According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, nearly half of all women and men in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner, and nearly 1 in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) aged 18 and older in the United States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner. While emotional abuse can often time lead to physical abuse, the two forms are not synonymous. However, both types of maltreatment can have similarly negative effects on victims.Because of the physical evidence of physical injury from a partner such as bite marks, scratches, or bruises, there is little temptation for someone outside of a relationship to deny or question the legitimacy of a victim who claims they have suffered from physical mistreatment. Unfortunately, when it comes to emotional abuse, people tend to have a harder time understanding and recognizing the equal severity and devastation. Therefore, if a victim claims they were emotionally abused, they can be met with skepticism. The recent allegations concerning newly former Brockhampton member Ameer Vann has shed a frightening light on the overwhelming amount of people who choose to disregard emotional abuse from a partner as a form of “real abuse.” Vann was removed from the boyband after Twitter was flooded with sexual misconduct and psychological abuse allegations against the rapper from previous partners. Although he admitted to being “selfish, childish, and unkind,” he claimed he ”never criminally harmed anyone or disrespected their boundaries.” However, on May 26th, the boy band announced his removal. Additionally, Brockhampton stated that they were “lied to” by Vann and offered their sincere apologies to his victims. After announcing Vann’s removal, fan reactions were shocking, to say the least. Having seen victims such as singer-songwriter Rhett Rowan record countless live streams explaining the horrific instances of emotional maltreatment she suffered while dating Vann, many fans of the group understood the severity of the situation and supported the group’s decision. However, those who did not agree with Vann’s dismissal from the group exhibited feelings of distrust in the “story,” anger towards other fans for “ruining” Vann’s career, and an overall sentiment of criticism towards everyone but Vann himself. Continuing the ever-present pattern of not holding men in the music industry accountable for their abusive actions and, in effect, invalidating the victims’ trauma, these fans wrongfully saw his ejection as an injustice.
The stigma that emotional damage from a partner does not warrant the same condemnation as physical damage has been abundant throughout the entire controversy. In a world that is seemingly full of supporters of the #MeToo movement, the harsh criticism towards Vann’s victims shows just how unprogressive society actually is when it comes to recognizing a perpetrator of non-physical abuse as an abusive individual. Victims of both psychological and physical abuse can face a lifetime of consequences such as depression, mental instability, or an inability to trust—so why are people so quick to brush emotional harm under the rug? One central reason lies in the fact that people tend to possess an “I’ll believe it when I see it” attitude towards victims. Not only is this ideology harmful towards any future sufferer of non-physical harm who seeks help, it is devastating for victims brave enough to tell their story. If a victim has no physical evidence such as texts or recordings of themselves being emotionally abused, they are less likely to want to come forward with their story due to their lack of “proof.” Yet even if the entire world witnesses something as severe as violent behavior within a relationship (take Rihanna and Chris Brown for example), it is not surprising for viewers to turn a blind eye and let the perpetrator succeed regardless of his or her actions. Despite public efforts to provide support for abuse victims, society’s reaction to their stories is never one-hundred percent supportive or without subtle questioning.The first step to reversing the invalidation of victims is to listen to victims’ experiences. Upon questioning what a victim has gone through, we encourage silence amongst both future sufferers who need to tell their story and past sufferers who have been working up the courage to speak up.
If you or someone you know is experiencing any sort of abuse, call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit The Hotline.