Yesterday, the saga of rapper Joe Budden and ex Ester Baxter got infinitely worse as gossip blogs ran copies of an arrest report detailing a beating Baxter took at the hands of her then boyfriend in March, along with pictures of her bruised body and (most disturbingly) images of a miscarried fetus in a toilet; the 26-year-old model claims that she was about 4-5 weeks pregnant when Budden assaulted her.
I’m not interested in this story because these people have some modicum of fame; I could care less about Budden’s music or Baxter’s video resume. However, much like the Rihanna/Chris Brown situation, this case has provided a backdrop for a largely young, Black audience to have a public discussion (and, hopefully, a teachable moment) about domestic violence. One of the most poignant comments that I’ve read came via @blackcanseco on Twitter: “If Esther Baxter was white she’d have a @PeopleMag cover and y’all would call her a ‘survivor.'”
While there were many questions raised by the big reveal (Who leaked the pictures? Why?), nothing disturbed me more than the many people–women, in particular–who asked why Esther would stay with a man who had not only been known for beating other girlfriends (ex-lover Tahiry has presented similar claims, also via the blogosphere), but who had hit her more than once? Some folks commenting on the story went so far as to suggest that Baxter got what she deserved because she was unfaithful, because she didn’t leave soon enough, and/or because she may have provided the pictures of the miscarried embryo.
So why would a woman stay with a man who hits her? There are a number of possible reasons, ranging from emotional, psychological and/or psychological dependence, fear of retaliatory violence (“What if he finds me?”) to family issues and social values. A victim may be suffering from issues with self-esteem and self-image that prevent her making an escape. She also may not have people around her who she feels can help her with her escape or isn’t aware of the resources made available to those in her predicament. The “it’s her fault” sentiments lobbied at Baxter are not at all uncommon and can also lead women who are in her situation to remain silent for fear of scrutiny or misunderstanding.
Rihanna was an unsympathetic victim because she’s “fiery” and because her abuser was then a sweet-seeming kid; now, we have Baxter–a possible cheater and a video actress and pin-up girl. It ain’t hard to tell that if these women had a more ‘wholesome’ image, they wouldn’t be getting the same amount of disdain for being victims. However, our society still has much to do in terms of understanding domestic violence; even the woman who has no perceived social ‘strikes’ against her can be needlessly blamed for her own torture.
I’m not quick to call Ester Baxter an “attention whore,” even if she is the one who released pictures of her miscarried embryo and battered body to a gossip site. It was Budden who made this story public and no matter what the woman may have done in terms of infidelity, gold-digging or any other sort of unscrupulous behavior…she didn’t deserve to be beaten and choked out by a man to the point where she was distressed enough for her body to terminate a pregnancy. Perhaps some folks out there need to see these images to truly understand that domestic violence isn’t some sort of appropriate response to a woman ‘acting out.’
I wish that the Baxter-Budden situation would truly be a teachable moment for blog readers and Hip-Hop fans; however, I feel that what could be learned here will be lost. Unfortunately, so long as we judge domestic violence victims without taking the time to understand how people can find themselves in these situations, stories such as this one will continue to be common place. And sadly, many of the outcomes will be far worse than a miscarriage.
Make the time to learn more about domestic violence, especially if you have made the time to take Ester Baxter to task for either being abused or sharing the images of her ordeal:
- National Domestic Violence Resource Center (for statistics and resources for victims and their allies)
- National Domestic Violence Hotline (aid for victims)