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!