Stop enabling abusive men

Stop enabling abusive men

Jamie Stewart-Aday

After it was announced that rapper XXXTentacion had been senselessly murdered, his fans gave an outpouring of unconditional love across all social media platforms. At a glance, this makes perfect sense: he was a talented artist, and his commentary on mental illness helped a lot of people who struggled with similar issues.

But this was not all that X was. He was a serial domestic abuser, who reportedly threatened his girlfriend’s life every single day, threatened to put a “barbecue cleaner” or a “barbecue fork” in her vagina, strangled her repeatedly, and assaulted her with the threat to kill her and her unborn child when she revealed she was pregnant. He was also a malicious homophobe—he severely beat up a gay man just for looking at him, calling him a “fa****.” These are just some of the countless allegations against him, not to mention armed robbery and witness tampering.

Is it okay to mourn his death? Yes. But that’s not all his fans did on June 19. They showed him love without measure, choosing to remember him only as the man who helped them get through tough times, and fighting those who wanted to recognize him as the full person he was. This narrow-sighted view of an abusive man is ignorant and problematic.

When abusive men die, the effects of their abuse do not. According to Baonam Giang of the organization Break the Cycle, which works to help victims of relationship abuse, “Survivors can experience an increased risk for sexually transmitted infections, depression, and self-harm. Additionally, survivors can also experience eating disorders, flashbacks, alienation from community, and post-traumatic stress disorder. “ He even adds that, “These are just a few of impacts of abuse on the survivor there are a whole host of other traumas that can occur.”

These impacts are often deadly. Up to 23 percent of domestic abuse survivors have attempted suicide, making these victims 7.7 times more likely to attempt suicide than those who were not exposed to domestic violence.

When people choose to excuse the abuse perpetrated by X and men like him, they are allowing this trauma to continue to plague the lives of his victim, and the thousands of other survivors who are forced to live with these harmful effects every day.

And the enabling of abusive men by the American public extends far beyond the late X and includes people who are still alive and prospering. Within the music industry, the most notable example is Chris Brown.

Brown was first accused of abuse by his then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009. But since then, his abusive behavior has not gone away, and he has been accused of threatening and assaulting multiple women. For nine years, Brown has proven himself time and time again to be a violent and abusive person. And yet he’s still worth 30 million dollars and has over 25 million monthly listeners on Spotify. Why? Because the American public decided that, just like with X, being a domestic abuser really wasn’t that important.

This public nonchalance towards and defense of the abusive man serves only to hurt the victim further. “I just never understood that, like how the victim gets punished over and over,” said Rihanna in an interview with Vanity Fair.

But at least Brown and X cannot be said to have gained followers as a direct result of their crimes. This is not true, however, for many other abusive famous men.

“One of the unintended and most devastating benefits that famous men receive when they assault women is increased publicity.” Said Giang, “As a society, we have not gotten to a universal understanding and awareness of gender-based violence and its many forms. So a side effect of this is that some perpetrators, in turn, gain more support after perpetrating abuse while victims are further isolated and victimized.”

Nowhere is good publicity for domestic abuse more evident than in the case of Kobe Bryant. Bryant was accused of raping a 19-year-old hotel employee in 2003. Bryant claimed the encounter was consensual, though he admitted that he didn’t ask for consent and left bruises on her neck. Additionally, her blood was found on his shirt. The woman also took a medical exam, which found vaginal trauma and Bryant’s semen, making the case that he raped her almost irrefutable.

However, Bryant never went to jail. Instead, the criminal case was dropped after his victim refused to testify due to her receiving loads of hate mail containing numerous death threats. Instead, she later filed a separate civil suit which Bryant settled.

From looking at his case, it is clear that at an absolute minimum, Bryant was a serial cheater. But far more likely, the basketball star was a rapist.

So what was the result of Bryant’s actions? He gave himself the alter ego “the Black Mamba,” a nickname still used to describe Bryant today, though its reason for existing seems to have been forgotten. He signed a $136 million contract a year later and regained his endorsements from Nike, Spalding, and Coca-Cola.

Once again, Bryant shows us that famous men are allowed by the American public to commit egregious forms of abuse and escape with their image and popularity intact.

Giang explains that the reason these men can get away with these actions is that “they are given the privilege of separating their assault from their craft or artistry.” This comes when people say things like “he was abusive, but his music helped a lot of people,” and “let’s separate what he does on the court from what he does off the court.”

This same luxury is not afforded to abusive men who are not famous. “When someone who isn’t famous commits domestic abuse or sexual assault the ramifications are much more serious. They are not allowed to separate the fact they are an abuser from what they do for a living or their identity. Typically, they are terminated from their jobs and their identity as an abuser is not separate from other aspects of their lives. In other words, they are held accountable and it affects every aspect of their lives,” explains Giang.

Treating abusive men differently based on their levels of fame must stop, and it must stop now. “This discrepancy in the way perpetrators of different social status are treated impacts they way society as a whole views abuse and the ways in which a victim can receive justice,” said Giang. Once again, our acceptance of these men serves only to hurt the most vulnerable people involved: the victims.

So let’s not remember XXXTentacion only as a musician. Let’s mute Chris Brown. Let’s stop idolizing Kobe. When Jameis Winston is accused of groping an uber driver after being accused of rape in college, let’s not buy his jersey.

Giang said it best. “We as consumers of entertainment and media should recognize the power we hold in giving [these men] a platform and we should also strive to ensure that their actions and behavior matches our values.”