A comment on sexual assault that is hard to ignore

Rihanna, herself a public victim of abuse, has made a stunning and controversial music video about sexual violeence.

It may seem hard to believe we need another violent video. And certainly there are people >calling for its withdrawal.

Paul Porter, co-founder of Industry Ears, which campaigns against negative images in the media argued, “If Chris Brown shot a woman in his new video and BET premiered it, the world would stop. Rihanna should not get a pass.” Porter described the video’s violent scene as “a cold, calculated execution of murder in prime time.”

Melissa Henson of the Parents Television Council said, “Instead of telling victims they should seek help, Rihanna released a music video that gives retaliation in the form of premeditated murder the imprimatur of acceptability.”

However, it may also be a way of giving the anguish of victims a concrete form.

Feminist Law Professors quote Prof Janell Hobson on a Ms Blog in support of the video:

In light of recent events–from Dominique Strauss-Khan’s alleged assault on a hotel room attendant to the acquittal of New York City cops who took advantage of an inebriated woman to Eman al-Obeidi’s reports of rape by Libyan soldiers to Peace Corps volunteers’ stories of rape to Yale fraternity boys chanting “No means Yes!” to the various Slut Walk protests around the world to the countless rape survivors who have yet to come forward–now is not the time to ban and censor this powerful narrative.

Rihanna has pointed a lyrical gun on the issue–one that we don’t have to take too literally, especially since we adults should be more discerning for our youth. Let us respond by triggering useful conversations on the myths and the realities of rape and sexual violence.

From MS: Janell Hobson
Janell Hobson is a cultural critic and Associate Professor of Women’s Studies at the State University of New York at Albany. She is the author of Venus in the Dark: Blackness and Beauty in Popular Culture, and is presently at work on her second book, tentatively titled Body as Evidence: Mediating Race, Globalizing Gender.

One thought on “A comment on sexual assault that is hard to ignore

  1. It absolutely shocks me that Paul Porter and Melissa Henson can make comments like that with a straight face.

    Can Porter really believe that Rihanna’s response to sexual violence can or should be compared to one of Chris Brown’s (a hypothetical one, at that)? This, in light of Chris Brown’s problematic demonstrations of “accountability” for his behavior, is deeply offensive.

    And Henson — to me, this comment illustrates a true insensitivity to the realities of sexual violence. Clearly, she seems not to realize that “seeking help” is very difficult in a society where survivors are blamed for their trauma, perpetrators are defended and even celebrated for their actions, and the legal system (more often than not) coldly dismisses the few people who find the strength and support to press charges.

    I don’t believe that killing your abuser is the ideal response to sexual violence, but I do believe in the need for survivors to protect themselves in a world that shames them for resisting.

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