Intimate partner violence (also known as Domestic Violence) is intrinsically connected to the societal oppression of women and other marginalized groups. At it's core it is about not just violence, but violence used systematically and repeatedly in the service of having power and control over another.
Intimate partner violence is everywhere, in every segment of the population. In my career I've worked to raise awareness of domestic violence in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities, for example. The media doesn't always cover it as such. Stories are often framed in ways that describe it as an assault in general or even worse, hold the victim of violence accountable. Assault, mutual fighting, these can be terms used that serve to help keep intimate partner violence invisible. Yesterday a bit of lyric on the radio prompted my pondering these issues anew. It was a refrain that seemed to be suggesting a violent response to a perpetrator of domestic violence.
That certainly got my attention! A Chicago radio station giving this air play? I am usually out of the loop in terms of celebrity news, but even I was well aware of the alleged intimate partner violence Rhianna experienced at the hands of Chris Brown. I've seen the usual mixed and disappointing coverage of the issue, the victim blaming, the minimizing. Youth, who are especially attuned to media messages, are also exposed to dating / intimate partner violence at an alarming rate: 1 in 4 adolescents reports verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse from a dating partner each year. So is it any surprise that youth continue to buy into victim blaming messages? An informal poll in of 200 teenagers in Boston showed that nearly half those interviewed held the victim, Rhianna, responsible for the violence she allegedly experienced at the hands of her boyfriend, fellow music star Chris Brown.
What exactly is the message being conveyed by these lyrics? Is it about responding to violence with violence, or a more general statement about holding intimate partner violence perpetrators accountable for their actions?
In no way do I see violence as the solution to violence. As Gandhi said, "an eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind". As a trauma therapist I am keenly aware that prior exposure to violence, either as a victim or witness is often in the history of those who become perpetrators of violence as adults.
I did a bit more research regarding this musical response to intimate partner violence. Reading all the lyrics and a bit of an interview of one of the group suggest that this is a message of accountability, not vigilante justice. According to the Jump Smokers' website, a portion of the proceeds from the sales of "My Flow So Tight" will benefit three organizations for battered women.
"I was really upset with the way a lot of celebrities and people were handling the situation. Not enough people were speaking out against Chris Brown," one of the group's members, CW Griz, told the AP about Chris Brown, who is scheduled to be arraigned Monday. "What he [allegedly] did was a thousand percent wrong. We're not trying to take advantage of a horrible situation. We want to take a positive stance."
I think it is really crucial that men speak out about domestic violence and hold each other accountable. I've written previously about an organization, A Call to Men, working towards just this vision, a vision of men working to end violence against women.
Hopefully, this incident provides us with an opportunity to engage in a broader discussion about violence against women.
Kathleen Young, Psy.D
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