Domestic Violence: "Why Doesn't She Leave?" Is the Wrong Question to Ask About Rihanna
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Confession: Every time I see a feminist write about the reasons women don't leave abusers, and they focus to financial constraints and the physical ability to leave to the exclusion of all other factors, I flinch. I flinch, though I've been guilty of this myself. It's just such an easy, obvious way to get sympathy for women who have very little sympathy in the public, who tend to share 51-100% of the blame for the beatings that they avoid and wish deeply didn't happen. You want to get the question off, "Why doesn't she leave?" and onto the one that people hate asking, "Why does he beat her?", and focusing on the most helpless of cases is the quickest, easiest way to do that. But what it does, I realize, is separates "good" victims who deserve our sympathy from "bad" victims who deserve to carry 51-100% of the blame. You see the same effect when it comes to rape -- the public offers its sympathy to the woman who was wearing a potato sack and a stranger jumps out of the bushes, and we do so in part so we can blame other women for raping themselves by being, and you know the drill, sexually active before, wearing that, stupid enough to drink around men, willing to go out with men she should have known were rapists -- name your "date rape/gray rape" cliches that take the heat off calling it what it is, which is rape.
Which is why a pit formed in my stomach when photos were leaked showing -- to no great surprise to anyone who understands the situation -- that Rihanna was at a party with Chris Brown, and that they're probably back together. She's going straight into the "bad victim" category, of course, because she hasn't been covered sufficiently by feminist explanations of why women don't leave. She has the money to leave, and they don't have the intricate ties that make it hard to leave, like children. And then there's the hints that she "did something" to provoke him -- we prefer our battering victims to just lay down and take it and never do a single thing in self-defense. In fact, if you are ever battered and call the police, be very careful to only use fleeing as a form of self-defense. The law is very eager to see domestic violence not for what it is, but just as a normal fight that got out of control, and so if you even slap a guy off you, you're probably going to jail and getting charged, too.
It was questioned in comments here yesterday whether or not feminists are just making shit up when we say that men who beat and rape women can expect a large amount of social support, often more than their victims. That fact that feminists and sometimes even law enforcement pushes hard back against the perp-coddling aspects of our society does confuse the issue. We've convinced people, and therefore we can pretend the people who go on and on about how she was asking for it and he's such a nice guy, etc. are marginalized, right? Wrong -- they're, it turns out, Kanye West. And, as someone who has experienced this first hand can testify, even if you can get people to agree that what the guy did to you was unforgiveable so that they shun him -- which alone is nearly impossible -- people treat you like a leper. Many a woman who has pressed charges for rape or domestic violence, or even just come out about it, saw her friends slowly drift away, even if they mean to care. More often, though, if the man who hurt you is in your family and social circle, people are going to rapidly "not take sides", which is essentially taking his side, because if and when you do choose to fight back or leave him, that will be viewed as you deliberately removing yourself from that particular social circle. So, without taking his side, they can take his side through passively waiting you out. In fact, the Kanye West thing is a classic example of this danger -- he initially sided with Rihanna, and now he's asking for sympathy for Chris Brown, and there's not much wiggle room after that. You really can't take both sides in these situations, though I fully understand why he'd want to.