Emma Roberts and Evan Peters are apparently engaged after a New York City proposal over the holidays. I’m actually surprised we didn’t see more celebrity engagements over the holidays, but who knows what will come out of the woodwork. While an engagement is happy news, I have yet to find a news outlet that’s reporting on the engagement without mentioning Roberts and Peters’ domestic violence incident from last summer, while glossing over the actual reality of domestic violence.
Perhaps the ever-sensitive Perez Hilton‘s characterization was the most telling: “We’re so glad they’ve moved past 2013′s bloody hotel beat down and on to happier days!” In case you don’t remember, Roberts was arrested in July of 2013 after police were called to Roberts and Peters’ hotel room, where Peters’ was found with a bloody nose and a bite mark. He didn’t press charges and and Roberts was released. As far as we know, that was the end of it. It was a pretty chilling reminder that pretty, likable, white, and affluent women can be abusers, and that men can be victims. Since it’s a private matter, we don’t know what happened next and what type of help the couple sought.
I don’t want to sit here and say that their engagement is a horrible, no good, awful thing, because I just don’t know. I don’t know that Roberts isn’t in some sort of treatment, and if perhaps they really were able to move past what I’m hoping was an isolated incidence of violence. But I also have a pretty strong opinion that violence is rarely an isolated incidence, and being abused one time is one time too many. I don’t see how you can come back from that.
Here’s my hypothetical–if I’m wrong and it is possible to come back from inciting violence, how is it done? What would Roberts have to do to actually put this behind her? What would Chris Brown or Sean Penn have to do? The answer here is a little obvious since both Penn and Roberts faced very little (if any) professional disadvantages while Chris Brown became the most hated man around for a period of years, but for a moment, get hypothetical with me and suspend the obvious free pass we give to white celebrities. How does a non-famous, normal person move forward in a relationship after inciting violence?
Maybe it’s a some mix of treatment, counseling, and self delusion. My impulse is to say “you don’t.” If your partner gets violent once, you leave (although of course I know that leaving isn’t always an option for a host of reasons, not the least of which is imminent danger). Engagements like Roberts and Peters’ show that possibly violent and abusive relationships can continue either through fear of leaving, or possibly through some other combination of unknown factors that I can’t comprehend that entail “moving on.” Violence isn’t always a deal breaker. But I still think it should be.
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