Every 9 seconds in the United States a woman is assaulted or beaten. Shocking, isn’t it? Hell of a way to start off this article, but your attention is exactly what I wanted to get. I can sit here and rattle off facts and figures to you all day, but the truth is most people won’t pay attention to any of it. We see violence on television, in the movies and hear it in music every day. Our children are so over exposed to sex and violence that when it’s actually happening in front of them they aren’t sure emotionally how to react.
Our two most recent examples of domestic violence came in the form of singer Rihanna and her ex-boyfriend singer Chris Brown. One couple, two well known singers in the mainstream music business, role models for young men and women embroiled in a relationship of control, jealousy and abuse. In one night we were exposed to the skeletons in their closet, but also exposed to the desensitization of our society and our children to domestic abuse. Immediately, as the media got a hold of the story, more and more details leaked out of what happened that night and the injuries that Rihanna suffered, even a photo of her was circulated through the webosphere, forever chronicling her most personal tragedy. Bloody, beaten and obviously broken in many ways, her face became the new picture of abuse for many women across our nation. Because it wasn’t just some random person on the news that no one knew, this was a woman that we all knew. Fans quickly began to take sides, some playing on team Rihanna and other’s siding with the abuser Chris Brown, and we began to see how truly psychologically confused many of our citizens are when it comes to abuse. Tweets began to pour out of women saying they would let Chris Brown hit them anytime, some saying Rihanna deserved it, disgusting and vial words that were so misguided that you could only feel badly for those initiating them.
Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. Most often, the abuser is a member of her own family. Abuse can and does come in many forms whether its physical, emotional or psychological. It seems women, the usually submissive party in a family or relationship, can be taken advantage of. The use of emotions in a relationship, a woman’s ability to be empathetic, can quickly become their Achilles heel, by a person who is emotionally stunted themselves and wants nothing more than to hurt and control the person who loves them the most.
We can also attribute much of the roles of men and women to religion and the use of women in the bible.
• Genesis 3:16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
• Ephesians 5:22-24 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
• Colossians 3:18 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
If religion has taught us anything throughout the years, it is that women are property to be used for a husband’s will and to bare children. Families are constantly referring to the father or the husband as the head of the household, the decision maker, the last word on every subject and we have created this role play between the sexes, the role play that gives men the right to control and sometimes abuse women. To be fair, these sentiments are echoed in every other major religion including Judaism and the Muslim religions. Religion can be such an integral part of any child’s life, especially if the parents are very religious, reading the bible, going to church can leave an imprint in their mind as to how a family dynamic will work. Catholicism can instill guilt, self-loathing and sometimes hatred into the minds of young and impressionable children and if taken literally, the bible can allow them to validate their reasons to abuse.
Music and film throughout the years have attributed to the stigmas attached to being a female, including the introduction of Rap music into society. Much of what Gangsta Rap depicts is the use of women as bitches and hoes only good for sex, arm candy and to smack around for one’s pleasure. While some rappers have taken it upon themselves to try and erase that depiction, the majority of what is put out into the mainstream airwaves has made beating and use of women for sex a “cool” thing to do. Eminem is notorious for this in his earlier music, chronicling his disturbing and tumultuous relationship with his wife Kim.
Studies suggest that up to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually. So, what of the children in these domestic relationships? Is there a link between growing up in an abusive household and being an abuser yourself? Most experts believe that children who are raised in abusive households learn that violence is an effective way to resolve conflicts and problems. They can replicate the violence they experienced as children in their adult relationships and parenting. Boys who witness their mothers being abused are more likely to abuse their girlfriends as adults, than boys raised in nonviolent homes. Unfortunately, for girls they will grow up thinking that violence and abuse are the norm in relationships and will most likely find partners, who like their fathers, will abuse them. It’s a vicious cycle that cannot be broken, unless intervention happens at a very young age.
