Domestic Violence

There has been some discussion recently about a controversial video for an Eminem song featuring Rihanna that addresses the issue of domestic violence (DV).  The video features Megan Fox and Dominic Monaghan (Charlie from Lost) as a volatile couple whose relationship teeters on the edge of something explosive.

I suspect some of the controversy stems from the subject matter addressed in the video, while some feel that the video does not go far enough in denouncing domestic violence.  After watching the video I wonder if the people who will most likely watch it (teenagers and young adults) understand its subtlety. I don’t mean that to be condescending, it is just that there is not the “violence” that most people associate with DV in the video, and certainly nothing that the video’s other singer, Rihanna, experienced that led to her assault at the hands of Chris Brown.

As the Salon article linked to above suggests, the video could be interpreted by some as depicting nothing more than a fiery, passionate, and sexy relationship. But make no mistake; the actions by the two characters in the video is still a form of DV and there is nothing there for young men and women to aspire to. I am not sure if the intention of the video’s creator was to show that not all DV involves physical assaults and that sometimes the fear of that happening is enough to make for an unsafe and unhealthy relationship, but I hope that message comes through.

Domestic violence is a big problem that I will not even bother trying to get statistics for because it is so underreported that any statistics would be inherently speculative.  And one reason why it is so underreported is that the legal remedies available to survivors of DV lack sufficient power.  For example, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) issued an opinion in 2005 stating that a protective order (think restraining order against an abuser) does not need to be enforced by law enforcement.  In the case, a Colorado woman tried contacting the police to enforce the order after the father of her children had taken the kids, but the police did nothing and the man ended up killing the children.

If it seems ridiculous to you that the court could rule in this way given those facts, I feel you.  The woman sued the police department, which is what prompted the case to reach the SCOTUS, but the court ruled that there was no monetary value in a protective order so no one can sue the police for failing to enforce one. Basically, this means a protective order is meaningless unless a survivor is lucky enough to live in a jurisdiction where the police make preventing and dealing with DV a priority.

Even without this case on the books, enforcement of such orders was left to the whims of local police who may or may not care about DV.  Throw in prosecutors and judges who are reluctant to seek out and punish abusers and you can see why survivors of domestic violence would feel so afraid to come forward (not to mention the fear of retaliation from the abuser); if the entities a survivor is supposed to seek out for protection are incapable or unwilling to protect, why bother? It is a terrible tragedy that does not get nearly enough attention.

With that, I will leave you with this article about the usefulness of protective orders and with the aforementioned Eminem video for you to watch and make your own judgments about.

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