Many of you have heard about the recent news surrounding the Duggar family – the family best known for being extremely fertile and extremely religious on the TLC reality series “19 Kids and Counting”. If you haven’t heard (or you’ve been locked in a basement somewhere with no internet access), the eldest son, Josh, was recently revealed to have molested a number of young girls (some of whom were his sisters) when he was a teenager. For more information on the nitty-gritty please read here: http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/21/us/josh-duggar-child-molestation-allegations/index.html.
Now there are those that will defend Josh and his parents in the way they managed “the situation” (otherwise known as molesting innocent children) and there are those (hopefully many more) who would like to tie them to the stake and plan a fricassee. You can kinda get which way I am leaning here, right? Well, I am the mom of a young girl, so I am most definitely biased. That is not the focus of this blog though – there are plenty of these types out there.
I want to focus on how sad it is in this day and age, we continue to hide sexual abuse and “protect” the perpetrator. I can, somewhat, understand Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar wanting to protect their child, but what about their daughters – hell what about everyone else’s daughters? As near as I can tell, Josh never had intensive psychological intervention to address his inappropriate sexual behaviors. Supposedly, psychological treatment was “made available” to his victims, but I am a wee bit doubtful. Am I the only one who finds it unlikely that this treatment was anything more than religious teachings on the importance of forgiveness? I do not see this family taking their kids into the local mental health center to address their trauma.
Sexual abuse should not be shameful for the victims (though I typically prefer to call them “survivors”). Our focus should never be on taking care of the perpetrator, rather making sure the survivors of his deviance develop the skills necessary to lead healthy and happy lives. I am not choosing this revelation about the Duggar family to condemn them for their religious beliefs, their political views or their ideas on family planning. I typically strongly disagree with all of these, but rather I am using this new information as an opportunity to remind us all we need to focus on those who are hurt rather than on those who hurt. We need to focus on the innocents who are harmed. Josh Duggar should not have been protected. He should have been turned over to the authorities to pay whatever consequence legally necessary for his crimes. This should happen every time – no matter who, what, when, where or why. This family failed it’s daughters- and in turn, failed all of ours as well.
Oftentimes, celebrities will say that they don’t consider themselves to be role models for their fans and do not want the pressure of feeling responsible for their choices. I was thinking about this in relation to my daughter Charlie. She is 10 years old and is very aware of what her favorite celebrities are up to – both positive and negative. At first we tried to steer her away from certain people – because of the way they would behave or dress or because of drug and alcohol use. But then we realized we were missing out on a learning opportunity – the Anti-Role Model.
You may ask just what is the Anti-Role Model? The way I look at it, the Anti-Role Model helps others learn how to act by demonstrating what NOT to do. We have had the opportunity to discuss drug use/abuse through the actions of both Michael Jackson and Charlie Sheen. This lead to numerous conversations about the dangers of drug use and how it causes you to act like someone you are not.
We are able to discuss the impression people might give based on how they dress and how they act. We talked about dressing and acting as though we respect ourselves and were able to use specific celebrities as examples of what NOT to do (sorry, Miley Cyrus, but my girl is really young for your wrecking ball).
We talked about the importance of being well-spoken and being able to put words together in such a way as to convey intelligence, education and character. We were able to point out those who did not give such an impression (withholding names to protect the not-so-innocent) and those who excelled (thank you, Emma Stone).
These role models and anti-role models are everywhere in our lives – not just in pop culture and celebrity. They are in our community and in our schools, in our churches and in our shopping malls – they are everywhere. They may not be trying to be a role model to our children, but they are anyway. It is up to us to help our kidlets determine how to learn from these people.
We all know that celebrities are fabulously attractive people – they are pretty and thin and seem to glow from within. Another thing we know is we can’t trust the images we see of these same celebrities – there is amazing lighting, hair and makeup experts and, of course, Photoshop. There were a number of stories in the media recently showing photos that were leaked of female celebrities before the photos could be Photoshopped prior to publication. There are pictures of Beyonce from a L’Oreal ad campaign depicting less than perfect skin (http://www.entertainmentwise.com/news/165572/Beyonce-leaked-pictures-Untouched-photos-of-LOreal-campaign) and photos of Cindy Crawford’s photo shoot for a Marie Claire 2013 issue (http://www.justjared.com/2015/02/16/cindy-crawfords-unretouched-lingerie-photo-goes-viral/) showed she may no longer have the body of an 18-year-old. (Hello, she just turned 49!) I do not think either woman’s representatives have confirmed or denied the photos as real, but in my ever-so-humble opinion, it doesn’t matter at all.
