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New Eminem-Rhianna Video-Does it Sanction Domestic Violence or does it Speak Out against Battering? Part Two

Bob Livingstone, LCSW

terrified and injured womanIn my last blog, I outlined my critique of the latest Eminem-Rhianna video titled Love the Way you Lie. The video was contentious and it turns out that my critique was controversial as well. I am basing that on the comments that the blog received. Some felt it had no artistic, aesthetic or any other value. Others felt that it was a healing tool that produced discussion and catharsis. A few responses focused on the irresponsibility of the artists to not place this video in a context where young people could hear a resounding anti-domestic violence message.

I feel that the issue of domestic violence deserves much more in-depth discussion and I hope to at least touch on this here by focusing on some of the pertinent questions about the video that I included in the previous blog.

  • What does I Love the Way you Lie(the title of the song and video) mean? It could mean that both the man and the woman in the video know they are being deceived by the other with promises of fidelity and honesty. The woman may feel that she loves the promise that he will never physically harm her again. She loves this lie so much she wants to believe it, but deep down inside she knows that he will continue to beat her because this is the way he operates. She empathizes with his inner turmoil and is deathly afraid to leave him. She feels trapped and she is certain that he will kill her someday. In order to survive she flips from this intense fear to denial. She learns to walk on egg shells and her whole existence becomes one devoted to not making him upset.
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  • Why does Eminem seem to become unglued when he senses that his girlfriend is leaving him? What is he actually experiencing? It is my professional opinion that the biggest trigger for men and the reason that batter women is the fear of being abandoned by them. Men will say that they hit women because they are angry because the woman has disrespected him, but that is not really the case. Male batterers feel threatened by any movement by women towards independence. The men worry that the women will not have a need for them if they discover outside interests or passions.
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  • What do you think about the man in the video? Somewhere in the middle of the video, there is a scene of the man stealing a bottle of vodka from a grocery store. What point were the video makers trying to make? That he was poor or that shoplifting went along with his battering actions? I'm not sure, but he seemed to be pretty one dimensional here. He was an angry young man living a pointless life. He is lonely and feels empty inside. He felt entitled to beat on anyone who got in his way. I wondered how much he was immersed in self-loathing and how much of his self-hatred was projected on his girl friend.
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  • What do you think of the woman in the video? One of my clients, a very thoughtful Latina and a domestic violence survivor thought the whole cycle of domestic violence moved entirely too quickly. While she believes that there is an actual cycle that takes place in battering situations; the video portrayed the actual battering to making up in a matter of seconds. She felt that this process takes a lot longer and the video did not honor that and it somehow cheapened what really happens to women in a domestic violence situation. I felt that video portrayed the woman as having an equal role in the abuse she suffered. This is not accurate in the real world. Women do play a role in the abuse, but they are not the perpetrators here. Many female domestic violence victims come to believe that they don't have any other choice but to stay with the batterer because he has convinced her that she is so unworthy, no one else will have her. The women also believe that if they try to leave they will be killed. They become isolated and suffer from low self-esteem. There are counseling services and shelters available to women in our communities, but I imagine that the budget cutbacks that are occurring nationwide are eliminating these services as well.

Stay tuned for part three in this series.