Monday, March 02, 2009

A caution about abuse…

A certain someone who shall remain anonymous sent a bitch an email asking for my thoughts on the alleged assault of Rihanna by Chris Brown. Anonymous said that she is a teen who has a friend in an abusive relationship and that she is angry over recent news reports stating that Rihanna has reunited with Brown. She expressed worry that her friend would do the same thing and confusion over why anyone would stay in a relationship that was abusive.


I have avoided posting about this because so much is unclear and what little is clear has been exploited by the press.

But what I won’t avoid is the following caution about abuse.

Shall we?

I have never been the victim of physical abuse…but I was the victim of emotional and verbal abuse by my mother.

I spent years blaming myself for not being perfect…then blaming society for not seeing what we worked so hard to disguise, for not sensing what I had been trained to distract attention away from. I thought I deserved the rants, the tantrums, the cruel words and the vicious taunts.

Even when I decided that enough was enough…it wasn’t. I left home at 16 to attend college, but a connection remained.

And with a simple phone call or over a week during break the pattern was re-established.

I…the wrong, the flawed and the one who called down criticism upon myself.

She…the authority, the parent and the one burdened with imperfect children in need of discipline.

I didn’t break from my mother until I was thirty and that final break wasn’t the result of another incident.

It was time and right.

And I’m sure there are people who say that it must not have been that bad…that I share responsibility because I stayed or returned or blah, blah and blah.


Whatever may come of this single news story, I caution folks to try to understand that leaving isn’t easy.

Staying is not an admission that things aren’t that bad.

I have known abuse and I have known the struggle to get away, the pressure that is still tossed my way to forgive and forget and the guilt that flares at the strangest times.

And I know that there isn’t a damn thing easy or simple about it…

…even though I know it was the right thing for me to do.

National Domestic Abuse Hotline
1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
TTY 1-800-787-3224
Info. for teens is available here


Dawn Fortune said...

true words. Spoken from the heart. I know that experience. Not all battery is physical. Good for you for getting out. It ain't easy, no matter when it happens.

RiPPa said...

Well said.

The assumption that staying is an admission that things are not that bad is an erroneous one. To think that the abused is weak minded doesn't lend to her situation or demise.

Personally, I think this issue with these celebrities should not be the rallying cry for domestic violence.

And I can't understand why Black people in particular are mad about them getting back together after we supported Bobby & Whitney all those years.

jsb16 said...

And... for women in physically abusive relationships, leaving is risky. AFAIK, most women who are killed by abusers are killed when they try to leave. Leaving and surviving takes a good plan and solid allies.

Tori said...

This post touches me because, like you, I have never been the victim of physical abuse, but I have been the victim of emotional and verbal abuse at the hands of my grandmother. I finally broke with her this year after receiving a second cruel birthday card in two years. I had had enough. My mom is caught in the middle, which only served to make my decision to end my relationship with my grandma more difficult, but ultimately, I knew it had to be done, and I have no regrets.

Anonymous said...

Abuse (of any kind)is a sickness shared between perpetrator and victim. When the relationship is maintained in spite of the abuse neither party is being served. Neither party should recommit to the relationship until both have had the benefit of counseling or therapy or time to heal. This will allow each to see how unbalanced and off an abusive relationship is. Without that insight the anger and the pain simply get buried in a shallow grave.

I have not really been following the story, but if Rihanna is reuniting with Chris Brown without conditions such as anger management or counseling or some serious parameters around the relationship she is doing a grave dis-service to herself and young women. Forget not, he did not simply push her or slap her. He BEAT her. That kind of assault and the anger behind it should not be allowed to continue without being confronted. Like it or not Rihanna has become a poster child for domestic violence, she should take up the banner instead of trying to hide it.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

That word is such a catch-all.
Most of us have been abused in one form or another. It doesn't seem right for me to use the term to describe the beatings my father gave me on a regular basis with the sexual molestation(rape) and accompanying beating some woman received from her father.
I work with alcoholics and addicts on a daily basis. The issues of childhood and adulthood abuse are always present and far ranging.
And yes, leaving the abuser is not just difficult; sometimes, it's damn near impossible. Abusers, who are just a sick as those they abuse, are conniving, manipulative people. Almost 100% of the time, they have been victims of abuse themselves just as almost 100% of the time their victims become abusers.
See, we can't just remove the victim from the perpetrator. If only it were that simple.
It's a culture that has to be addressed and removed but America doesn't like to look deeply at her dysfunction. It's much easier to sweep it under the rug.

