Kelly Rowland’s “Dirty Laundry” single is triggering an opportune public dialogue about the emotional, spiritual, mental and physical toll of domestic violence. The influential song is also assisting in the dispelling of the stigma of intimate-partner abuse, or more specifically who a victim can be.
It is impossible not to feel these words: “I was battered / He hitting the window like it was me, until it shattered / He pulled me out, he said, ‘Don’t nobody love you but me / Not your mama, not your daddy and especially not Bey.”
Her words expose the isolation many abuse survivors are forced to comply with. Rowland’s raw, emotional lyrics connect with a multitude of women that have or are enduring domestic violence.
In a recent interview with omg! Insider, Rowland elaborates on the abusive relationship she chronicles in “Dirty Laundry”. The Destiny’s Child alum told interviewer Kevin Frazier the abuse was emotional and it had an impact on her self-esteem.
“A piece of me would just go away every time he would say something,” she said. “I’ll never forget those things. I’ll forgive him … he’s a different person now but it was things to tear me down as a person, as a woman.”
She also added: “I was just so young and allowed him to do those things to me.”
I commend the “Kisses Down Low” crooner for seeking healing through music and using her platform to raise awareness about domestic violence. I also hope Rowland has not absorbed the notion that her abuser’s behavior was acceptable because she “allowed” it.
Domestic violence is never the victim’s fault. Abusers abuse because they’re abusers. No amount of hurled cuss words justifies abuse. Age doesn’t excuse fists to the face. Staying in the relationship does not grant abusers the right to sling emotional kicks.
The word “allow” places the onus of domestic violence on the victim while stripping the abuser of his agency. Rowland’s abuser is responsible for his actions, regardless of her age at the time of the relationship or how many times she forgave him.
Nothing Kelly Rowland said or did permitted him to emotionally-abuse her.
Abusers make a conscious decision to hurt their partners. Conflicts always present alternative solutions. An abuser can walk away from the argument, explain why they’re frustrated or even end the relationship rather than engage in violence. No victim incites her abuser.
Cultural victim-blaming e.g. she should’ve left reifies the abuser’s justification. Most abusers blame their victim for the fists, kicks or words, leading to an avoidance of accountability. Rowland should be encouraged to fault him instead of herself for his abusive behavior.
Dr. Craig Malkin, a clinical psychologist, sees education as the sole escape from victim-blaming. “The reality of abuse is … complex. As a culture, we must grapple with the fact that many of us agree … that the victim is to blame for their abuse when they choose to stay. Sadly, even the abused can start to believe the explanation,” he writes.
Finding a reason or an excuse for her abuser’s behavior should never be Rowland’s burden to bear.