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Domestic Violence and Music: A Controversial Relationship

Updated on July 1, 2017
Atmosphere's "Last to Say" music video shows the cyclical nature of domestic violence and appeals to victims to get out of the relationship.
Atmosphere's "Last to Say" music video shows the cyclical nature of domestic violence and appeals to victims to get out of the relationship. | Source

The Unhealthy Marriage Between Music and Violence Against Women

The music industry is beginning to dialogue about the unhealthy marriage between music and violence against women. Activists in Chicago protested when Pitchfork Music Festival announced that Odd Future would perform this year. Odd Future, a controversial indie rap group produces vulgar songs that explicitly portray violence against women, including rape and murder of women. Jim DeRogatis, WBEZ talk show co-host, shares his thoughts about whether Odd Future crosses a moral line or is merely capitalizing on the shock value the music evokes and the right to free expression.

Some artists and fans believe music conveys a message to women that would not be heard were it not for music. Fans claim to have recognized the violence in their own relationships when they heard song lyrics and saw music videos portraying violence against women. These fans view music as a form of public service that is more effective in communicating an anti-violence message than the more traditional methods of providing education and services.

Activist groups, while opposed to crimes against women, are nevertheless respectful of the art of music and the right of artists and musicians to display their art. They conducted a quiet protest with pamphlets and picket signs showing facts and statistics about crimes against women while the musicians performed in concert at the music festival.

MTV recently promoted Atmosphere’s music video, “The Last to Say” that tells the story of multigenerational domestic violence and how that violence is passed on from one generation to the next. The video sends a strong message to the victim of domestic violence to leave the relationship in order to break the chain of violence.

The controversy has drawn attention to the violence against women that is portrayed in Eminem’s, “Space Bound” video and Rihanna’s, “Russian Roulette.” These artists are undeniably talented and their music videos are exceptionally well done. They elicit strong emotional responses, evoke profound thoughts, and deliver compelling messages.

In the same way that seven witnesses to an event can have seven different perceptions of the event, every viewer of these videos will have a different emotional reaction based on his or her past and present experiences. Every viewer will experience his or her own profound thoughts about the videos and every viewer will hear a different compelling message.

A More Traditional Approach to Violence Prevention

As an advocate of violence prevention, I think it is important to point out that the above videos do undeniably depict acts of violence. While it is possible that 1 in a million viewers might get a violence prevention message from the videos, it is highly unlikely. It is more likely that a viewer will be de-sensitized to violence and possibly traumatized or re-traumatized.

Below is some more traditional violence prevention information. There are 3 quizzes that can be used to assess emotional, physical and sexual abuse in a relationship. Next to each quiz is an explanation about the results of the quiz. There is information about the National Domestic Violence Hotline and website, and a description of what abuse is. There is information for and about men involved in violent relationships, and a way to contribute financially to the hotline to keep it fully staffed to handle all the calls they get.

Emotional Abuse

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Physical Abuse Quiz

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Sexual Abuse Quiz

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Text TELLNOW to 85944 to make a $10 donation to the National Domestic Violence Hotline
Text TELLNOW to 85944 to make a $10 donation to the National Domestic Violence Hotline | Source

Your Scores on the Abuse Quizzes

Emotional Abuse: You may be in an emotionally abusive relationship if you answered "yes" to questions on the Emotional Abuse Quiz. A score of "0" indicates all "no" answers and an absence of emotional abuse. The highest score is "10" and indicates a high likelihood that your relationship is emotionally abusive. Call the hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) to discuss your results or any concerns you might have.

Physical Abuse: You may be in a physically abusive relationship if you answered "yes" to any questions on the Physical Abuse Quiz. Again, the highest score is "10." A single "yes" answer indicates the presence of physical abuse in the relationship. Several "yes" answers indicate increased risk for harm. The higher the score the higher the risk of harm. Call the hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) to discuss your particular situation or concerns. Information is available online, but remember if safety is a concern, online activity can be detected. It is better to call or go to a safe computer that cannot be monitored.

Sexual Abuse: If you answered "yes" to any of the questions on the Sexual Abuse Quiz you may be in a sexually abusive relationship. A score of "0" indicates no risk and a score of "10" indicates extreme risk. Trained hotline workers are available 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) to answer any questions or concerns you may have.

Remember: Not all men are abusive and often women are abusive. The 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) hotline is for men too, whether the man is abusive or abused. Many men who are in treatment for domestic violence use the hotline for support and help in stopping the violence. Some men passively tolerate abuse by women without defending themselves. Many men have been victims and witnesses of abuse as children or adults as well. When violence is directed by a man toward a woman it is more likely to be lethal than when directed by a woman toward a man.

Abuse is:

  • Calling bad names or putting someone down
  • Shouting and cursing
  • Hitting, slapping and/or pushing
  • Making threats of any kind
  • Jealously and suspicion
  • Keeping someone away from family and friends
  • Throwing things around the house

Hip Hop Psych


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