A prostitute can be raped.
And a loud talking, foul-mouthed, abrasive reality star bully who has struck her female co-stars can be a victim of domestic violence.
By now, you’ve probably heard about the implosion of the 41-day marriage of NFL star Chad Johnson and reality TV star Evelyn Lozada. After the now-former Miami Dolphin was charged with domestic battery for allegedly head-butting Lozada, she filed for divorce.
Let me be clear, I am not calling Lozada a prostitute or Chad Johnson a rapist. But it is the most powerful analogy I can think of to call out some of the victim-blaming that engulfs so many women in domestic violence cases. Lozada is no exception. It’s time to end the lie that only “perfect victims” get to be taken seriously when they report abuse.
It is important to point out Chad Johnson is innocent until proven guilty. What we have are accusations in a police report.
As an advocate for women and victims of domestic victims, it is my duty to respond to the latest iteration of the “she was asking for it” and “he is the true victim.”
Oh, few are so blunt as to put it that way, but the message is clear. “Certain women,” you know, the “mouthy ones” can provoke a man into violence he will regret. The real victim, some people think, is the man who gets pushed into losing his temper by a b*tch.
Some examples from social media:
“I hope you men are taking notes. Chad Johnson lost his football gig, TV job, and endorsement deal in a matter of days. Evelyn lost nothing.”
“Chad Johnson went 12 years with no arrests. Got with Evelyn, got arrested and cut. Girls today will **** your career up, before they help it.”
Another example comes from ESPN’S Stephen A. Smith on the popular show “First Take.” You can watch the full clip here . Don’t have the time or desire? After about three minutes of qualifiers including how he isn’t “casting aspersions” on her character, Smith comes right out and says that while Chad’s career will suffer, she will probably benefit.
Let me get this straight: IF 6-foot-4 Chad Johnson head-butted his wife, sending her to the neighbor’s house in fear with a 3-inch laceration on her face, that makes him the victim because it cost him his job?
Well of course, because remember “certain” women provoke men and why would we expect men to control their anger?
Men and women should be insulted and outraged by that thinking.
It lowers the bar for men and it is victim-blaming the women.
The executive director of Men Stopping Violence, Eesha Pandit describes the insidious effects of blaming victims. “Any slight blight on her character, if she isn't an absolutely ‘perfect’ victim, means that she won't be believed. That is not accidental, it is intended to make it impossible for ANY woman to be believed, because who amongst us is perfect?”
And speaking of perfect, it doesn’t take a perfect man to not hit a woman, even a woman who might be raging at him. If you follow me on Twitter, you've seen me tweet, “Too many people want a cookie for doing what they should (or should not) be doing.” My friend Hugo Schwyzer, a professor and author who has written about the “myth of male weakness” puts it this way, ”We overestimate a woman's power to drive a man to cheat or to raise his fist. Men may feel overwhelmed by rage, may feel as if they have no other choice, but that feeling comes from their own refusal to develop the tools they need to make different choices.”
None of us are perfect. Few of us are at our best when we’re quarreling with our partners. But two things remain true. First, no matter what we’ve said, no matter how “mouthy” we may be, none of us ever deserves to be hit. And second, no matter how furious or exasperated we get, we all still have the power to stop ourselves before we hit (or headbutt) our loved ones. No woman is asking for it. And no man is so weak that he can be manipulated into violence.