Celebrities And Domestic Violence: They Are Human Too

Celebrities seem to have it all — fame, fortune, the ability to get a book published that is poorly written and yet makes the best-seller list. Chefs and personal trainers and trips to exotic locales.

They are paid to look and act certain ways at certain times so I don’t mind the commentary on their dresses and hair and ability to act or sing. But I do draw the line at holding celebrities up to higher standards when it comes to domestic violence. I don’t think being famous gives people magically powers to escape abusive relationships quicker because, while they may have the financial means to leave, abuse is not a basic socio-economic problem. The women in these relationships are human beings who are going to respond like abused partners.

Take Rihanna and Chris Brown’s relationship. Almost everyone support Rihanna when she left Chris Brown after the abuse went public, but when she forgave him and went back to spending time with him, people were mean and angry and ignorant. Ignorant because it takes seven times ON AVERAGE for a woman to leave her abusive partner. Maybe she could’ve been an anomaly and left the first time around, but she’s not. That doesn’t make her a bad role model. That makes her not yet even average. And it is our reaction to this, our vitriol, our hate, that makes it even harder for people to leave again. We set people up to not want to admit abuse is happening again. They may not be willing to seek help. We don’t have to condone something to be kind, thoughtful and understanding. And do we really need to say I told you so when living our gentle and abuse-free lives?

Another very common reaction to abuse is to normalize it. “He’s just trying to make me better.” “I egged him on.” “Real Housewife” Melissa Gorga recently wrote a book about her marriage, Love Italian Style. I have only read excerpts, but it’s pretty clear that over the last decade, her husband used intimidation, control and violence to get what he wants.

Men, I know you think your woman isn’t the type who wants to be taken. But trust me, she is. Every girl wants to get her hair pulled once in a while. If your wife says “no,” turn her around, and rip her clothes off. She wants to be dominated. (an excerpt from her book, which is a quote of her husband extolling marital rape. More quotes can be found on Jezebel)

She’s not allowed to go on overnight trips, get a job or say no to sex more than once a day. She makes this out like this what you have to do to have a good marriage. Now much of the response is about how terrible and gross and awful they are as a couple or she is for writing this as an advice book. But, setting him aside, I think she’s just human. She may have more reach than the average person but that does not make her immune to a very human reaction to abuse: making it okay so she can survive. Instead of demonizing her, we can react by saying, “If your relationship looks like this, here are ways to get help.”

These relationships happen every day to people we know with nearly 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men experiencing abuse over their lifetime. While I would never want anyone to go through domestic violence, seeing these complex relationships play out in celebrities’ lives could help us to be more understanding of our friends and neighbors’ in similar situations. Will those we care about read how gross and disgusted we are with the person being abused or see someone they can turn to and trust to not be judged?

If you are in an abusive relationship or unsure if you are, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 to call or visit to read more of the website’s resources. If you want to learn to be more helpful, you can look at these friend resources as well. They are also starting a new campaign called How I See DV where people can contribute personal stories through social media.

Disclaimer: This post was not sponsored or compensated although they did ask if I would participate in the campaign because I care about the topic. The post was written separately, and I wanted to include resources anyway so I was able to include the new campaign. Yay!

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

10 thoughts to “Celebrities And Domestic Violence: They Are Human Too”

  1. As usual, you’ve made me consider a side of the story I hadn’t reached on my own. I’ll keep this post in mind before leaping to condemn Melissa Gorga.

    Although the fact that she’s got a book deal and I don’t?
    Well. I still kind of hate her for that.

    1. I did find the book deal strange. Does her publisher and agent not realize what is going on? Do they just talk about it behind her back? Not care because it’s a money-maker (i.e. controversial)? Believe it themselves? I have seen people, who support domestic violence victims, get tired and give up. I don’t know.

  2. It took watching my best friend being put through hell to realize that it can happen to anyone. To realize that we, who have been lucky enough to have avoided it thus far, have No. Fucking. Clue. To realize that, as friends, you see the people you love through their lowest lows because they NEED the people who love them if they’re ever going to get out. And it’s not going to happen on anyone’s schedule but their own.

    I hope these high-profile women (and men) have people who love them every step of the way. The rest of us should just realize we have no idea what their situation is, or what they’re going through, and stop jumping on the condmnation bandwagon. the last thing these people need is more negativity and hate.

    As always, thank you for posting this.

    1. Thank you for sharing this. I, too, hope they have people who care for them as people. When the people, who we believe love us intimately, hurt us, and the other people (friends, other family), who love us, condemn us, who does that leave?
      I hope your best friend is in a safe place today.

  3. I grew up with domestic violence. My siblings and I were hit by both parents and my dad regularly abused my mom in front of us.

    so this cause and all it’s reasons for still loving that person, staying are not foreign to me at all. MY sister then married a man just like my dad, and suffered abuse at his hands for more than 11 years. Bruises, black eyes, emotional abuse until she finally left and is going through a hellish divorce.

    So yes, I agree, these women(and men who are abused) are human (and probably have some self esteem issues and lack of self worth hiding inside. Being famous doesn’t negate who you are inside, how you feel about yourself, or how you’ve been raised to think about your own worth.)

    I am just sad that we can’t, as a community of people, have more empathy for the members of the human race.

    1. I’m so sorry that you and your family went through this. And I appreciate your insight about how we feel on the inside has nothing to do with our outsides (famous, pretty, rich, etc). We don’t know what we deserve, and even if we learn, often in domestic violent relationships, leaving is so hard that getting what we deserve feels and can be so difficult.
      I wonder why it’s hard for us to let others be human. Does it scare us that people aren’t stronger? I don’t know.

  4. I am totally with you. Totally. But now I CAN NOT STOP reading the link you posted on Melissa Gorga. I am just so interested in the fact that this rhetoric is being sold as a marriage advice book.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.