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The Faces of Domestic Violence (Part II)

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.

  • I always think of my younger sisters while reading this. Whenever I hear about something towards women I reflect about my girls at home. I would not wish this on anyone. I try to encourage them to talk to me about things going on in their lives, especially relationships. I have one open but the other is a little more exclusive. Hopefully, she opens up in the future. I think for so long domestic violence has always been in favor for men. Even back in the day, the women wondered what they did wrong to make him "go off." I think posts like this help create and encourage others speak out.

    Thanks for this!

  • I like that you mentioned in the 8th paragraph that "forgiveness and accountability arent synonymous." I think we would all do well to realize this, much like forgiving someone and still trusting someone also are not synonymous. Not sure if you are a Christian as well, but I look at the forgiveness aspect of it and say that it's not my place to not forgive Chris Brown or anyone else who has done something distasteful. If God can forgive us for whatever we do, how can we not forgive others for what they do? Any of us could say that we won't forgive R. Kelly for his pedophilia or Alicia Keys for being a quote-unquote homewrecker and not "support" their music. Let me rephrase my original statement on it not being our place to not forgive someone

    • writtenbyBene

      Thanks for reading. I don't think this post is really about forgiveness as much as it's about domestic violence, a safe haven for girls and women, victim blaming, and society's tolerance of violence against women. I also think Christianity has no place in this discussion because again, I'm not arguing for or against people forgiving anyone. My intention was to bring awareness in the hopes that at least one person will understand domestic violence affects us all.

      • I just realized that the last 2 of my 3 paragraphs that I wrote didn't register somehow. Not sure how that happened; maybe my session timed out or something (I was replying in between calls at work). Anyway, it was in those lost paragraphs that I mentioned reading your "redemption resurrection & bull" article. I agree on your stance on the Chris Brown situation. I look at it in the same way I look at Michael Vick's situation, only Vick has actually shown remorse (stayed out of trouble, done charity on his own accord and not obligation, etc.), but Chris hasn't.

  • I do see your overall point; the whole "forvigeness vs accountability" thing just stood out to me because I don't think alot of people get that. Also, as Drew-Shane pointed out, Domestic Violence has always seemed to favor the men. Very few women report it because they are either afraid/ashamed to, and or feel like it isn't worth the effort since the men won't be punished accordingly. It's way too easy for the men who commit these crimes to do them again. Domestic violence and rape do need to be handled more severely. Not just because of the damage done to the victims, but the families as well. Think of how many daughters grow up thinking that this is how a woman should be treated, or how many sons grow up thinking that this is an acceptable way of expressing anger?

    • writtenbyBene

      EXACTLY! I agree wholeheartedly with your comment above.

      Here's the problem with the argument you're presenting about Rihanna: neither Chris or Rihanna have come out and said she hit him. There were no pictures taken of him sustaining injuries or bruises. But even if she did hit him, what would you propose happen to her? Why must she be held accountable as well? Really think about why you want to take the focus off of Chris Brown's actions and direct them to what Rihanna "must have done." Your argument is faulty, IMO, because it's basically a form of victim blaming. It takes away the accountability and focus of a woman being beaten senselessly by a man. I can't even begin to go further because at the core we have different beliefs on this incident and subject.

      • I saw this coming. I knew you'd see it as "victim blaming," and I understand why, but I promise you that's not my intent. My whole argument is not to blame Rihanna (notice I did say "supposedly") or take focus off of Chris. I'm not a judge, but if I were, Chris would definitely get jail time, not some wimpy probation. My point it just that violence should not be tolerated, no matter who does it or who receives it. Look at it like this. If I break into your house and steal something, but you catch me on the way out and shoot me more than enough times to stop me but I somehow live, should I not be punished for stealing just because I got shot? Extreme case, yes, but hopefully you get my point.

  • This may be a bit too objective in respect to the topic of hand, but I do have to ask this question specifically in regards to Chris and Rihanna's situation. Had Chris done the right thing and not retaliated, would we even be talking about Rihanna having (supposedly) hit him first? I know we live in a world full of double standards and such, but wrong is wrong, right? Personally, I believe that, outside of defending your own life, NO ONE should hit ANYONE, regardless of gender. While I agree that Chris should not have retaliated since his life was not in danger, neither of their actions should be acceptable. I don't care if it was a simple slap to the face or he or she called your mother a female dog, there is nothing that deserves violence, no matter if you or the other person is a man or woman. NO, Rihanna DID NOT deserve what happened to her, but I don't believe she is to be void of being held accountable for hitting someone, either.

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