Two years ago we shared a story calling out D.L. Hughley for telling jokes about the domestic violence allegations Columbus Short’s then-wife, Tanee McCall, had hurled against the actor. And two years later Tanee is still having to remind people domestic violence is no laughing matter — and, sadly, this time her message is directed at another woman, TMZ’s Raquel Harper.
Raquel had Columbus on her Raq Rants show for a bizarre interview about being fired from Scandal, drug addition, and his toxic relationships with women, which includes his ex-wife and Karrine Steffans. Columbus stated, “I was in a toxic relationship and I was doing toxic things to myself,” to which Raq replied, “And you’re such a nice guy too, from what I see, and as far as when they say the whole domestic violence situation, like it’s hard for me to see–”
Because nice guys never put their hands on women.
Aside from Raq’s complete ignorance on the psychology of abusers, she proceeds to make a joke when Columbus explains having two court dates for “knocking out dude,” inserting, “Quick hands — bar fight” as if the actor’s history of violent encounters with men isn’t an indicator he was also likely violent with women. And then a series of jokes go on between the two as Columbus explains his run-ins with the legal system from arrests to court appearances to plea deals, as if these are run-of-the-mill, casual occurrences and not a cause for concern.
Hence the open letter Tanee wrote on The Root charging Raquel to do better as a woman in entertainment who has the power to shed light on the seriousness of these allegations, and an obligation to respect the victims who bring these charges forward. She wrote:
Don’t fall victim to a patriarchal and misogynist society/media that silences, abuses and objectifies women. We live in a racist and sexist society. Women have had to fight not to be seen as second-class citizens—and black women have had to fight to be seen at all. Intimate-partner violence should matter even when you’re not the victim, Raquel—even when it’s not someone whom you love or even know. Right is right, and wrong is wrong.
I am growing tired of seeing people—mainly women—being dragged for filth after surviving one of the worst experiences one can have in this lifetime. When I finally filed for a restraining order after years of abuse—because The Violator attempted to murder me in my own home while my daughter slept—the fallout was indicative of how our society views women. I was called “liar, whore, b–ch, stupid” and every other name but the one my mom gave me.
D.L. Hughley did not just call me a “thirsty b–ch;” he did an entire segment on his radio show about me. He mocked my pain and my very real experiences as I was hiding out at a friend’s house—homeless, hurt, heartbroken, scared as hell, with a 2-year-old baby girl who had witnessed most of the abuse I barely survived. The arduous steps it took for me to even file the report in the first place were almost halted by my scared inner-child—the part of me that said I deserved it because I wasn’t good enough. The part of me that said I should stay because who else would want me?
The parts of me that my abuser spoke to daily in order to continually inflict pain and hurt in my life.
I am triggered every time a famous person is accused of domestic violence because of the way the media reports on it and the way some people respond to it. When Amber Heard came forward with a visible black eye—allegedly caused by her then husband, Johnny Depp, though she later withdrew her claims—she was attacked so ferociously that I had to go back to therapy. Everyone said Depp was a “nice guy,” too.
And so I am writing this open letter to you, Raquel, because I wanted you to do and be better than that interview. I know TMZ is an entertainment site, but domestic violence is not entertainment—at least, it shouldn’t be. Either do not touch on it or have the courage and decency to do so with respect. You owed it to me. You owed it to Karrine Steffans, Simone Kelly and Agostina Laneri—the three women who filed restraining orders after me.
That’s four women who bravely came forward—in just the past two years alone—to testify to the abuse that they endured at the hands of The Womanizer you interviewed. And these are just the women we know of because intimate-partner violence is so underreported.
Four women, three after me, in the past two years: Will you be one person who tries to make a difference, Raquel? Time is up. The silence of too many victims is gained through emotional and psychological extortion—and they can no longer afford to pay the cost.
I am proud to say that I have grown tremendously since I left my abuser. It took near-death for me to finally have enough strength, and I thank God daily for getting my daughter and me out of that situation alive. I still struggle with the aftermath of what I went through. I’m still working on the shame, guilt and overall embarrassment of the ordeal, but I am finally proud of who I am today. Since my abuse was made public, women have reached out to me privately on a monthly basis with their own stories of abuse and survival. I mostly just listen, but all of our stories sound eerily familiar.
Some of these women leave and some of them stay, but either way, I am there for them. I know from personal experience that it isn’t just a matter of “just leave him.” I don’t know everything that lies ahead for these women, but what I do know is that the months and years ahead will be at turns painful, exciting, scary, joyous and confusing. What I do know is that when there is turbulence I will always do my best to be their soft landing on the tarmac.
If they live.
If they live, they will most likely be triggered directly and indirectly as they navigate their lives and negotiate their own humanity in a society that blames and shames them every step of the way. My hope in writing this is that you, Raquel, are not the cause of some of that pain.
We have to do better—all of us.
Love and light,
Do you agree?