During the 2015 Grammys, President Obama shocked us all by appearing via satellite with a message about the #ItsOnUs organization that helps victims of sexual or violent domestic abuse receive the help they need. Katy Perry also had a message for the world and featured Brooke Axtell speaking of her experience with domestic abuse. Right after the emotionally stirring message, Katy Perry took the stage, angelic in all white, singing “By The Grace Of God.” What an intriguing performance!
In spite of so many altruistic efforts people still aren’t getting how detrimental it is to our society that women are victimized and domestic and sexual abuse is an epidemic. Men in particular are not listening enough. At an approximate count, 85 percent of women in America have experienced domestic abuse (it’s 15 percent for men) and in forms that include financially, physically, and emotionally by their boyfriends, husbands, and loved ones. That is a very large percentage. What will it take to change these numbers? How can men, after seeing so many victims on our TV screens and the many pleas in commercials and TV specials that have included abusive story lines that they still perpetuate domestic abuse?
Sexual violence prevalent form of abuse we are aware of. Axtell’s voice was strong, it nearly soared and my goosebumps confirmed what I already knew–her message was sinking in. She trembled, but not out of fear, but the memory of when she was the victim. I could faintly hear it in her voice. I know because I’ve heard it from my own voice box regarding similar situations of defeat:
“After a year of a passionate romance with a handsome, charismatic man, I was stunned when he began to abuse me. I believed he was lashing out because he was in pain, and needed help. I believed my compassion could restore him, and our relationship. My empathy was used against me. I was terrified of him and ashamed I was in this position. What bound me to him was my desire to heal him. My compassion was incomplete because it did not include me. When he threatened to kill me, I knew I had to escape.
I revealed the truth to my mom and she encouraged me to seek help at a local domestic abuse shelter. This conversation changed my life. Authentic love does not devalue another human being. Authentic love does not silence, shame, or abuse.”
The discussion on abuse has moved from rape and sexual assault to physical abuse. Axtell, by herself on that stage was standing for thousands who felt silenced. Her message was needed and appreciated because for those who’ve ever experienced abuse in such extreme manners, you’re likely have said in some manner, “I’m out of here,” or something similar. If it was that easy, Axtell wouldn’t have been on the stage at all.
Domestic abuse endured by women have traveled from rape to sexual, physical, to now the emotional and psychological, which Perry now knows sings about in “The Grace Of God.” As she sang her autobiographical words, a semi-interpretative shadow dance appeared behind her, expressing movements of freedom and self-love.
By the grace of God (there was no other way). I picked myself back up (I knew I had to stay)
I put one foot in front of the other and I looked in the mirror and decided to stay
Wasn’t gonna let love take me out
In six minutes, all aspects of violence against women were touched on. It was an unexpected, multi-layered presentation by the Grammys. Experiencing abuse in any way harms and weakens a person and as some survivors will tell you, you may start to feel closed in by it. You try to form an invisible one woman army to fight the devil within the person that has done this to you, but what soon to be survivors forgot momentarily and what they aim to express now is that what you’ve experienced is not love. The army within you should be organized for anything but for love and respect. But if it happens, what Obama, Axtell and Perry have told us through speech, a poem and music is that you are not alone, you shouldn’t be ashamed and you will overcome.
For those that chose to brush the serious nature of this Grammy performance or even complain about it being part of the show in the first place…when they begin to understand how imperative it is to discuss and support survivors of domestic abuse, the pain of such an experience may be too late to undo. But again, what we all learned on Grammy night is that it is never too late to mend a broken heart.
In your local city and town, if you or someone you know is in help because of abuse, please reach out to your local organizations or groups that can be. Resources like ItsOnUs, and RAINN are helpful, but every town or one near you should be a shelter you can seek guidance from.