Last year, video surfaced of rapper Fabolous making threats in a combative altercation with his longtime girlfriend, Emily B. It was coupled with reports about him brutally knocking out her teeth—a woman who is the mother of his two children. The news horrified me. This week, I was extremely surprised to hear Fabolous would finally publicly address the act of domestic violence.

Fabolous appeared on Hot 97’s Ebro in the Morning. During the 32-minute interview, about five minutes directly addressed the brutal attack. During those five minutes, Fabolous talked in circles about the act of violence. He talked about his decision to deal with it “internally” and his reluctance to discuss it without Emily B being present. The interview culminated with Fabolous finally apologizing….for being seen in a bad light. 

I was shocked and livid. The half-assed effort to atone for his horrific actions was only made worse by some of the hosts expressing how proud they were of Fabolous. Proud of what? I’m still trying to figure that out. The rest of the interview was conducted like business as usual. This was the height of hypocrisy given that when Kodak Black was on the same show the hosts said they take sexual assault seriously. I’m left wondering, Which one is it? Does hip hop culture actually take domestic violence seriously, or do we dismiss it when it’s an artist we like?

While the social media comments about the interview generally expressed condemnation for Fabolous’s behavior and subsequent interview, there were many comments on Instagram that said, “If she likes it, I love it” or “We can’t care more about her safety than she does.”   

Actually, we can and should care. No, we’re not in their relationship. We don’t have to be in order to see what is crystal clear: Emily B is in the throes of an abusive relationship cycle. 

I’m not about to police any woman’s choice to remain with a violent partner. I’ve lived enough life to know not to oversimplify that decision. It might be my truth, or your truth, to leave if someone gets violent. But the reality is these decisions are heartbreakingly complicated.

I sit on the board of directors at Safe Horizon, which is one of the nation’s leading victim’s assistance organizations. Part of the work we do is to empower our clients to move from crisis to confidence by educating them on their options. What’s key is that it’s the survivor’s option as to how to move forward. Sometimes that includes leaving the relationship immediately for a shelter or other housing. Sometimes the survivor remains in the home with the abuser, and Safe Horizon still supports her with counseling for herself, her children, and even for the abuser. There are situations where family therapy can be effective in rehabilitating the abuser and allows for the family unit to be re-established in a healthy way. I cannot overstate how much work, commitment, and time this process takes. 

If indeed these types of efforts have been made regarding Fabolous and Emily B, that would be great to know. It’s problematic for Fabolous to keep repeating the same talking point about working things out internally, while withholding the details of how he and Emily B have moved forward. The minute the horrifically violent encounter was made public, it became a point of public and cultural concern. Now, it’s on us how we respond. Individuals do not set cultural norms, collectives do. In the broadest way possible, we the culture have more power to dismantle systemic domestic violence against Black and Brown women than any one victim. We created cancel culture. We might as well use it for good every now and then. 

I won’t shame Emily B, or any survivor, for their choice. I will always hold the abuser accountable. We, the culture at large, do not have the complexities that Emily B or other survivors have with their abusive men. We don’t have children with them. We don’t pay bills with them. We don’t share years of romantic and emotional connection. Therefore, we have zero excuses to continue normalizing this toxic ass behavior.

Emily B can choose to remain in a toxic relationship, but the “she likes it, I love it” attitude is exactly how this type of abuse continues to permeate our culture generation after generation. Many of us know a friend, aunt, or co-worker who lies about how she got a black eye and is still with her abuser at a family or company function. Often because she has chosen to stay with him, we hold the secret. This silence makes us complicit in the abuse cycle by continuing to “kiki” with a known abuser without saying a word or holding him accountable. I’m not saying we go around publicly calling out abuse in every setting and potentially traumatizing victims in the process, but as a culture, we need to understand how looking the other way has fed a generational cycle of domestic violence against our women.

Stories like Fabolous’ and Emily B’s in the news cycle can be triggering for domestic violence victims, especially during the holiday season. Traditions and seasonal gatherings can bring back painful memories, which can be upsetting and traumatizing. Safe Horizon recommends five ways to cope with holiday trauma:

  1. Take a Break: If you’re in someone else’s home or hosting others in yours, it can be hard to feel in control of your environment. Think of places you can go to take a break when you need it. 
  • Set Your Boundaries: You might feel obligated to be with people or in places that you’d rather not. Consider setting a time limit for these interactions, or making other plans if its going to be too much- you have a choice
  • Decide for Yourself: Think about what you can decide for yourself and you them as sources of comfort. This could include wearing certain clothes, listening to favorite music or finding time for relaxing activities.
  • Ask for Support: If you have a loved one who is aware of your concerns and will be around, ask them to stay aware and help you manage the situation. They can help cover for you if you need to step away or help change the subject if something is upsetting.
  • Start a New Tradition: Consider starting a new tradition or activity (with yourself or others) that is comfortable and enjoyable to you.

A survivor’s choice to normalize abusive behavior shouldn’t be ours. Times up on tacitly condoning violence towards women of color just because the victim is caught in her own abuse cycle. We the culture have more power than that. We should use it. 

Eboni K. Williams is a cohost of REVOLT TV’s State of the Culture hip-hop talk show. She is also an attorney, a best-selling author, and a board member for Safe Horizon.

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