At its best, the Real Housewives showcases Real issues faced by millions of men and women across the nation. One of those issues is domestic violence.
During the last season of the Real Housewives of Atlanta, we saw strong women like Sheree and Kenya discuss their own struggles with domestic violence. Even as a family lawyer, where I learned early on in my career that you never know what’s going on behind closed doors, it came as a surprise to see Kenya give her boyfriend chance after chance despite smashing her windows and other forms of abuse. Sheree revealed that her ex-husband emotionally and verbally abused her during their marriage, and that at times the abuse turned physical.
The statistics are staggering. In the US, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by their intimate partners. Annually, approximately 10 million Americans are confronted with physical violence perpetrated by their intimate partners. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been in situations in which an intimate partner has become physically violent.
Back in law school, the most eye opening class that I took addressed domestic violence. The instructors explained that it’s not as though on the first date you get punched in the face. The abuse generally happens slowly and progressively. In the early stages, the abuser can be charming, put you on a pedestal, and make you feel special. After some time, the insults may start. Manipulation may begin. Jealousy may ensue. Slowly you may start to become isolated from friends and family. The insults may rise to verbal and emotional abuse, as well as increase in frequency. When the first physical blow hits, you already feel so low and bad about yourself it’s difficult to leave. And even if the abuse never becomes physical, remember words can often burn and hurt just as badly.
One important lesson to be learned from the show to speak about it. To lean on friends and family rather than retreat. Keep in mind, even if it’s not happening to you, there’s a strong likelihood that someone you know is in an abusive relationship.
Another important lesson from the show is not to let anyone else make you feel small. As eloquently stated by Kandi Burruss on a recent episode of the RHOA, “we have to remember we can’t let anybody kill our spirit and we can’t let anybody ever break down our confidence or who we are.”