giving words to the unspoken: intimate partner violence.

i am thankful every day that i’ve never dated someone who has or would hit me.  that is a terror i’ve never known, and pray that i never will.  i do know what intimate partner violence can do. the losses of asia, latoyia, and san-dee serve as reminders to us all that women die because of intimate partner violence (also known as domestic violence, or domestic abuse). the very idea of the typical domestic abuse victim is seared into the consciousness of many people in the united states: she’s timid, she’s probably very pretty, she is attacked without having provoked her mate, and she always goes back.  the attacker is always someone who’s been emasculated to some degree — maybe his education level isn’t what hers is (or anyone else’s, like being a 10th grade dropout when everyone else is at least a high school grad), or he’s dyslexic, or whatever.  it’s mister from the color purple concentrated, it’s laurence fishburn as ike turner, it’s every lifetime movie shitbag boyfriend joined together like voltron.  
it’s never the sparkling smile of chris brown that spits threats or curse words, bites you or calls you names.  it’s never rihanna’s pretty face that is pummeled with fists. it’s always some nameless or faceless couple on “cops.” it’s always someone whose name has been changed to protect her because he’s stalking her. (and it’s always a hetero couple, but that’s another issue for another time.)  and this seems to be the root of the problem to me: celebrity, or fame, and the perception of “our” stars as anything other than human.  they are not necessarily regarded as human, even in times of tragedy (see: the losses jennifer hudson’s, bill cosby’s, and the late marlon brando’s close family members).  they are still these perfectly unreal creations — half of “their” public’s imagination, and half illusion borne of spin doctors.  celebrity is a tricky thing.  it’s fleeting, but so demanding. what does this pressure cooker life do to someone who’s barely a maturing child when they enter it, and is simply fortunate to be a functioning adult if/ when they leave it?
i ask this question because i don’t believe for one minute that this is a black and white situation (meaning chris, the aggressor, bears all the fault or that rihanna, the victim, instigated her own ass kicking).  i take into account that chris witnessed domestic abuse for as many as 6 years of his life (that’s 1/3 of his time on earth, roughly).  i understand that the highly invasive reports that are being shared pretty much confirm that rihanna was upset over a potential (or continued) infidelity on chris’s part. i understand that it’s likely that brown no longer wished to be in a relationship with her — but check this out: you can end a relationship with someone without hitting them.  you can make your point clear without fists and bitemarks.  
my concerns are for the privacy and safety of both of these young people. there are threats being made against both of them, there’s a lot of hearsay and conjecture. there are terrible jokes being made. it is now a verb to chris brown someone — to beat their ass.  unacceptable.  the facts are known only by the persons who were present for the incident that was reported to the police.  that’s not for any of us to learn about or gossip about. this is deeper than whether someone gave someone herpes, or whether someone’s cheating on someone else.
it is indicative of the fact that we all have work to do: work to heal, work to grow, work to end cycles. violence is never okay in a relationship, regardless of who throws the first punch.  intimate partner violence exists when women hit men, when men hit each other, and when women hit women.  intimate partner violence exists when we are unable or unwilling to talk about what hurts or bothers us, and when we don’t understand that it’s never okay to strike someone you love.  unless it’s self defense, it is wrong. always wrong.
this interview that jay smooth did with elizabeth mendez berry speaks much to why it doesn’t matter specifically that it’s a celebrity dealing with intimate partner violence. 

five things you can do right now about the oscar grant shooting.

(link courtesy of jay smooth)

Oscar Grant, an unarmed man, was killed by an Oakland police officer. Here are five things (compiled by Makani Themba-Nixon) that you should do right now to respond to the senseless death of this 22 year old Black man. Video footage of the shooting recently surfaced.

1. Digg the story so that the national media can pick up on it

2. Contact BART Director Carole Ward Allen and demand that 1) the officers involved be taken off duty without pay and charged and fully prosecuted; 2) there be an independent investigation of the shooting that includes a review of training and hiring practices; and 3) BART establish an independent residents’ review board for the police Call her at 510-464-6095 or email the BART Directors at

3. Call the BART police to complain about the officers’ conduct and demand immediate action: Internal Affairs: Sergeant David Chlebowski 510.464.7029,; Chief of Police: Gary Gee 510.464.7022,

Call them toll free at 877.679.7000 and press the last four digits of the phone number you wish to reach.

4. Talk it up on your blogs, networks and talk radio shows (call Michael Baisden 877-6BADBOY or Rev. Al, etc. to get this on the national radar)

5. Stay tuned for other actions, protests, etc., especially if you are in the Bay.

safety is neither a luxury nor a privilege.

if you are sensitive to mentions of rape, molestation, or other violent acts you may not want to read this post.

he was her first boyfriend. she wasn’t really a fan of the boys we’d gone to high school with, so college created a new opportunity: an abundance of black men to admire and possibly date. but she didn’t even take it that far. this one was a neighbor. we grew up jumping rope with his sister. i didn’t like him. thought he was a know-it-all dickhead with poor fashion sense and no knowledge of when to shut the fuck up. but she’s my sister; i’m never gonna like anyone for her.
so they dated. she spent lots of time at his father’s house across the street, walked with him to his mom’s house about a mile away, and i tried to ignore the whole fucking thing. i told our friends “i don’t like him,” but they just assumed that i was being protective as big sister. i wasn’t. i genuinely did not believe that anything good could come from the two of them dating for the year or so that they did.

