I have said before that lyrics are every bit as important as the tune of a song to me; I choose which music I listen to carefully. That said, I typically hate rap. The vast majority of it makes women into property, gang violence heroic, drug use and alcoholism chic, and prison time something to aspire to for “street cred”. I particularly dislike Eminem. However, late one night while on duty, I was watching a spot on Fox News where they discussed the song “Love the Way You Lie” and the subject matter of the lyrics: domestic violence. Finding that especially poignant considering Rhianna’s participation, I broke my rule and downloaded the song.
The lyrics are powerful. I would not suggest this song for a kid, but the lyrics bring up some very good points.
Domestic violence is an enormous problem worldwide, but here in the US it wasn’t always a crime. Rape and violence against a married partner, for a long time, was not necessarily classified as a crime, rape in particular. It took years of fighting to convince lawmakers that being married doesn’t grant a person the right to abuse their spouse either mentally, physically or sexually. Domestic violence (which, in my profession, we simply refer to as DV) somehow still manages to be a blight on our society, one that is worse in many ways than other problems we face – and often more expensive, costing nearly $6 billion a year to deal with (most of that being for medical care).
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 85% of DV victims are women. One in every four women will experience DV in her lifetime. An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault every year. Witnessing violence between one’s parents or guardians is the strongest risk factor for the continuation of DV from one generation to the next, and boys who witness such violence at home are twice as likely to behave the same way against their partners as adults. Approximately half of all abusers also abuse children. What about reporting? DV is one of the most underreported crimes in our society. Only 25% of all physical assaults and a paltry 20% of all rapes perpetrated by intimate partners are reported to the police. Only 20% of those who experienced serious DV applied for restraining orders, and among those issued a full half of those served with such orders violated them. The most sobering fact is that a full one-third of all female homicide victims were murdered by their intimate partners after experiencing DV at their hands. Less than 20% of victims seek medical attention for injuries incurred by DV. There is a separate figure for the costs of homicides that end DV relationships: a whopping $37 billion.
Today, Arizona residents saw a harrowing story of domestic violence. Antwon Smith, born in 1984, has applied for four different orders of protection against four different girlfriends since 2003. In the first three cases, his partners fought back and the orders were rightfully quashed; in 2008, he got one to stick when an ex-girlfriend didn’t fight the order. Either that ex didn’t realize that she had to fight it or she was so terrified of him that she simply didn’t want to face him in court; either way, today’s video from a Circle K in Mesa was horrifying. Smith’s ex girlfriend fled from him after he put a razor to her throat and ran into a Circle K store to call police. As she was dialing the phone Smith stormed in, took the phone away, then grabbed her arm and bodily dragged her from the store and forced her into his car. He then led police on a chase before being caught. The girlfriend, who has not been officially named, is probably lucky to still be alive. Smith was found not guilty of aggravated assault stemming from another relationship in 2007 but still had a warrant out for his arrest for a serious driving offense.
Not all DV stories have such relieving endings, though. On September 4, 2005, Jorge Mario Gurrola got into yet another argument with girlfriend Monica Sanchez. Monica’s mother Maria did not want her to move to Arizona to be with Gurrola because she knew he was dangerous, but because she already had one child with him she came anyway. She didn’t want her daughter to grow up without a father. On that fateful September day five years ago this month, Gurrola found a picture of another man in Monica’s wallet and he exploded in a fit of rage, beating her so severely she fell into a coma. She died two days later – along with her unborn child. His parents sued Monica’s for access to their daughter just two months later. In June 2007, I went to the Mesa branch of the Maricopa County Superior court to observe his sentencing and watched his relatives behave poorly, mocking the Sanchez family and trying to claim that Gurrola was really a good man. Childhood teachers wrote letters about what he was like as a boy. Not one member of his family acknowledged the gravity of his crime. In his initial 2008 appeal, after having claimed in court at his sentencing to deserve the hatred of Monica’s family, Gurrola argued that because he didn’t mean to kill their unborn child, it shouldn’t count as an actual crime and come attached with a separate prison sentence. Such contrition.
Gay and lesbian couples are not immune, either. Any intimate partner can commit acts of DV. It often starts out slowly; a partner becomes jealous of other relationships you have, insisting more and more with each incident that you cut off other people. They eventually isolate you completely from the outside world. They have impossible expectations, believing that you are supposed to supply everything they need. They’re easily offended, very touchy – the slightest remark becomes a personal attack and generates a strong response. Jealousy will give way to violence against others, whether verbal or physical. They’ll start lying to turn you against people who are important to you. They’re very moody, often depressed and angry. Their moodiness first gets blamed on others, along with their anger; then, when others can’t be blamed anymore, they blame you. They claim they can’t help their feelings or the subsequent reactions. When you refuse sex, they may try to force you into it or wait until you’re asleep. They’ll self-medicate with alcohol or narcotics. Eventually it will give way to physical violence, injuries, and sometimes death.
What’s worse about DV is that often, the victim feels they’re trapped because their entire lives are wrapped up in their abuser – including their finances. Leaving seems impossible with no money (or access to it), no vehicle to legally take, and no job away from where they live with their abuser. Most despairing of all is that many don’t even recognize that they are being abused.
Eminem’s lyric “you don’t get another chance, life is no Nintendo game” was meant to convey the fact that you can’t take back the cruel acts you commit against your partner. Whether words or deeds, it cannot be taken back. If you are the victim, then you should get out at the first sign rather than giving them opportunities to give you others. The heinous nature of DV is why I believe it has long been far more important to face than hate crimes. It has cost far more in so many ways.