Nearly 1 in 5 teenage girls who have been in a relationship, said that a boyfriend threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup. Is it not the responsibility of role models in industries like music and film, to show young girls and boys that physical violence is never the answer? So, I take you back to Rihanna and Chris Brown, reports of the two reconciling have been raging through the internet and entertainment media outlets, like TMZ. Does this not add to the message that physical violence is ok as long as you apologize and do a little community service? I’ve been struggling with how to feel about this situation, because being an eternal music lover, and music snob, I find myself deleting her off of my iPod in some sort of protest. I am not a mother, I am an older sister to a 31 year old brother and I’m an older cousin to younger females and I feel it’s my responsibility to show them that this sort of behavior, these acts are not acceptable in any form by anyone. Dating at tender ages like your teen years is never easy you are fighting puberty, peer pressure and societal pressures to be and act in ways you aren’t yet ready for. The waters of high school are shark infested and sometimes it’s difficult to tell when someone does something out of love or out of an act of control. Many kids learn at that age what it means to be in an abusive relationship.
So, how do we combat this how do we teach our children, our friends, our family, that abuse cannot be tolerated? How do we give them the tools and the self-esteem to make it out in the real world? Paying attention to family and friends is key, sometimes we get so caught up in our own lives that we forget about others. We sometimes neglect what can be directly in front of our faces. There are many signs of abuse that we sometimes may miss. It starts at home within the family unit, establishing that a marriage is a mutual one of love and respect, that both parties participate in making decisions and that arguments are discussions rather than yelling and screaming. Growing up I saw my parents fight at least one time that I can recall, they were always respectful to not fight in front of my brother and I, and anytime they did disagree we always saw them discussing it. There was never a time when I felt afraid and threatened by anything they were involved in. We need to teach our children that relationships are a two-way street that love is about compromise, that it’s about making each other happy and not about control. If we begin these lessons at a young age, they will grow up to pass this along to their children and I know from my own experience they will want to surround themselves with friends who follow their same beliefs. Children are like sponges, just ready to soak up all the information we want to pass along and to think that they don’t understand, that they don’t realize what goes on in our everyday lives, is a naïve belief. Lift the veil and see that they need your direction to know what life is truly about, they don’t need to be coddled or lied to in order to protect them. They need the truth.
I’ll play the tepid observer, because I know some will leave comments about the fact that I am not a mother I do not have children. Take advice from an outside observer that these days you’re doing it all wrong, my parents were not my friends my parents were my guardians, my role models. They taught me right from wrong, they guided me down the right paths, not to the best shoe stores. I knew what was right and I knew what was wrong and when something didn’t feel right, when I felt threatened or in an uncomfortable situation, I always knew in the back of my mind what my mother would say or what she would do and I followed that path. You cannot rely on celebrities to teach them right from wrong, because as we’ve seen time and time again, morals will not come from a majority of what your children are seeing or listening to. Their best teachers are at home.
If we wait for celebrities to teach our children, it may be too late. Here is a short, short list of some celebrities who have been victims of/or abusers themselves.
• Tina and Ike Turner
• Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown
• Amy Winehouse and Blake Fielder-Civil
• Mike Tyson and Robin Givens
• Chris Brown and Rihanna
• Halle Berry – Abusive Father
• Charlize Theron – Abusive/Alcoholic Father
• Christina Aguilera - Abusive/Alcoholic Father
• Oprah Winfrey – Sexually Abused
: Recognizing the warning signs of domestic violence and abuse
It's impossible to know with certainty what goes on behind closed doors, but there are some telltale signs and symptoms of emotional abuse and domestic violence. If you witness any warning signs of abuse in a friend, family member, or co-worker, take them very seriously.
General warning signs of domestic abuse
People who are being abused may:
Seem afraid or anxious to please their partner.
Go along with everything their partner says and does.
Check in often with their partner to report where they are and what they’re doing.
Receive frequent, harassing phone calls from their partner.
Talk about their partner’s temper, jealousy, or possessiveness.
Warning signs of physical violence
People who are being physically abused may:
Have frequent injuries, with the excuse of “accidents.”
Frequently miss work, school, or social occasions, without explanation.
Dress in clothing designed to hide bruises or scars (e.g. wearing long sleeves in the summer or sunglasses indoors).
Warning signs of isolation
People who are being isolated by their abuser may:
Be restricted from seeing family and friends.
Rarely go out in public without their partner.
Have limited access to money, credit cards, or the car.
The psychological warning signs of abuse
People who are being abused may:
Have very low self-esteem, even if they used to be confident.
Show major personality changes (e.g. an outgoing person becomes withdrawn).
Be depressed, anxious, or suicidal.