Mark Greene thinks we have arrived at the cultural tipping point.
The New York Daily News is reporting today that Love and Hip Hop: Hollywood star Ray J’s girlfriend and co-star Princess Love was arrested after allegedly beating him up. The Daily News is reporting that she allegedly screamed, “I’m gonna kill you,” as she attacked the singer, leaving him with broken ribs and a torn ACL.
The Daily News writes:
The incident apparently occurred last Wednesday when the “Love and Hip Hop: Hollywood” star returned home after spending the night at a strip club with TV producers, law enforcement told TMZ.
The singer told cops his girlfriend attacked him, which resulted in several cracked ribs, a busted lip and a torn ACL.
Someone allegedly heard her scream “I’m gonna kill you” at Ray J, but cops weren’t called until a hotel security guard saw the singer bleeding, according to TMZ.
Love was reportedly charged with domestic abuse and battery.
Please note the frequent use of the word “alleged” here. We do not have the facts in this case. We can not say for sure what occurred. We may never know. But what we do know is that this story is now splashed across the gossip media landscape, triggered by an initial post on TMZ.
Did Ray J somehow deserve this? No. And have we finally put an end to this kind of question when men are abused? Perhaps so. Things have changed, and yet, a lot of old nasty narratives remain. For example:
Take a moment and listen to how the “Male DV is different” rationales can sound.
- “Ray J is a man. He can defend himself.”
- “Ray J deserved it, he was messing around at a strip club.”
- “Ray J, like most men, is a heart breaker. She want crazy, but what woman wouldn’t?”
- “Ray J and Princess Love are black, and black people, especially in Hip Hop culture, are violent.”
Another subtext that can linger: “This doesn’t happen to men too often, so what’s the big deal?”
Here’s the big deal. This is a direct quote from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Summary Report
More than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
That’s 44 million men. Think about it. 44 million. The numbers for women are even worse. But the way we deal with male victims of domestic violence leads to silencing and to shame for them.
In our culture, if a man strikes his wife and she reports it, the consequences can be immediate and catastrophic for that man.
If a women strikes her husband, and he reports it, are the results as significant? Or is he viewed culturally by the cop on the beat, as somehow lacking something integral to being a man? Is he viewed as weak? And are weak men viewed as not quite deserving of legal recourse in the same way as a women who, by definition, is defenseless? In a nutshell, the cops (as representatives of our culture’s most blunt social priorities ) may have very clear training and orders on how to deal with a husband beating his wife. But, by virtue of our system’s lumbering bureaucratic priorities, what training has he or she had to deal with a women beating a man? Very little. And so, they take a report and walk away shaking their heads.
I can tell you that I have seen this gender imbalance around physical abuse play out first person. A very kind and gentle friend of mine had the side of his face torn open by his wife on the day of their son’s first birthday. Apparently, the house was not ready in the way she expected. I was at his son’s first birthday party. He was not. When I saw him days later, he showed me the claw marks on his face. This was a serious open wound.
My friend made one thing perfectly clear. He knew that if he did anything in the moment to retaliate physically, he would lose access to his son. He took physical abuse from his wife for years after that before the marriage finally failed. And he never raised his hand back. He is not a violent person, but also, the knowledge that a potent legal double standard exists was never far from his mind. When the marriage ended, he was stuck holding the alimony and child support bills. I would not relate a story like this if it were not the god’s honest truth. The stakes are too high here. The implications too immense.
Stanley Green, Director of Intimate Partner Violence Prevention at the Men’s Health Network in Washington, D. C. has this to say about why men don’t seek help when they are victims of domestic violence:
It is no surprise that most male victims of intimate partner violence are unwilling to seek help, when all of the outreach on intimate partner violence which they have seen or heard places them solely in the perpetrator class. For decades, the training provided to law enforcement officers, prosecutors, attorneys, mental health professionals, and others reflected this societal stereotype.
Advocates worked for fourteen years to get a nondiscrimination clause into the primary Federal law addressing IPV, which is still entitled the Violence Against Women Act. Until these systemic biases are thoroughly corrected, most male victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and teen dating violence will continue to feel like there is no safe place for them to turn for help.
Ray J is facing the storm of publicity over being an alleged victim of intimate partner violence. It is no doubt prompting people to make all kinds of assumptions. But what I’m seeing on Twitter is pretty promising. Perhaps we are finally moving past the assumption that men are always the perpetrators of domestic violence. Check these tweets out:
When Ray Rice beat up his girl the whole world stopped when Ray J got beat up everybody laughed why is it that way — King Amusa (@JumpManZ) February 17, 2015
ray j got beat up and got laughed at. dv seems to only be an issue when men beat women. not the other way around. — Shover Todd (@Smooth_Orator) February 17, 2015
Are we actually laughing that Ray J got beat up by his girl, since when did domestic violence become funny??
— Joey Merlino (@Jay_SaidIt) February 17, 2015
Domestic violence is not acceptable either way. What happened to Ray-J should have never happened. At all. — A$AP Fro_ (@delafro_) February 17, 2015
girlfriend beating Ray J to a bloody pulp is funny but when Ray Rice knocked out his girl, damn did Twitter get so anti-abuse so fast. #js
— ❁ february24 ❁ (@ichizoba) February 16, 2015
So where does this all leave us? The tweets above are signs that the issue of domestic violence has hit a tipping point. Not only in terms of how seriously our society is taking domestic violence , but also in terms of the degree to which we are willing to include both men and women in the population of DV victims.
High profile domestic violence will keep being reported. It won’t be going away any time soon. So, how will we go forward when we learn that a man is a victim of intimate partner violence? Will we honor their story and offer them support, or laugh at them?
God willing, we’ll support any victim, regardless of what gender they are.