by Aja Dorsey Jackson
After watching the Rihanna interview on Friday I went online to see what the masses had to say, as I usually do when I see something happen in the media. Although I was not surprised, it was still troubling to see the large number of Black women commenting online almost with contempt for the pop star. Despite the fact that we’ve all seen the pictures, despite the fact that at no point has Chris Brown denied her claims or claimed to have been defending himself against her, most women seemed to be saying “I don’t condone domestic violence but (insert justification here).” As I read comment after comment from my peers, I came to realize that there is a rather large population of Black women who believe that women should be beaten sometimes. I felt as if I had been stranded in the Color Purple movie with 10,000 Celies around me whispering “beat her” to Harpo.
If it seems like I’m sensitive to this topic it’s because I am. At the age of 21 I was the victim of a very violent domestic attack. As I heard Rihanna speak of her own confusion and loneliness it felt as raw as if the words were coming out of my own mouth.
Being attacked was only the beginning of the hard part for me. The hardest part was putting my pain on display and dealing with the rumors that followed. I heard everything from claims that despite the black eyes and bruises, I was a drama queen who had made it all up to allegations that I was on crack (yes crack). In the months that followed, there were numerous occasions when I regretted ever having made that phone call. It was as though I had found the strength to talk about being beaten in private, only to then be brutally assaulted in the court of public opinion.
Rihanna’s situation is different from mine only in the sense that she and her attacker are both celebrities. The incident and its aftermath is only an example of what happens on a smaller scale every day. We say that we don’t condone domestic violence, but what we really mean is we don’t condone domestic violence unless. Unless the woman is feisty. Or from an island. Or not that innocent. Or has a smart mouth. Or knows how to push a button. Or isn’t an angel. Or her abuser looks like the boy next door.
And then there are the cries of “why won’t everybody just let this go”. Here’s why: According to the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community, African American women experience domestic partner violence at rates 35 % higher than their white counterparts and intimate partner homicide is the leading cause of death for African American women ages 15 to 45. As opposed to using this very public situation to address this very real issue, we have popular urban websites running stories that paint Rihanna as a villain for speaking out. We have thousands of little Black girls and little Black boys who saw a Black woman’s battered, bloody, face on television and heard their grown up mothers and fathers say “well she shouldn”˜t have”...” with the same mouths that they use to say “never hit a woman”. If we care at all about trying to keep our children, sons and daughters, from entering into violent relationships, then shouldn’t we stop leading the way with our attitudes?
Even as I write this today, years later, I am nervous. I can’t help but to wonder how I will be judged by everyone reading it. The only reason why I choose to share my story is that I believe that there’s a girl out there that needs to hear from a girl like me. A girl who’s feisty. A girl that can get pretty angry. A girl that has a smart mouth sometimes and can occasionally push a button. A girl that isn’t an angel and has never claimed to be. A girl who doesn’t deserve to become a victim of domestic violence. Period.