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Love Hurts: How Society Justifies Domestic Abuse

Originally published in Jet Magazine

Power is a blockbuster hit show that airs on the Starz network. The writing is dynamic and the storyline about a man trying to get out of the drug business and go legitimate is full of twists, turns, and constant setbacks.

A couple of weeks ago on the show, there was an explicit scene where one of the main characters, Tommy, killed his girlfriend, Holly. Her character was one of the more disliked personalities of the series, and social media was abuzz with people expressing happiness in seeing Holly’s character killed by Tommy.

I shared the same sentiments. Holly was a constant source of conflict between Tommy and Ghost, played by Omari Hardwick, on the show. But, after having a conversation about this particular episode with someone who has been in an abusive relationship, I viewed the scene quite differently.

On Power, Tommy killed Holly by choking her to death because she set up a hit on his former best friend and business partner, Ghost. As Holly begged for her life, Tommy didn’t relent as he squeezed the life out of her and was so physically violent towards her to the point where he didn’t realize he had killed her. Adding to the story was the fact that Tommy was unaware that when he killed Holly, she was pregnant.

Though a dramatic end to a character and a thickened plot — because after all this is a TV show — the audience’s reaction to Holly’s violent death at the hands of her lover still brings to light how often — and in many cases —accepted domestic abuse occurs.

Domestic abuse does not discriminate. It affects women and men no matter their socioeconomic status. For Black women between the ages of 15 to 34, homicide at the hands of a current or former intimate partner is the number one killer, according to an African Voices Against Violence Tufts University study.

The reason why the domestic abuse scene in Power is important is because in society, some learn cues of acceptable relationship behavior from TV shows and other various forms of media. Domestic violence is often justified. When Rihanna’s domestic abuse occurred some years ago with Chris Brown, many wanted to find out why Chris acted like he did as opposed to just not accepting that the abuse was OK. This incident was impossible to ignore because of the pictures which showed the brutality of the attack.

When Boxer Floyd Mayweather was accused of abusing women he dated, some shrugged off his behavior and noted we should pay attention to what he does in the ring as opposed to in his personal life.

Society continues to remind us that women’s lives don’t matter. But they do!

When abuse happens, no matter the circumstances, the victim should never be blamed. Domestic violence is the abuser’s issue, not the one on the receiving end of the abuse. There is a definite disconnect in the depictions of ill-treatment of women and this behavior often gets overlooked and played down. Statistics back up the shame that comes from the abused. In a Tufts University study, when Black women were assaulted, only 17% reported the assault to police.

If you are in an abusive relationship it is critical for you to understand:

  • The abuse you are suffering is not your fault.
  • Your partner should treat you with respect and this does not include abusing you physically or verbally.
  • Others have experienced what you are going through and are willing to help you figure out how to leave an abusive relationship.

More importantly, there are clear signs that an abuser is NOT looking to change his or her behavior if:

  • The abuse is minimized, and he or she blames you or others for his actions.
  • He or she makes you feel like you’re the one who is abusive and doesn’t accept accountability for his or her part.
  • He or she suggests you get counseling to change your behavior.
  • He or she is not open to receiving counseling or help to change his or her behavior and insists that he or she is only able to change if you stay and help him or her do so.
  • He or she seeks empathy from you, your kids, family, and friends.

If you need help to leave an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233.

While we cannot rely on TV shows and other forms of entertainment to show us what a healthy relationship looks like, we can use these mediums to have a larger discussion of the unacceptable treatment of women and men who suffer from domestic violence. By doing so, we help them to be less apt to be in an abusive relationship.

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