Go Go Jo Jo said...

thank you for your honest post. i got into this issue with a person i respect this weekend because they said R should be ashamed of herself for doing this, basically lambasting her for not speaking out.

my mother was physically abused by my father, my father was/is emotionally abusive to me, and my sister is currently in an abusive relationship with a guy that i'm pretty sure she's not planning to leave anytime soon.

people who say that women in these situations are some how wrong for not immediately leaving often do not understand the social and personal pressure that goes into making the decision to stay. i don't think women stay because its because they don't think its bad. i think particularly black women are raised to believe that we should value keeping family together and making relationships work over our own personal mental and physical health. we as a community are supporting this ideal. that some black women (myself included) have been made to feel like this means we have to accept abusive relationships is no surprise.

Anonymous said...

I truly appreciate your response. It is thoughtful and honest.

I am a survivor of physical abuse and the coverage and comments of this whole situation has enraged me.

I know that before I was a victim, I always talked about how I would never let a man hit me. And it isn't until the first time he does that you realize where you are.

Abuse is a vicious cycle that was probably heaped on the person who is heaping on you. However, that doesn't excuse or permits the behavior. It is wrong for anyone to place their hands on another with the intent of physical harm.

My heart leaps out for Rhianna because she is living one of the most painful times of her life in front of the world. She is not freely allowed to make the mistakes or choices other abused women have. She is in a cycle and one only hopes that when she breaks from this cycle that it is not in a box or some other permanent damage to herself or her abuser.

Anonymous said...

Abuse of any form is hard to get away from for the avg. income person. Especially if u are talking about the abuser isolating the person, there are kids involved, there is no income to count on until u get back on your feet. Then there is the shame of even admitting it as u sit with your crying kids, just the clothes on your back, and stitches/black eyes/splints with your head hanging down. When it 1st happens u 'think' u did something wrong to cause it or was told u deserved it for upsetting the abuser. Self-belief, self confidence goes down the drain in a hurry. It takes much to get away, then when u do & look back, u see a 'weak' cowardly person & u wonder why u didn't kick their ass before u got away?

Infuriated Faggot said...

I was in an abusive relationship for 2 years...he was an under-achieving loser of a guy, I was a focused college student who thought he was in love. My parents never wanted to meet my abusive partner (and haven't yet met my current partner of 8 years) which made it more difficult to talk about. I was beaten, not because I was a jerk who pushed him to hit me, but because my very pursuit of semi-excellence challenged him.

I still remember having to explain away bruises citing a 'collision with a wall' when in reality it was pure hate that bruised my face.

I remember trying to talk in an online community about my abuse and the women in the group being completely unphased by my experience as if my manhood put me on a different level in the abuser-victim relationship. Fuck that!

It took me a long time and a move to florida from Chicago to put enough distance between us to get out- and stay out.

Now, I'm with a man who loves, respects and laughs. What a relief! But the process of getting away from that vampire of an abuser was difficult. I pity anyone who was to deal with that shit. For me. . .lesson learned.

Violence perpetrated by those in my life will not be tolerated. In the end, no one is worth that shit.

Anonymous said...

I spent 29 years married to a man who made me feel that I was never quite good enough. He finally left me for another woman and is doing the same to her. I have never in my life been more at peace with who I am. Unfortunately, my son is now dealing with drug abuse issues and has recently left rehab. He is much like me- my daughters seemed able to brush the comments off- he and I took them to heart. Amen to the comment "not all battery is physical"!