i was right. i didn’t know how right i was until this past december, when my sister told me that this foolish boy raped her. i stopped dead in my tracks and started crying. it all made sense: her uncharacteristic and constant uneasiness, the brooding, the slight touch of OCD, the near-fundamentalist ways in which she worshipped christ, flying headfirst into work instead of allowing herself to kick back or goof off . . . my loving, bright, kind, just, fair, beautiful sister . . . shattered
by someone who himself was the product of abuse & dysfunction, someone who did not respect the safety of another human being enough to leave well enough alone and believe in no when she said no.

i was livid, hurt, sad, tired, angry, shocked . . . all those things. and i still am. i never felt inadequate as an elder sibling, not through my college dropout situation or my towering financial woes, not through the shacking up w/ an ex-boyfriend to the chagrin of my entire family . . . none of it. but i wished at that exact moment that she had reached out to me 7 years ago. i wished at that exact moment that i had been able to read the terror in her face when she could not speak of it. i wished at that exact moment for the chance to travel back and take her out of that equation — not to share the pain with any other woman, but simply to save my sister. i never had to defend her, she always fought for herself
and here she was telling me that her light was nearly stomped out.
i told her she didn’t ever have to apologize. “i haven’t told anyone except my therapist because . . .”
in my head, i was screaming. no. fuck the therapist. call mommy. call every grimy person you know. let’s do this. his ppl still live across the street, all we need is to catch him coming out of the fucking house . . . . so what he’s got a girl and a baby — they ain’t got shit to do with it! i want to kill him with my bare hands. he doesn’t deserve air in his fucking punk ass lungs! why should this piece of shit have the luxury of going unpunished for raping my sister? who else has he done this to? why is he alive?

i resigned myself to doing and saying nothing. i nodded and told her i loved her. i went to the house that night. she asked me to come over, because of something else that happened to her which was a trigger. i was thankful for and resentful of the situation all at once. i stood beside her as her sister, and played the role she wanted me to. she never made a rumble for fear of upsetting something/ someone. she didn’t want to have to explain that she had already had sex w/ this bastard and that he didn’t understand her desire not to do so; she didn’t want to be blamed; she didn’t want the weight that often comes with speaking the truth. she thought she would have to stand alone. she did not know that she could stand tall and strong. she didn’t know . . . my sister did not know that coercion was the source of my first sexual experience with a man. she didn’t know how many women experience that (as adults, adolescents, as elders and especially as children) and swallow it up . . . and how likely it was that she’d not be shamed for something that was not in any way her fault. that she was not less of a woman or less of a human being because of something she could not stop, that she is not presently less of a woman or human being because of his wish to destroy the part of her that shone brightest.

and it is because of her story, the stories of so many women i do and don’t know that i say safety is neither a luxury nor a privilege. it is a right.

the world’s oldest profession.

i watched cathouse the other night.

tonight, i’m watching hookers at the point.

do i even need to go into detail about the glaringly obvious differences? nearly all of the women featured from dennis hof’s bunny ranch are white. they’re in reno. rural, kind of. the women at the point are brown. latin. black. a white girl here & there. it’s mindblowing. they’re not safe. the cameras on them are from a film crew, not a closed-circuit surveillance system. if something’s ‘not okay’ for the women at the point, they’re on their own. so many disparities. i don’t even think the women at the bunny ranch come exclusively from a position of privilege — rather, their choices to become sex workers seem to be motivated by pleasure, rather than a drug habit or the needs of hungry kids @ home. these women get $1,000 for an hour of their time. the women at the point? one tenth of that if they make demands & stand their ground. i don’t know how much of that is clever editing, & how much of it is fact. there’s a lot at play. sex workers aren’t necessarily born sex workers. but the disparities that i see between the two groups are many, & vast.


and then i see this over at angry brown butch. and this at feministe. i have no words. my heart breaks to know that the names of people who should — just like every fucking body else, be uplifted as they are remembered for their lives — are having their names twisted in death. it’s fucked up. it’s wrong. it hurts my feelings. how could panic be an acceptable excuse? i panicked, SO I KILLED HER. what? really? wow. panic has caused me to lock myself out of my apartment. panic has made me drop shit on the floor. panic has never, ever, EVER caused me to kill someone.
& for fuck’s sake, if we could all cry misrepresentation as a reason to kill . . . i would have murdered no fewer than 5 men i’ve had sex with, one woman i used to be friends with . . . & my own father.
let’s be for real. calling someone a prostitute (whether they were or not) somehow magically justifies it, if you follow what’s been reported. no. i’m not buying it.

excuses aren’t gonna soothe the broken hearts of mothers
no explanation given could ever make enough sense of this shit. someone threw away your baby’s life because of what? because they were mistaken about who your child was? no.

someone told me today: when ppl attend your funeral, their wailing is meant to be loud so that it’s known in heaven that you were/ are loved.
i definitely hope that these loved & lost ones continue to be spoken of.