By: Tyler Chuck and Spencer Bowen
Famous people live their lives in the public eye. Their actions can be seen on television, are reported in the media, and discussed vigorously. The spotlight is great when famous people are role models like Stephen Curry, Bono, or Emma Watson, yet not all public figures are outstanding citizens. Some stars have recently been in the news for domestic violence: Tyreek Hill, Ray Rice, Aaron Hernandez, and Chris Brown.
Domestic violence is extremely terrible. In no circumstance is it ever okay to hurt someone, especially in the context of a relationship. I understand that sometimes tensions rise, but that is never an excuse. If you are in a difficult situation or know of someone in a difficult relationship situation, please seek counseling or in an emergency, call 911.
As a society, we have moved beyond the point where we let this type of violence happen behind closed doors and that is a good thing. Domestic violence is being reported at a rate higher than any time in US history. In the US, a woman is assaulted or beaten every 9 seconds. Let that sink in for a moment. Say you’ve been reading for the last 3 minutes– that means that on average, 20 women have been assaulted or beaten just in the time that you’ve been reading this article.
This violence needs needs to stop. As a society, we have to get better and we have to build healthy relationships. But how do we deal with this violence in the news? Is it possible to isolate a famous person for their work and forget about the transgressions of the person? We dive into four instances of domestic abuse in the public eye and provide suggestions as to how to react to their terrible actions:
Tyreek Hill– Drafted in 2016, this Kansas City Chiefs rookie burst on the scene with one of the most exciting rookie seasons in recent memory. Yet on December 11, 2014, he strangled and beat the mother of his child, an act for which he pleaded guilty in 2015. With Tyreek Hill, this situation is very fresh, yet it feels to me that people have totally forgotten about his domestic assault. You can go ahead and cheer for the Chiefs, but an approval of Tyreek the person is a tacit approval of terrible action.
Ray Rice– You’ve all seen the video. Ray Rice knocked his fiancee Janay Palmer out in an elevator. Just the worst. Yet with the video footage, everyone crucified Ray Rice. He became the poster for domestic violence. It’s also important to note the NFL’s ongoing struggle to thoughtfully respond to these issues – Commissioner Goodell’s tone deaf switch from a two game suspension to a lifetime ban once video became public is still really gross. Over time, Ray has donated so much of his money to fight domestic violence. Without football in the picture, Rice seems to have changed some of his ways. You don’t have to like him, but it seems like it might be okay to give him another chance, not on the football field, but to be a good guy.
Aaron Hernandez– Hernandez recently committed suicide in prison, an ultimately tragic end to a difficult life. Hernandez’ life was marked with all sorts of craziness, from his time at the University of Florida (still not sure how he could have been teammates with Tim Tebow), to domestic violence against his pregnant fiancee, to his murder of Odin Lloyd, the actions all line up to him being a bad dude. Yet posthumously, you can’t help but feel bad for the man. Hernandez got into so much trouble and probably didn’t have good role models along the way.
Joe Mixon– The Bengals made this domestic abuser a second-round pick. His case highlights the rapidly changing public sentiment on abuse: Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops mentioned that he probably would’ve kicked Mixon off the team if the incident occurred in 2016 not 2014, one of those comments that makes you curiously happy and sad at the same time. As an NFL player, Mixon appears to off to a rough start given his background. He was booed heavily at the NFL Draft and was drafted by the Bengals, who have some character concerns up and down their roster along with Adam Jones and Vontaze Burfict. With the Bengals building a “bad boy” image, let’s remember to not categorize them as either the Bad Boys with Martin Lawrence and Will Smith or the 1989 Pistons Bad Boys, but rather as dudes that have done bad things in their lives.
Chris Brown– Repeated accusations of domestic violence, notably his 2009 guilty plea to felony assault, have marred an otherwise exciting career. Chris Brown’s domestic abuse against Rihanna is particularly troublesome because of the cycles of violence that it perpetuates. Rihanna’s mother was also assaulted by her father and Brown was raised surrounded by domestic violence as well. The first instance of said violence occurred when Brown was 19 and Rihanna was 20. Brown likely learned this behavior from what he saw growing up in his home. And the trauma was likely worse for Rihanna as she had experienced it from her own parents. We want these cycles of violence to stop and if anything, the media light on the situation may help raise awareness to the issue.
What Chris Brown did was indubitably wrong. There is no denying it. While you can’t entirely separate Brown the artist from Brown the person, it’s hard to deny that Chris Brown has made some amazing music. Instead of boycotting the concert (an understandable stance to take), Tyler and Spencer decided to use Brown’s upcoming appearance at SAP Center in San Jose as a platform to support W.O.M.A.N., Inc. (Women Organized to Make Abuse Nonexistent), a local non-profit committed to serving survivors of domestic violence in the San Francisco Bay Area. We will be wearing shirts and holding signs in support of equality and fair treatment. We believe that this is the best way to raise awareness and stand up against a terrible epidemic, yet still enjoy the artistry.
As these examples show, there is no by the book way to react to domestic violence. You can’t simply say that someone must complete 1,000 hours of community service or have 2 years of a healthy relationship before you like them again. But eventually, domestic abusers and public sentiment need to move on. Rehabilitation and the road to a healthy mental state is a beautiful thing, yet in any case, how does a society process a rehabilitation that they aren’t privy to? And how do we simultaneously condemn a heinous act and recognize the necessity for societal forgiveness?
America is a land of second chances, founded on the Christian value of grace. Americans want to show grace eventually, but how long do we need to see good behavior before we can categorize someone as recovered? How long do we need to hate someone until they have paid for their transgressions? Based on the examples above, the unpopular answer to these questions is that “it depends.” We’ll never truly know how repentant someone’s heart is and that’s really frustrating but it’s also okay. We can only hope that they will stand up against domestic violence in the future. And in the same way that we trashed these public figures for their mistakes, we should commend them if and when they stand up for good.
We are just scratching the surface of domestic violence. People have dedicated their entire lives to working on this cause. Ultimately, domestic violence is the worst and it has to stop. What you can do to help the situation is to educate yourself about what is going on, stand up for what is right, and take some action to enact change.
Here are some ways that you can tangibly make a difference with your time and money:
- Support an organization like W.O.M.A.N., Inc. Spencer and Tyler hope to use the forthcoming Chris Brown concert to serve up a little poetic justice and support domestic abuse survivors in the Bay Area. Learn more here. You can donate to our Go Fund Me here.
- Volunteer with an organization such as W.O.M.A.N., Inc.
- Raise smart kids that know how to manage their anger and know how to treat each other with respect and dignity. Teach them that human lives are valuable. Tell them that they are loved and cared for. And as parents, set good examples for how to treat your husband or wife.
- Encourage others to seek help and report domestic abuse. In an emergency situation, call 911 or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Cover Photo via Smart Christian Woman