From Gabby Petito to Tyga to 'MAID': 'I don't know how many moments we have to have before it matters'

There have been a number of high profile incidents of domestic violence on the news in the past few months.
The murder of Gabby Petito has received overwhelming media attention. Bodycam footage and an 911 call prior to Petito's death raised questions about potential domestic violence issues between Petito and her boyfriend Brian Laundrie, a person interested in her death whose remains were found Wednesday in a Florida wilderness park. Rapper Tyga, real name Michael Stevenson and famously the former beau of Kylie Jenner, was arrested last week after an ex-girlfriend shared photos of his alleged abuse on her Instagram story. The hugely popular MAID series, which premiered on Netflix this month, explores the lesser-understood dimensions of emotional abuse.
There were some important cultural moments before that. Proponents point to the abused housewife Farrah Fawcett, who starred in the 1984 film "The Burning Bed," the O.J. Simpson trial in the 90s, Rihanna's violent attack by ex-boyfriend Chris Brown in 2009, and in some ways #MeToo. However, the fight against domestic violence requires much more than an increased public awareness - it is a complex social problem with many causes, different prevention points, which affects different population groups with different needs. It also goes well beyond the highly sensational cases of physical violence or murder.
Every third woman has experienced intimate partner violence, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"I don't know how many moments we need to have before it really matters," said TK Logan, a professor at the University of Kentucky whose research has focused on intimate partner violence, particularly stalking. “I've been studying this for almost 30 years and the attention is coming in waves. It is good to talk about it. I don't want to downplay it, but we have to do more than just talk. We have to start helping women. "
Did police tapes of Gabby Petito reveal subtle signs of abuse and gas lighting by Laundrie?
The term is "domestic violence" but what does it mean? What do we understand and what do we still refuse to see? As lawyers and survivors try to explain, this Domestic Violence Awareness Month and every other opportunity they get is not just black eyes and bloody noses in this abuse. It is control and humiliation, a nausea in the stomach, horror in the night. It is the partner who questions what you eat, what you spend, who you talk to when you get home and especially when you leave. There are eggshells on every floor. It's fault and gaslighting.
Experts say it's time society stopped asking, "Why didn't you leave?" when the questions should actually be: "Why is it so difficult?" "Why does it hurt you?" "Why did you feel like you had to stay?"
“We love quick solutions. We love the police more. We love law enforcement more. And none of that is going to and isn't actually going to end this problem, ”said Leigh Goodmark, director of the Gender Violence Clinic at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law. "What a lot of people realize is that this work takes time, effort and energy and is not sexy and not easy and is not just soundbites."
Proponents say we need to raise public awareness, but don't stop
Domestic violence is a pervasive social problem that affects race, age, income, sexual orientation, religion, and gender - in relation to both victim and perpetrator. Domestic violence affects women of color disproportionately.
Public awareness is important in helping people understand the dynamics of domestic violence. More people who can identify abusive behavior can help intervene. More people who understand the barriers survivors face in ending an abusive relationship can provide tangible support once they are ready to leave. It is important to educate individuals because they will become a jury on domestic violence cases, leaders in their workplaces, local lawmakers in their communities.
But despite decades of advocacy, stereotypes about domestic violence persist, including that all perpetrators look like "monsters" or that abuse always starts immediately. Gillian Pinchevsky, associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, says domestic violence is only physical. Pinchevsky said in her class that she asked students to draw a picture of "domestic abuse". The majority prefer physical violence, a female victim and a male abuser.
Domestic abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, and psychological, according to the Justice Department. Many victims say the physical abuse isn't even the worst.
Survivors themselves can internalize myths about domestic violence, which makes it much more difficult for them to identify or identify their abuse. In an early scene in Netflix's "MAID", the protagonist Alex, played by Margaret Qualley, tries to leave her boyfriend, who manipulates, insults, coerces and punishes her, but never really beats her.
"I am not abused," she tells a social worker.
Investigate Systems That "Don't Help People"
Pinchevsky said the criminal justice system also places great emphasis on physical violence, which is in part why some researchers and scholars say it is not the most appropriate institution to combat domestic violence.
"It has failed victims over and over again," she said.
Goodmark is among those scholars who argue that the criminal and legal systems are unable to respond sensitively and fairly to these cases, especially when it comes to custody.
"These systems don't help people," she said. "They don't stop intimate partner violence. They don't lower the rates of violence and they really hurt the people they should theoretically help."
