This weekend TMZ released a disturbing video of rapper Fabolous getting into a heated altercation with longtime girlfriend, and Love & Hip Hop star Emily B.
In the clip, Fabolous can be seen screaming at Emily and her father with what appears to be a knife in his hand, while security guards hold him back from making contact with either party. When Fabolous aggressively approaches Emily, she yells out in desperation and runs away.
That last moment struck me right between the eyes and made it obvious that this was a woman clearly in fear for her life.
“Girl, this is so sad,” I found myself venting to a friend Sunday evening. “I can’t say I’m surprised though.”
My friend’s response?
“The signs were there for years for her to leave. She’s providing a horrible example for her daughter”
My friend is brilliant—like literally one of the smartest people I know—but even she (momentarily, till I lovingly checked her) fell into the trap of shifting the focus to the victim rather than to the assailant.
And frankly, ladies and gentlemen—we really need to cut that ish out. Because Black women’s lives depend on it.
According to the Women of Color Network, African American women experience intimate partner violence at a rate 35% higher than that of white females, and about 2.5 times the rate of women of other races. However, they are less likely than white women to use social services, battered women’s programs, or go to the hospital because of domestic violence.
Below is a list of things you should NEVER say in response to finding out a man has victimized a woman. As you read it, please keep in mind that I don’t personally subscribe to the “gender wars” narrative that so many people drag into these discussions. So there won’t be any “all men do this” and “all women do that” rhetoric in here. In fact, if you switch the genders in all my examples (because yes, men do experience domestic violence as well) they still apply.
Got it? Ok let’s go.
1. What did she do?
If you see a man aggressively berating, attacking and/or threatening a woman and you’re first inclination is to purse your lips and inquire what she did to deserve that behavior then you are insinuating that there exists a set of circumstances where domestic violence is acceptable.
Both morally and legally, this is untrue.
Even in cases of self-defense, you are only allowed to retaliate when you are in imminent danger and only to a reasonable degree. There is nothing reasonable about aggressively approaching a visibly shaken woman with a knife in your hand.
All you Google-search experts can save yourself the trouble of looking this up, because I assure you there isn’t a single law book in the land that cites having a “baby mama” with “a slick mouth” is grounds for blacking out and getting violent.
A bruised ego also isn’t a reasonable defense fam. You tried that mess with Rihanna too, and it’s as irrelevant now as it was back then.
We teach our children to keep their hands to themselves in verbal altercations, but for some reason once they become adults, we act like that sensible advice no longer applies.
Stop giving abusers passes you wouldn’t even give to your kids.
2. Why didn’t she just leave?
Surprisingly, I hear this one more from women than from men. Despite all the studies and data that says otherwise, there appears to be this lingering perception that being a victim of domestic violence is a character flaw that “strong”, “smart” and “independent” women are immune to.
The message being that only weak, stupid, co-dependent women fall prey to abuse.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard otherwise intelligent sisters smugly say, “Well wouldn’t nobody be abusing me. I would have rolled out.”
Would you, would you really sis?
Abuse comes in many forms, and most times abusers groom their victims well before hitting them. They make themselves seem charming at first, isolate their partners from support systems that may point out their abuse, chip away at their self-esteem, create a source of dependency, and then when their partner’s guard is down, they strike.
Many of the women (and men) who are in these relationships will tell you they didn’t see it coming.
And if you’ve ever—and I mean EVER—played the fool for love (even once) in your life, or found yourself in a situation that snowballed before you realized what was happening then you have some nerve judging someone else for having a similar lived experience.
It’s all different manifestations of the same core issue; being disempowered under the guise of love is as natural as breathing. We all fall for it in varying degrees.
So don’t be so quick to judge another woman just cause her version of that shows up in a more salacious way than yours does.
3. She’s only staying with him for the money
Ok, let’s keep this all the way funky for a second.
If you’ve ever stayed at a job that you hated out of fear of the unknown, because you couldn’t pay your bills without it, or because you needed time save up so you wouldn’t be homeless then the survival motives of abuse victims should be pretty understandable.
As I stated earlier, making victims codependent—including financially—is a classic page out of the domestic violence playbook. Many of these people are financially tied to their attackers by design.
And not only poor people are socialized to be quiet for these reasons. We all find ourselves conflicted when our livelihoods and quality of life are at stake.
Even the richest people in the world often bite their tongues about shady stuff they see happening because they don’t want to jeopardize their financial interests or the security of their children.
So are you really about to judge a battered woman for wanting to keep a roof over her head?
4. That’s between that man and that woman.
This one is a favorite of the Hotep contingent and byproduct of all the propaganda that misogynoir pumps into our communities.
Look man, if you believe a man is the head of the household that’s good and fine. But while we’re dragging out old Negro proverbs, how about the one about “it takes a village.”
One of the things our communities used to do brilliantly is look out for each other during times of adversity and protect the weakest amongst us.
How are you finding the compassion to write hashtags about #StephonClark and marching in protest for the lives of black and brown bodies you don’t even know when in the next breath you’re also ignoring or condoning a woman in your own community getting abused?
The fact that people can so adamantly hold these contradictory viewpoints in their hearts is downright alarming.
A few years ago, I wrote a piece on the dangers of Hotep Twitter (a subdivision of Black Twitter that seems to think folks like Umar Johnson are gonna lead us to freedom), where I pointed out how pro-blackness is often framed in a way that excuses misogyny against Black women, (i.e. misogynoir).
“According to Hotep doctrine, as a respectable Black Queen, I’m basically supposed to fight against injustice at the hands of a white man, just so I can turn around and be similarly marginalized by a black man.”
I still stand by that quote. Oppression is oppression. Even coming from people who look like you. If you’re gonna yell foul at crooked cops, I need to hear that same level of bass in your voice when you see a “nubian queen” getting hit upside the head by your homeboy.
Oh, and the same goes for abused men too. I can’t stress enough how much this divisive mindset affects brothers and members of the LGBT community as well.
5. This is just a conspiracy to make a brother look bad.
Ok so I’m gonna keep it short and do my best not to roll me eyes while I explain this one (if I fail please accept my apologies in advance).
But ya’ll really need to stop using real, serious, viable issues like systemic oppression, racial profiling, and crooked government tactics as a smokescreen for ninjas who are simply acting a fool.
Yes, Black men are targeted, but not every Black man who hits a woman is necessarily being railroaded.
Not only does this knee-jerk excuse lack nuance, it’s also making a mockery of all the people who actually are legitimately victimized by the system.
Yes, there are three sides to every story; hers, his and the truth. But some things are just wrong. Full stop.
Attacking a woman like Emily B. who loved Fabolous enough to stick by him (for over a decade!) and gave birth to his two children is definitely on that list.
Follow Blue Telusma on Instagram at @bluecentric