Although I showed Chris no mercy, I was more so angry at the prevailing attitude of women and men, mostly women, who argued we should forgive Brown. But forgiveness and accountability aren’t synonymous. And as much as Rihanna and Chris Brown have become the poster children of domestic violence in the black community, this isn’t so much about them as it is about us.
The prevalence of victim blaming is unnerving considering the astounding statistics of women, particularly women of color, experiencing intimate partner violence. It seems as if we are wired to automatically assume a women being abused deserved it. She must have hit him is too often an immediate reaction. And even if she did, are we so numb to violence that we think it’s ok for a man to retaliate by hitting her back? In the case of Brown and Rihanna, he didn’t hit her once, which is still never acceptable. He beat her senselessly.
My concern is that with the growing acceptance of violence against women, more and more women will suffer in silence. Our culture is contributing to women’s fear of telling their story, as it may result in being blamed, ignored or shamed for something they had no control over.
In the recent gang rape of an 11-year-old girl by 18 men in Cleveland, TX, the community’s response was to immediately protect the 18 black men who had all participated in raping an 11-year old girl. The community expressed very little outrage surrounding the fact that men ranging from ages 14- 27 participated, video taped and bragged about gang raping a child. I think about her situation, other sexual assault against women cases, and domestic violence and wonder, where is the safe haven for girls and women? It’s becoming more apparent that there isn’t one. And there should be.
Living as women in a patriarchal society that devalues women, especially black women, it is up to the entire village to educate, guide, mentor, love and listen to our young girls. Early on we must show them through our actions that emotional and physical abuse is not protocol. And it’s never love. Our young boys and men are in desperate need of guidance. Too many of them are roaming through life without the slightest idea of who they are, how to behave as men, what a man even looks like or what to do with all the pain they are carrying.
Domestic violence against women is a very real issue affecting too many people. Sweeping it under the rug or blaming women is a huge mistake. We must find a way to combat this ill, provide healing for the lives affected, and create a future generation that won’t be susceptible to violence against women. Domestic violence will implode if we don’t address begin addressing it now.