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Once we normalize it, we promote it.

This seems to be the trend of every big social issue. Our society normalizes violence, prejudice, discrimination, and other issues through movies, commercials, television shows and news reports. It has been a coping strategy since the beginning of time to devalue the intensity of many issues. This is not a helpless cause. It’s also in our power to refuse to conform to this type of media presence.

We have all seen the classic old movies where a man passionately slaps his partner and then proceeds to kiss her. Or more commonly, where the woman pulls away from the man’s embrace only to be forced back into a kiss. This is a bit more blatantly obvious and most people would protest it, but what about Chuck and Blair? The beloved “Gossip Girl” couple that fought constantly only to be reunited the next episode. I have fallen victim to this delusion, as many others have. I also wanted a relationship like Chuck and Blair until I found myself in one. The initial romance followed by an acute battery incident followed by apologies and gifts until the cycle repeats again. To promote and praise a portrayed relationship that includes violence, dehumanization, manipulation, lying, and emotional torture is the easiest way to dismiss it in your own life.

We all fall victim to this trap since we learn most of our social behaviors through observance of others. The awareness of this issue is not to cause guilt but rather spread acknowledgement of the pattern.

Recently, many celebrities have come forward with their own experiences of domestic violence. Amber Heard was one of the most prominent in recent news. She accused Johnny Depp of intimate partner violence. She had video and photo evidence, witnesses, physical injures, and no intention of gaining money from the law suit. Despite being the perfect victim, she was still scrutinized by the same media that praised Depp for being a man of passion rather than violence. The movie and television industry is not the only perpetrator of this violence. All sports corporations have constant allegations against star athletes for domestic violence. The sentences given to players by the NFL have become borderline comical since they are ridiculously short suspensions in contrast to other minor incidents (e.g., “deflated” footballs #FreeTomBrady).

This excuse of violence needs to end. It is so difficult for us to wrap our heads around it being possible for the same people we praise to also be perpetrators of this type of crime. The dismissal of this is easy: “She’s crazy,” “just looking for attention,” “she needs to get over it, it’s not a big deal.” This violence is equal to any other. In fact, it affects 1 in 4 college age women. This is a problem that affects all of our lives. No one goes unscathed. We have a responsibility to acknowledge this epidemic and ignite social change.

Admitting that we can all fall victim to this convincing pattern of victim blaming and dismissal of harm is the first step to help victims and end this senseless violence. We need to educate ourselves on warning signs and intervene in toxic situations rather than declaring them “personal business.” Intervention can save lives. Education can save society.

For more information on domestic violence and how you can help visit the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence or the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

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Alyssa Calicchia

U Mass Amherst

University of Massachusetts Amherst '19 | Psychology and Political Science Major | Sister of Alpha Chi Omega
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