"Teach your sons how not to become abusers and teach your daughters not to accept abuse as a form of love, under any circumstances"

-Kirsten Howard

by Kirsten Howard

This essay contains discussion and descriptions of domestic violence

Twitter was a frenzy a couple of days ago when one of rap’s favorite mumble rappers tweeted a threat to his ex fiancé. When Jerrika Karlae declared herself to be “on the market,” Young Thug responded with a threat against her life.

This is an obvious display of his abusive mentality and a threat that many women deal with in their relationships with men, especially Black women. We have the highest incidences of intimate partner deaths. Many of these abusive situations end in death when these threats are carried out. I should know. My best friend was murdered while attempting to leave her boyfriend after months of verbal and possibly physical abuse. With Young Thug and Jerrika Karlae, we are witnessing a domestic threat in real time, and a demonstration of why it’s never productive to insist that victims of this kind of abuse “just leave.”

I see news articles almost daily about Black women murdered by their former or current mates. If you are ever feeling brave enough, take a gander at the comments section of one of these article and you’ll see how many people’s first reactions are to blame the victims for not leaving.  Not only is “why didn’t she just leave” incredibly insensitive to the victims and their families who seek justice for their murder, but it is also ignorant of how domestic violence works.

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In an abusive relationship, the likelihood of your death increases when you attempt to break things off, and the reasons why women stay vary from person to person. Guilt, shame, children, financial dependence, and religion are all among reasons why women stay in abusive relationships. And when they are murdered, they are met with harsh judgements; referred to as “st*pid” or “d*mb” for staying with an abuser. Some even come to the defense of the abuser, as was the case with Chris Brown. Or they fantasize about how having a partner be so possessive is #relationshipgoals, as we are seeing now with Young Thug. Somehow, the abuse and the responsibility of the abuser is always explained away.  

My best friend’s name was Lauren. She was an accomplished, educated Black woman who had so much to live for. Like me, she wanted kids someday, and when she met Jerry, it seemed like he could be “The One.” We had made plans for me come for a visit after her mom passed away. She had been there for me when my own mother died ten years ago. That time never came.  Her mother died in September and, by January, Lauren was dead, too.

Lauren was attempting to end the relationship with Jerry when he choked her to death and threw her body from the balcony of the apartment they shared. I had spoken to her only a few days before and she was so positive and ready to face the new year. She had so much promise, and he took it away.

I never knew that the relationship was abusive, and I think that’s because Lauren felt too ashamed to tell me. Having been in an abusive relationship myself, I know what it’s like to feel the shame and guilt of having an abusive man in my life. I felt like I had settled for this person and that what I was getting was what I deserved. Because I had internalized the accepted narrative about victims of abusethat we allow the abuse to happen to us.   

I never looked at any of the comments on articles about Lauren, because I knew what I would find there: questions like, “Why didn’t she just leave?” Because I know that she tried, like so many others. What so many people don’t knowor don’t care to knowis that abuse is about power and control. Lauren’s attempt to leave the relationship was a threat to the power and control that Jerry so desperately wanted over her. In order to regain his position, he ended her life before she could end their relationship.  

He is now serving thirty-seven years for her murder. Thirty-seven years is not enough, if you ask me. Nothing will ever be enough, because Lauren’s precious time on this Earth was immeasurable.

So what do we do for the Jerrikas and the Laurens of the world? We protect them. We support them. We believe them. Believe the abused.

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Black men have plenty to say about Young Thug’s aesthetics and now that we need them to speak up about his abusive behavior, far too many are silent. I’m not seeing enough willing to publicly denounce him for his words to Jerrika, but were more than willing to do so because he wore a dress.  

I hope that Jerrika has a strong support system that will protect her from her ex. I hope that Jerrika knows that Young Thug’s threat of violence is not love, but simply an attempt to keep her under his control.  

I hope that she can find the strength to walk away and stay away. I hope Jerrika knows that she’s not weak for leaving someone like Young Thug. I hope Jerrika knows that I and many others are rooting for her independence and liberation from an abuser.  

Teach your sons how not to become abusers and teach your daughters not to accept abuse as a form of love, under any circumstances. And stop asking why abuse victims don’t “just leave.”

If you are experiencing domestic abuse and need support, please call the Domestic Violence National Hotline: 1−800−799−7233.

Bold, funny, and fearless. Kirsten writes humorous quips on social media on racism, misogynoir, and all things pop culture. In her real life, she is a makeup artist and caretaker and often shares her hilarious stories about her adventures with her 82 year old father. Follow her on Twitter: @AR_goddess