Look, in my book (Life Lessons for the Teenage Girl – http://www.amazon.com/Life-Lessons-Teenage-Girl-Inspiration/dp/1630472026/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1424926550&sr=8-1), the amazingly multi-talented Miss Kat Graham shared with my readers, “what you read in magazines and see on TV isn’t real. That it’s sometimes the furthest thing from reality.” How are we so shocked that Beyonce may not be perfect – she might actually have a pimple – or two! Cindy Crawford might actually have slightly loose tummy skin after carrying two children and living for nearly 50 years. Seriously? Let’s have a reality check, my friends. They are beautiful people to be sure, but they are people. This means they have flaws – we all do. If we don’t recognize that celebrities might have flaws, how will we ever accept those flaws in ourselves.
OK – I need to vent a little. I was driving home after dropping Charlie off at dance class (a full-time job, I swear) and I was listening to talk radio killing some time. Here in Southern California there is a station KABC 790 AM which airs various talk radio format shows. At this particular time it was “The Drive Home with Jillian Barberie and John Phillips”. Jillian was sharing how she and a friend were at El Pollo Loco in the greater So Cal area over the weekend and had witnessed a man beating on a woman, screaming at her in Spanish. She further shared her conviction he was on drugs and was upset the woman had used up his supply. Jillian then shared that her friend had wanted to run out to her car so she could use her cell phone to call the police and get help for the woman. Jillian explained how she had talked her friend out of it and told her not to get involved. She made some reference about how she knew the woman would just get back together with him anyway (in fact they were probably already back together now) and it would be such a waste of time to make a report. She complained about the pain in the ass it would be to have to put her name to the report and maybe testify.
I was absolutely horrified by this response and John Phillips’ seconding the notion she should pretend to see nothing (“like a referee in professional wrestling”). Really? What if this woman is killed? I understand we need to consider our own safety – no one is saying you have to let loose a flying tackle on the guy and risk your own life. But – call the police. Try to get help. Maybe he is her boyfriend and maybe she will take him back, but that should never stop us from doing the right thing. Our moral compass is not supposed to be based on outcome, but on doing the right thing because it is right. The end.
Do you remember the story of Catherine Genovese? In the 1960’s, Catherine Genovese was walking home from work when she was attacked by a man with a knife. She screamed repeatedly for help, but no one came. When lights turned on in neighboring apartments, the perpetrator ran away, afraid he would be caught. He then noticed no one coming and returned and killed her. It was later noted that no less than 38 people heard or saw some part of the attack and did nothing. The police were never called until she was dead. (The attack itself lasted over 30 minutes.)
If we followed Jillian Barberie’s example, we, too, would have stood by and waited for her to die without lifting a finger to come to her aid. I don’t care if the woman at El Pollo Loco ultimately went back to her abusive boyfriend (assuming that is even who he was), but I would have had the comfort of knowing for one night I did what I could to help and keep her safe. After that, it is up to her.
I was recently contacted by a journalist writing an article about Bobbi Kristina Brown – she was seeking information how domestic violence can occur within a celebrity household, why a famous person would stay and what friends and family could have done to help her. We’ve talked about domestic violence in this blog before and the facts we discussed don’t necessarily change just because someone is famous. There was a whole twitter campaign following Ray Rice’s videotaped beating of his now-wife in a New Jersey casino elevator (#whyIstayed) that deals with all the myriad of reasons people have stayed in abusive relationships. I won’t rehash this conversation. If you have time, I really suggest you Google it and read what these people have written. It was very interesting and very moving.
From what I have gathered, there is not definitive “proof” that Bobbi Kristina was in a domestically violent relationship, but there have been a number of allusions to it. I am going to have this discussion as if this is true for the sake of conversation. There are a number of additional reasons why Bobbi Kristina may have stayed in an abusive relationship – the death of her mother, Whitney Houston, three years ago rocked her world and further estranged her from her father, Bobby Brown; her relationship with Nick Gordon was reportedly not well received by friends and family which created separation from those who loved her; and her issues with substance abuse might have caused her to feel trapped in a relationship with a man who had become her whole world. She was raised in a household rife with domestic violence and parents with substance abuse issues. Her life being so chaotic might have actually made it feel normal to her.
The difficulty really comes in what friends and family can (and can’t) do for loved ones struggling with substance abuse and/or domestic violence. If the individual in question is a legal adult, your options are somewhat limited. We, as adults, are free to make whatever decisions we choose – regardless of how detrimental they are. As doctors we have the option of involuntary hospitalizing someone if they are a danger to themselves, a danger to others or gravely disabled, but, unfortunately, substance abuse and domestic violence do not apply. Though these can often be a slow-ride to suicide, they do not apply as a “danger to self” situation.
So what can you do?
- Express your concerns. Often times this can alienate your loved ones. It is a delicate balance, but they need to know you have concerns and what you are willing to do to help them. You might offer your place as a safe place to start over or to research rehab programs. Try not to spend too much time bashing the violent partner – you don’t want to create a Romeo & Juliet situation where you end up pushing them closer together.
- Recognize the limitations of what you can reasonably do. You cannot want their health and safety more than they do. You will make yourself miserable (and frustrated) if you spend all of your time brainstorming ways to get them out. Sometimes they may need to hit bottom before they are ready to change.
