Johnny Weir’s Domestic Violence Charges Will Make You Question What Makes A Person Violent

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Olympic commentator and ice skating sweetheart Johnny Weir had domestic violence charges against him dropped yesterday morning after appearing in court with his husband, Victor Voronov. Weir had been involved in a dispute with Voronov, and allegedly bit Voronov during the fight. I hadn’t even heard about the charges to begin with, and the dispute apparently happened about a month before the Olympics began. Voronov requested that a Lyndhurst, New Jersey judge throw out the case, which the judge promptly did.

Speaking generally, I’ve always had a pretty solid zero tolerance policy when it comes to violence. I’m not a big believer in grey areas when it comes to violence of any kind, and so my knee jerk reaction is to write Weir off as a violent tool. But I keep coming back to some comments left on a post I wrote about Emma Roberts and her engagement to Evan Peters, which followed an incident of domestic violence between the two of them. I argued (and I still believe this) that violence should be a deal breaker in any relationship. But the comments I received on that post opened my eyes to a nuance I had previously missed–there’s a difference between a one-time snapping and a pattern of violence and abuse. Before those comments–left by rational, intelligent people–I would never have said that, because I’m pretty uncomfortable with the implications of the grey area. Now, I’m trying to confront that idea head on.

Humans snap. Violence is, of course, never the right answer, but sometimes you see red and do something like throw a book or push someone. If one person goes his or her entire life having hit one person, does that make him or her a violent person? That seems like a stretch to me, but of course there’s also a difference between pushing someone out of your way and beating someone–beating someone one time is one time too many. For example–Chris Brown is a pretty cut and dry case. In his first public display of violence, he beat Rihanna horribly, and then followed it with more and more violence. But if someone slaps someone once? Or is provoked? Does it make a difference if it’s within a relationship, a friendship, or between two strangers? There’s nuance here. The type and degree of violence matters. I worry that that barrels into violence apologist territory, which is the opposite of what I’m trying to do. But speaking in sweeping generalizations seems to do the same disservice.

In terms of both Weir and Voronov and Roberts and Peters, I don’t know which category they fall into. I have absolutely no idea because I don’t know them and don’t know what happens behind closed doors, so I’m in no way capable of making a judgement about their relationships. With celebrities, we’re privy to information we ordinarily wouldn’t be, but that doesn’t mean we have the whole picture. In both of these incidents, it could have been a one-time thing, or there could be years of violence that we don’t know about. I’m not comfortable giving the benefit of the doubt simply because we only know of one violent incident, but I am trying to understand that the grey area is real, and that it’s possible for a good person to do one bad thing without becoming a violent person.

I don’t have any answers here, and feel very uncomfortable delving into this in the first place. But I’m trying to change my black and white thinking a bit to open up to the possibility that humans don’t necessarily fit into the neat categories I’ve made for them.

Photo: Craig Barritt/Getty Images

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    • Kaitlin Reilly

      These are such good questions, and this is a really insightful post. I have struggled with the same questions. If my (girl)friend told me that her boyfriend shoved her in an argument, I’d probably tell her to dump him immediately.
      Maybe not so if she told me that she shoved him (or hit or slapped or bit or whatever) and I know that she had no other violent tendencies in my past experiences with her. And I do think that in many ways it’s a gender bias thing. I’m more likely to consider a man’s one-time violent outburst as a dealbreaker than a woman’s.

      At the same time, who is to say that a one-time incident is indicative of future violent behavior in all cases? It is such a complex issue. Personally, I think that, even if the person never hits another person again, that getting violent in a relationship (and having such dramatic fights) is indicative of the fact that there is a serious communication breakdown or problem within the relationship and that for both parties sake you should remove yourself from the relationship.

    • Lindsey Conklin

      I think this is really interesting. Because while I’m with you, humans snap, I also think about what it takes to make someone snap. And that maybe that’s cause enough to be a deal breaker. I guess I’m saying that if you’re in a relationship/friendship and you’ve been abused, end the relationship. If you’re the one who snapped, (I am NOT in any way condoning or justifying the violence,) but again, end the relationship because it’s also not healthy to be with someone who pushes you to such an extreme if you’re generally not a violent person.