Everywhere in the news I am hearing about the R. Kelly Docuseries that interviews over 50 women who were victims of his alleged abusive behavior. They are saying it is a must see and brings to light all that his victims went through. I imagine how difficult it was for the victims to come forward, to be able to speak about their experience to the interviewer and to the nation of viewers. I also imagine what it is like for the producers of the series to create a show that is balanced, that cares for the victims, that represents the complexity of the issue of sexual and domestic violence.
We are always discussing this balance here at DVRC, Inc. We ponder how we should deliver our message that is caring and comforting for victims and their experience and also mobilizing to our community. As I prepare curriculum and presentations I think about what stories should be shared.
I want to share the story of the victim I worked with that the violence left her one step from death, so that people will see that domestic violence is deadly and must be taken seriously and not seen as “troubles” between couples. But then I worry if I focus too much on the stories of physical violence, people will forget that domestic violence comes in all forms: emotional, psychological, and financial. I’m concerned that when we share one person’s story it becomes the image of what domestic violence looks like and someone who really needs help may say to her/his self, “that doesn’t look like what I’m going through, so I shouldn’t go there for help” or “that is terrible, mine isn’t worth going for help”.
Mostly I’m afraid of sharing the story and the judgment that is unleashed on the victim. Blame and stigma are a real part of what victims face when sharing their story. There seems to be mountains of support heaped on the offender, chances and opportunities to defend themselves and tell their side. We cast doubt on the truthfulness of the story and badger the victim to prove it. The saddest part of the R. Kelly Docuseries for me is that the streaming of his music went up after it aired. Our society failed to hold him accountable and failed to support his victims.