- Identify when you are becoming more of an enabler than a friend. Are you doing things to make it easier for them to remain in the relationship (with the person or the substance)? Do you help to make excuses for the abuser? Do you give money to cover when she is short because her money was spent on drugs? Support the person, not the illness.
- Know there is only so much you can do. You cannot force sobriety or the end of a relationship. It is possible the outcome might be bad – very, very bad. In the case of Bobbi Kristina, it seems likely she will pass as the result of her relationship (either with drugs or with Nick Gordon or both). This can happen even when people repeatedly try to save someone. If this happens to your loved one, it will be horribly, profoundly tragic, but it is in no way your fault. You need to find a way to put the responsibility where it truly belongs – the addiction, the perpetrator or both.
I was watching the Grammys this week and, like many of you, I was horrified by the behavior of one Kanye West. Now, there has been a lot of backlash out there about his frequent theatrics and, likely, narcissistic tendencies, but for some reason this man continually needs to come to the defense of Beyonce anytime she loses a Grammy award. The public response has included an amazing open letter by Garbage frontwoman, Shirley Manson, where she takes the high road and asks Kanye to cut it out (https://www.facebook.com/shirleymanson/posts/10152927970266387) and a Buzzfeed.com post depicting all the reasons why Beck should have beaten Beyonce in the Grammy race (http://www.buzzfeed.com/expresident/why-beck-beat-beyonce?bffb&utm_term=4ldqpgp#.kdYwjmRvqz) – this does not include the myriad of posts I have read calling Kanye a number of not-so-polite names.
I am coming at this from a different angle – is Kanye West a total douche or is he a media mastermind. Since Sunday night we have been talking about nothing Grammy-related without an in-depth discussion of his ridiculous behavior. He has found a way to keep himself topmost in our thoughts. If it is true that there is no such thing as bad publicity, this man has hit the motherlode. If he would rather be vilified than forgotten, he is one happy camper these days.
There are some fortunate and unfortunate consequences of Kanye’s behavior:
- Winner: Beck. OK, Kanye totally douched him out of his big moment at the award show, this is 100% true. But, and this is a big but, the controversy surrounding this situation has exposed Beck and his music to an audience who may have been previously unfamiliar. He (though not exactly a media-whore by temperament) is benefitting by his name in the media and the sympathies of a Kanye-sick nation.
- Loser: Beyonce. Don’t get me wrong – she did absolutely nothing wrong. Kanye keeps stepping up to defend this grown woman who is doing just fine on her own. She is reportedly happily married, amazingly talented, enjoying motherhood, widely successful, and absolutely gorgeous. She does not need Kanye fighting her battles. His behavior only weakens her. She is strong on her own.
- Loser: Kanye. He may be a talented musician – this is somewhat subjective and likely depends on your musical preferences, but, by this point, I am not sure anyone even notices this anymore. He is a “character” not an artist.
Can we make this man stop? Nope. Absolutely not. Unless the award shows are going to start having bodyguards positioned around the stage to stop non-winners from storming the stage, he will likely continue to act like an ass. Really, the only thing we can do is ignore him. Consider him like a bully on the playground. Tell him, “No”, set the limit, and then ignore him and hope he will go away.
Have you ever wondered where the line gets crossed for celebrities? You know the line where they cross from being “regular” people making “regular” money to becoming someone who doesn’t bat an eye at a $3000 handbag. They jet set around the world, wear expensive and designer clothes (even when designed to look casual and inexpensive), drive luxury cars, and live in humungous houses. Most of these people (but not all), were born average people who lived in average houses or apartments and had parents who made ends meet working more typical jobs.
You may wonder what made me think of this – well, it is something that has bounced around in my mind for years, but, recently, it was Gwyneth Paltrow who has received a lot of media attention for a recommendation for a “V-steam” she made on her GOOP website or in its newsletter. Now, from what I can gather, this is a relatively inexpensive indulgence (I think it was something like $25), but to families making ends meet, $25 to have your vagina steam-cleaned (seriously) seems the height of idiocy.
I read a lot of magazines largely geared toward a female readership. Often within the pages, there is a section dedicated to celebrity product recommendations (either direct or indirect). These can include anything from food products or beverages, makeup and skincare, clothing and accessories and/or furniture/décor. Rarely are these items anything a typical reader would ever be able to comfortably afford. Now, I know there are a percentage of readers who might simply enjoy learning some intimate detail about their favorite celebrities without ever hoping to purchase those items themselves, but I have to think there are those who are actually seeking product recommendations. Do these celebrities understand most people cannot manage $145 for 0.5 oz of La Mer eye cream?
Do you think this is a gradual process? Do they start out feeling comfortable and confident with a $30 purse from Target only to move onto a $150 bag from Fossil? Are there Coach bags and Michael Kors on their way to Louis Vuitton and Berkin handbags? Does your average celebrity marvel at the cost of her clothing (even though she can afford it or gets it for free)?
What do you think? How does it happen?