A December research by USA TODAY found that, despite generally accepted best practices, Florida is taking children away from parents - most of them mothers - who have been beaten by an intimate partner.
Neither does Goodmark believe that the prison system is the best way to hold domestic violence perpetrators accountable.
"What the prison does is put people in trauma that they take back into their relationships," she said. "It doesn't solve any of the problems that they brought into the system in the first place."
A 2010 study sponsored by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that domestic violence offenders whose sentences included imprisonment were more likely to have domestic violence relapses. It found that restorative treatment and anger management interventions were associated with a lower likelihood of recurring domestic violence over a five-year period.
Go deeper into the causes that lead people to commit violence
Proponents say culture needs to think carefully about better ways to respond to and prevent abuse, which can include both public health approaches and community-based solutions.
It is also important to understand why people commit. Before a person commits abuse, a number of things happen in their life. The predominant characterization of domestic violence suggests that it is about someone wanting power and control over another person. Goodmark says that she agrees that power and control over a partner is often the result, although she doesn't believe that this is always the motivation.
"We have to look at this narrative critically to say, 'What are the other things that make people violent?' Is it about wanting power and control over one partner? Is it about wanting control over someone else's life? Use of violence? Is it about economic stress? "
Goodmark says that economic problems cannot be separated from violence.
“One of the really interesting statistics that emerged from the pandemic was that domestic violence increased significantly early on. And then in April 2020 you can see that it's going down quite a bit, ”she said. "That coincided with the first stimulus checks. So we have to ask ourselves why. Why is that?"
Stop punishing women who are not “perfect victims”
The Petito case has intrigued a nation, but gender-based violence experts say the conversation lacks context as to why it is so difficult for women to get help when they need it.
A video released by the Moab Police Department in Utah shows an officer being pulled over Petito and Laundrie's van in August. Laundrie appears calm and laughs with the officers, while Petito is visibly shaken and one officer said she was hyperventilating. Petito said Laundrie grabbed her face and police officers were discussing it, as one witness said they saw him push her. Petito tells officers that she hit Laundrie.
The officers ruled that Petito was the attacker.
In the 1980s, Goodmark said research showed the arrest would likely reduce recidivism. In response, many states have passed mandatory arrest laws, including Utah, which state that if the police show up at the scene of the intimate partner violence and have a likely reason for arrest, they must do so.
The result, Goodmark said, is that arrest rates for women have skyrocketed. Not because women suddenly became violent, but because the police implemented these laws. Women tend to admit the violence they use because they see it as abnormal.
The police go to the scene and a woman says, "Yes, I hit him for strangling me" or "Yes, I hit him" and she has no opportunity to explain how it was in self-defense. Sometimes strangulation injuries are not visible, but scratch marks are.
In particular, if a woman is not the perfect victim, Goodmark said, if she is emotional or angry, if she has a mental health problem or a criminal record, it will be used against her.
"There are a million different ways the police can say, 'Well, you are clearly not a perfect victim and therefore a perpetrator,'" Goodmark said. "And as soon as you have been identified as the perpetrator, the switch is thrown and no one in this system, not the police, no prosecutors, no judges, can see you as a victim anymore."
Start asking the right questions
The unsexy solutions to domestic violence are far-reaching and interlock with other societal problems, including structural sexism and racism. But they are not easy or always straightforward. It prevents children from being abused and neglected, from seeing violence in their homes, or from witnessing violence in their communities. It builds violence prevention into schools, ensures that people's basic needs are met, and provides communities with tools to hold perpetrators accountable. It funds research and safety nets and programs that help women while in abusive relationships and when they are leaving.
In "MAID" Alex is sometimes desperate, but also determined. She wants a better life for herself and her daughter. It is repeatedly turned upside down and uprooted. She encounters systems without logic, people without empathy and puts one foot in front of the other, even if she doesn't know where the path is going. When the social worker asks her if she has any special skills, her thoughts on her 2-year-old daughter Maddy flash on her own misery. This is a skill. That is survival.
“The lack of easy solutions can lead to people just holding up their hands and saying, 'You know what? We can't fix that. ' It has been with us since the beginning of time. It will always be with us, "Goodmark said." I think the coverage is always about what law enforcement should have done differently to prevent it? And that is the wrong question of the couple's relationship to get this about impede?' And when we start to ask that question, then we will start to find solutions. "
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Gabby Petito, MAID, Tyga: Domestic Violence Is Everywhere. What now?
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American rapper, singer, songwriter, actor, and television personality

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