Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Domestic Violence a Big Secret?

In a recent interview, recapping her beating by boyfriend Chris Brown, Rihanna says "Domestic violence is a big secret. No kid goes around and lets people know their parents fight. Teenage girls can't tell their parents that their boyfriend beat them up," according to The New York Post.


Perhaps this is a cultural thing: I didn't grow up in Barbados as Rihanna did. What she considers to be normal is hardly the average American experience.

Of course there are cases in which domestic violence IS a big secret. But as a nation, we have grown much better about defining what it is, and what it isn't. In fact, we encourage people to cry "abuse" so often that there are times in which it has become like the Salem Witch Trials.

And it is easy to declare someone is abusive if it helps you get what you want: Does your mom demand you make your bed every morning? Threaten her with Child Protective Services! Does your wife want a divorce and you want the house? File a domestic abuse complaint with the court to have her forceably evicted!

On the other hand, there are genuine victims. We now have wonderful organizations that help abused women find shelter and jobs. In many states, stalking is now also considered to be abuse, which allows the victim additional protection.

And I have no doubt that Rihanna was abused.

But Rihanna's last sentence really seems to take it over the top. If, as a teenager, I had ever been beaten by a boyfriend, all I would have to do is tell my parents about it. They would have had the police at our door faster than you can say "body slam". And I firmly believe this is the way the vast majority of Americans would handle it.

But, sadly, we have become a nation of self-indulgent whiners. We can see this in the proliferation of daytime TV court shows and horrid train wrecks such as "Jon & Kate Plus 8". Marketing firms cater to this trend with slogans like "you deserve [fill in the blank]."

Why? Because we're special! We're unique! Just like everyone else!

This gullibility is alarming. Because we want to believe it, we do. It bars fact-checking because it reaches deep into our psyches and hits us where it counts.

Do we all truly believe, deep down inside, that we are better than everyone else? Yes: We all do. But it's up to us to realize that this instinctive belief is not the truth, and we must overcome this.

But I digress.

To sum it all up: Is Rihanna right? Is domestic violence a big secret?

No. Domestic violence has, for the most part, come out of the closet. And in the case of Rihanna, it is on page 1.


Angela said...

Domestic violence is so much more than just the physical abuse, it is the mental and emotional abuse that goes along with it as well.

I agree with her to an extent although the comments she made almost imply she has no clue what she is talking about.

A lot of people that are the victims of domestic violence/abuse keep quiet about it. The emtional abuse leads them to not speak up and help themselves. In that respect, it is a secret as so many people are abused on a regular basis and the people around them never know.

Ed said...

I think we are a nation of excuse makers and that is what Rihanna is trying to do with her statement, make an excuse of why she didn't get out sooner.

I am in no way condoning the actions of Chris Brown with the above statement.

Scott said...

I don't think that domestic violence is a big secret in that we all know that it happens and there is little if any sympathy for any abuser.

I think the point might have been that there are a lot of people who get abused, particularly young people and they don't tell people when it happens, most often they don't tell their parents. I think there is a good chance that a lot of young women do not tell their parents when they experience abuse. it is still one of the sad underlying truths about abuse.

daveawayfromhome said...

I think the biggest deterent to ending abuse is the shame that the victims feel. This is a worldwide problem, to the extent that rape is used by some militaries as a weapon. If we could remove the "shame" of being abused, then it would lead to more speaking out, and hopefully it would do a lot to reduce the level of violence (if only by putting the abuser someplace where he/she can no longer get at others).
Unfortunately, to (nearly) eliminate it, you'd have to convince many people (both victims and bystanders) to not believe that victims deserve it, which is an unfortunate belief held by many abusees. This seems to me to be a bigger tragedy than the so-called "shame" of abuse.
Both are sad and absurd reactions to someone's inability to deal with disappointment or anger in any other way than physically and/or mentally pummelling someone weaker than they.