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LOUD WHISPERS: Cassie and Diddy

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Sunday, May 19th, 2024
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I was having a conversation recently with some friends, and one of the topics we discussed was domestic violence. One of them expressed frustration that many victims of domestic violence end up going back to their abusers after all efforts have been made to change their circumstances. It is a familiar issue and there is no one who works on these issues who has not experienced this. Remember the case of the woman in Abia State who was saved by her neighbours last year when her husband beat her and kicked her out half-naked at night? She wrote a lengthy letter to explain she has returned to him. Her choice.

Abusers are good at not only dehumanizing their victims, gaslighting and terrorising, they can be expert manipulators. They beg for forgiveness through family, friends and faith leaders, and if they have the means, they bombard their victims with expensive gifts. The instances where abusers keep their word and never touch their victims again are extremely rare. When this happens, it can be said that the abuser genuinely suffered a temporary lapse in judgement and understanding the gravity of their actions, they would never do it again. Sadly, this is not the case. The vast majority simply graduate from harsh words and insults to slaps, blows and then the use of objects to inflict serious harm. Since the victim keeps going back for more, the violence escalates till one day, she might find herself thrown down many flights of stairs or staring at a long knife.

 The reasons why victims stay are well known. They choose to return again and again due to love, fear, poverty, not wanting to abandon the children, ‘what people will say’, ‘following religious instructions’ and so on. Their excuses for staying are as many as the bruises and cuts on their bodies. I am not saying there is no room for mediation, counselling, therapy, guidance and so on, to ensure a better outcome for the relationship. When all these fail repeatedly and lives are at risk, the choices need to be reconsidered. The category of domestic violence victims that I find particularly painful to deal with, are those who have not taken any vows yet, they are just girlfriends or engaged to be married. All the shades of red are visible on the flags their abusers wave at them repeatedly, but this is not enough to deter them from getting the almighty wedding ring on their soon to be smashed finger.

A few days ago, there was an uproar about a woman who was in labour at a hospital in Lagos. She needed to have a Caesarian section done, but her husband insisted that he could not afford it, so she should try and have the baby naturally. He demanded that she be discharged from the hospital and taken back home. When her condition got worse, she went back to the hospital but by now she was fighting for her life and the baby was in distress. She was able to send out an appeal online and donations came in. She handed the required money for the surgery over to her husband who used it to buy a new phone and a dog. Yes, a dog. She had to hand more money over to his sister who was the one who helped settle the bill.  It will not come as a surprise if the young woman decides to go back to a husband who treated her this way. It is not the end of the world if she chooses to do so, but her family should brace themselves for the possibility that she will die young and leave her child/children behind.

Domestic violence is no respecter of race, class, status or geography. The difference is that in certain parts of the world, there are safeguards and processes in place to make it possible for a victim to become a survivor. This is what happened in the case of Cassie Ventura versus Sean Combs a.k.a Diddy (also formerly known as Puff Daddy). Cassie and Diddy dated on and off from 2007-2018, eleven long years. In November 2023, Cassie filed a law suit against Diddy for years of violence and abuse at his hands. The allegations Cassie made against Diddy were extremely disturbing, the kind that you would expect a powerful man like Diddy to fiercely battle out to protect his name and image. She accused him of physical, emotional and sexual abuse, as well as trafficking, death threats, forced drug use, it was a long list.  It was probably one of the shortest celebrity law suits. Instead of hiding behind scores of million-dollar lawyers, Diddy settled the case for an undisclosed sum in twenty- four hours, with the familiar phrase from his legal team, ‘this is not in any way an admission of wrong doing’.  

Before Cassie summoned the courage to take Diddy on, there had been many rumors of his capacity for violence and intimidation, even murder. He had been linked to the deaths of big-time names in the hip hop industry, and as the founder of the successful Bad Boy Records, it was to be expected that he would attract the wrong kind of attention from hanging out with a certain kind of crowd. However, that is all they amounted to – rumors. It was of course common for successful black men to be given all kinds of labels, so this was nothing new. Yet, here we are. The carefully crafted image of the successful entrepreneur, talented artiste, role model and philanthropist, has been shattered to reveal what lurks beneath. In old footage from a hotel lobby dated May 5th 2016, a shirtless and trouser-less Diddy with only a towel wrapped round his waist, is seen attacking Cassie on the floor, kicking and beating her, and dragging her back into the hotel room she is trying to escape from. It is hard to watch.

 Two days later, on May 7th, Cassie is pictured smiling on Diddy’s arm at a Hollywood event, looking glamourous and without a care in the world. As the saying goes, for a long time, she chose to cry in a limousine rather than be happy on a bicycle. When she realized that she might actually die in the vehicle she had become accustomed to, she chose to leave. After she had received the help she needed to make her understand that her self-worth and dignity had been compromised all the years she had spent under Diddy’s thumb, she decided to fight back and sue. She must have had really good lawyers, who advised her to go the civil suit route. A criminal case would have been difficult because of the statue of limitations, the incidents had taken place outside of the legally allowed time-frames for reporting. On May 16th 2024, Diddy was exposed for all the world to see and Cassie was vindicated when the hotel footage got out.

There are Cassies and Diddys everywhere. In our families, amongst our friends, our neighborhoods, or places of work and worship. The men do not have to be rich and powerful like Diddy. They just have to be men, who have been socialized to believe they can treat women like dirt. The women do not have to be illiterates frying buns at the roadside. They can be Lawyers, Doctors, Professors and Bank Managers. All they have to do wrong is fall into the hands of men with large egos and low self-esteem.

The conversation I had with my friends about our experiences managing domestic violence cases concluded on a rather frustrating, yet true, note. Even when we are tired of helping pick up the pieces, we cannot afford to stop. We have to continue to be there to support women and move them from being victims to taking ownership of their lives – that is when they become survivors. Cassie got justice in her own way, but we know the vast majority of victims will either stay rooted in their misery, or leave in body bags. There is something we can all do. We can start by understanding the issues for what they are.

Domestic violence is not about expressing love, lack of respect, submission or humility. It is about abuse of power and trust, manipulation, viciousness, wickedness, narcissism and predatory behavior. Is this what we want for our daughters and sisters? To those who will say, women abuse men too, that is correct and it is not right either.  All we have to do however, is to assess the body count. What do the numbers say about this? It is a shame that in the year 2024, we are still having conversations about domestic violence around the world. It is not a crime to fall in love and want to build a life with someone. Everyone is entitled to happiness and peace of mind. A healthy family unit, however that family is defined, translates to a peaceful and harmonious community.

Cultures of violence do not emerge overnight. They evolve over time, aided and abetted by attitudes and beliefs that enforce male dominance and control and make it possible for grown women to cower at the feet of a man who had vowed to worship and protect them with his body and heart. We can all do something, say something or stand for someone. Doing nothing while a life slowly ebbs away around you is unforgiveable. As for Diddy, that towel round his waist was a perfect metaphor for how he will be stripped naked for all his atrocities.

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Policy Advocate and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com

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