Jen said...

yes. yes yes yes.
i'm glad you've held off on the rihanna situation until now. and i'm glad that this is your response.

i would love if this is where the bigger conversation went. if, instead of focusing on how "stupid" or "hopeless" rihanna is for returning to her abuser, people focused on trying to understand why that happens, and trying to foster the situations that make it possible and feasible to cut that tie. (note that i did not say easy. i said possible.)

but i know that instead, folks are going to take this opportunity, like they have even in this thread, to heap responsibility on rihanna, as though she "owes" it to the public to do the "right" thing and leave. and they'll take the opportunity to throw out ridiculous statistics like "almost 100% of their victims become abusers." (no. just no.)

and that makes me sad. and a little discouraged about this world i live in.

but then there's you, and people speaking some productive, non-victim-blaming, honest truth. speaking from a kind of knowledge that needs to be respected so much more often than it is.
and that, at least, offers a little bit of hope.

Anonymous said...

Hear here! It's amazing how self guilt works. No one can make you leave a toxic relationship until you see it with your own clarity.

Its unfortunate that it takes some longer than others (took me just about the same amount of time to break from mine as yours!) but it is how it plays out.

having said that (perhaps to much), I consider physical abuse is a little bit more intense - being the pussy I am where it comes to pain - than verbal abuse.

And try as I have (I've seen the return to the abuser again and again,) I will never understand the codependency that gets someone to willingly walk back into it.

I wish not only Riri but your readers' friend all the best. But I reside in the if you walk back into it you deserve what you get camp.

Cuz the way I see it I think one of those blows has to give you some type of clarity that the relationship isnt Disney!

Rants, Thoughts & Merde

Anonymous said...

To honor all you are and the awesome work you do I made a donation to the St. Louis division of Habitat for Humanity.

Thanks for this post!

Shark-Fu said...


Thank you so much! I am so honored and touched.


Gina Pond said...

Thank you! The "why didn't you just leave?" question is the hardest one for me to explain to people. Usually, I tell people that it's because it took me a long time to see that it wasn't *my* fault, but his. It's not an easy conclusion to get to when you're told you're horrible, rotten, and no good...

Wendell said...

So much distilled into this post.

"...there isn’t a damn thing easy or simple about it..." <- such a well-put and important point.

@ HomoOnTheLoose--two things:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for what you said about your mother's verbal and emotional abuse of you. Thanks for what you said about abuse in general. After an incident with my own family yesterday, it was exactly what I needed to read. Thanks for not letting me be alone.

EHR said...

Ugh. No one ever EVER deserves abuse. I don't care what they did, they do not deserve to live in constant fear and be beaten on a whim. That is just sadistic.

No, NativeNYKer, the blows do not bring clarity. They bring out the survival instinct. The only thoughts a victim has when she is being abused is 'fight or flight?' I distinctly remember running down a rainy street in my socks, my father no longer chasing me because that would make it public and he knew well enough to hide it, and it was as if I was waking up from a horrible dream. And then I turned around and went back, where he beat me some more, because I had nowhere else to go.

Shark-Fu, I think it is a little too easy for people like you and me to say that the emotional abuse we suffered wasn't that bad because it didn't leave bruises. But most physical abuse is accompanied by the constant belittling that is emotional abuse, and I honestly believe that physical abuse is just another form of emotional abuse. The abuser's ultimate goal is manipulation to get what s/he wants; with emotional abuse, the victim is manipulated by lowered self esteem and increased self-hatred and self doubt, while with physical abuse the victim is manipulated by fear.

Count Ringworm said...

"A caution about abuse" or "A caution about villification before knowing the facts?"

Chris Brown Case Heats Up, Sources Say Rihanna 'Abused' Chris Brown Before February Altercation

Mysterious Vortex said...

I'm sorry for what your mother did to you. Whether it's physical or verbal, no family member or partner should do these horrrors, and no one should be made to feel guilty for leaving...or having a hard time leaving

my blog:

"Adult Children of Toxic Parents, Fight!"

It's really new, so not too many posts, but some good stuff....

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