Last weekend, I had the chance to watch “Surviving Compton.” The story is about Michel’le Toussaint, a young girl from Compton, CA. with a squeaky mousy speaking voice, but who had powerful vocal abilities. Michel’le is an American R & B singer. Michel’le was the late 80’s early 90’s Mary J. Blige, before we even heard of Mary J. Blige. Her most notably songs were Billboard Top 10 hit “No More Lies” and R&B chart topper “Something In My Heart”. As I watched the movie “Surviving Compton,” my heart began to sink because her alleged abuser was someone whose music I bought and listened to while growing up as a teenager and young adult. I was completely shocked about how vile and sick he was toward Michel’le, the woman he was in a relationship with, both personally and professionally, with whom he also has a child. The alleged perpetrator is music producer extraordinaire, Dr. Dre. Dr. Dre is an extremely talented producer and artist. However, Dr. Dre and Michel’le shared a dirty secret; he was allegedly perpetrating violence upon her and has acknowledged physically assaulting other women such as former “Pump it Up,” host, Dee Barnes. As I reflected on this movie, what I began to see from his behaviors were classic signs of a perpetrator (verbal abuse, isolation, financial control, drugs and alcohol) that many women don’t recognize or choose to ignore.
The question I asked myself was, why did I enjoy listening to songs that referred to women as bitches and hoes? Although the beat may be good, young men and women take these lyrics and images into their spirit on a daily basis, not realizing the affect it can have on their psyche. As a mother of two sons, I would be horrified to know that my sons listen to such things, but it has become mainstream to denigrate black women. What must our ancestors be thinking to see how many young, brilliant black men, rap and speak about black women in such a demeaning way?
Domestic and intimate partner violence (DV/IPV) is a “family secret” that is often seen in Black communities. I now think about so many black women who suffer in silence about abuse; many times it is multigenerational. Referring back to the movie, Michel’le’s own grandmother told her that “it’s what men do”. Well, when grandma tells you this, then it must be gospel, right? Black women are almost three times more likely to experience death as a result of DV/IPV than White women. While Black women make up just 8 percent of the U.S. population, 22 percent of homicides that result from DV/IPV happen to Black Women. As such, domestic and intimate partner violence is one of the leading causes of death for Black women ages 15 to 35, yet our stories do not always receive the attention they deserve. This is particularly disturbing, given “most homicides against Black women are not committed by strangers, but by males known to the victims,” according to the Violence Policy Center.
Black women are often silenced when it comes to abuse. I recall once seeing a close friend with a visibly black eye; she felt so ashamed. Her bruise eventually healed, but it took a long time for her heart to heal. Over the years, I have counseled so many women that have shared their stories with me about abuse, whether it was sexual, verbal and/or physical. The trauma they carry and the pain often to leads to suicide ideation, alcoholism, overeating, depression and anxiety. Michel’le recently acknowledged that she attempted suicide in 2013. Even though it had been years after their relationship had ended, she still carried pain from being in abusive relationship(s), like so many other black women carry.
Does this story remind you of someone you know or is that someone you?
Have you ever been hit by a man? Were your children present? Did you ever tell anyone? Have you ever been pushed? Have you been ever been verbally abused? Has a man ever had financial control over you? Did your partner ever force you to have sex? Do you know someone right now, who is in a violent relationship? Have you ever witnessed a friend being abused? Have you ever perpetrated violence?
The question that so many people often ask is why do you stay? The most dangerous time for a woman is when she tries to leave her perpetrator.
This is what black women impacted by domestic violence want you to know. Listen to their voices:
* “I was raised in a household that taught me that what happens in the house stays in the house”. This conditioning of the mind prevents us from seeking additional help.
* “In our community, there tends to be more cases of domestic violence that pits mothers and daughters against each together”.
* “As black women, we don’t believe that we are being abused. We don’t want to be a victim, so we tell ourselves that we “fight” our spouse/significant other, although we never win”.
*As young black girls and women, we need to realize that we shouldn’t idolize a person or a couple that you think you know. Putting them on a pedestal only adds more pressure for the person to stay in the relationship. Young girls have to start realizing that no one is perfect. No couple is seamless. Social media is not always the truth; you must also look for guidance within your personal community.
Michel’le is a survivor. If you are reading this so are you! In closing I want to share this poem: Survivor’s Psalm:
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. If you know someone who needs support please direct them to additional resources in your local community or 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Please share you story in our comment section.
Ms. Culture Keeper-