Last week, we wrote about the interview with Columbus Short and Raquel Harper from TMZ. When we wrote about the story, we focused mostly on Short speaking about his fabricated relationship with Karin Steffans. And while Raquel was hard hitting with other questions, like Short’s drug use and his termination from “Scandal,” when Short said that he’d never put his hands on a woman, Raquel skated past Short’s very long wrap sheet when it concerns domestic violence. Instead, she said that she would always rock with him because he seemed like a good dude.
I watched your “Raq Rants” interview with my abuser.
Long after the screen went black, your laughter and his voice echoed in my head. I tossed and turned for several nights with so much anger and hurt weighing on my chest that it was hard for me to breathe.
Then I finally asked myself the key question: What about this interview triggered me? What made it such an emotional and psychological land mine? Why was it so different from the one when The Defendant sat down with Billy Bush or with Tom Joyner? What made it so different from when D.L. Hughley called me a “thirsty b–ch?” Those incidents unearthed a lot of painful feelings best left buried, but nothing a good Tae Bo class didn’t cure.
What was it about this particular interview that caused such inner turmoil for me?
And you know what I realized? I realized that it was you, Raquel—you were the toxic variable for me. I have grown accustomed to The Assailant not taking any responsibility for his violent actions toward me and other women; I have learned to brace myself against his gaslighting. I have become numb in response to relentless misogynist attacks on women in general, specifically intimate-partner violence survivors.
But you, sister, you look just like me. You mirror the countless women who provided loving shelter for me and my toddler when we were left homeless—when that last instance of abuse finally shattered our twisted normal. You look like the queens who watched my child when I became an Uber driver, taught dance classes, and took any temp job I could find—and at one point worked six jobs at once—just to find a way to provide for my child post-Scandal. You physically embody the sisters who helped feed, clothe, love, heal, empower and guide me while I stitched my torn self-esteem back together bit by bit over the past grueling years.
That is why I am writing to you, so that I can let you know from the bottom of my heart how disappointed and hurt I am that you flirted and fluttered your way around for almost 15 minutes with a man convicted of beating me.
And I do realize that this is bigger than you—this is bigger than me. Intimate-partner violence is an uncomfortable topic, but just like race, the deep and pervasive ugliness must be excavated from the darkness and laid bare in the light. It took me a very long time and painful self-reckoning to even admit that I was a victim of domestic violence. I didn’t want to admit that to myself, let alone to the world. I didn’t want to be a victim, but it is time to call a thing a thing. I have survived being victimized, but there are many, many women who do not.
Moving forward, Raquel, it is my hope that you will handle this topic with more moxie and care. To that end—and in case your dangerous assumption that “you can’t see” how such a “nice guy” could abuse his wife was simply ignorant and not malicious—I want to enlighten you on a few things.
Most abusers come across as “nice guys.” Just like some pedophiles come across as being amazing with children. It is part of the grooming process for these people. They are charming and charismatic. They can make the whole room light up when they walk in. They are engaging and seem to be the antithesis of a “wife beater.”
We have to begin to be very clear about the defining characteristics of an abuser. They don’t look like the bad guy/girl portrayed in the media. Again, the child molester isn’t always the person that is lurking on the park bench alone with no children. They are the sports coaches, teachers and religious leaders in our communities. They are the people we trust, and they are masters at hiding who they really are.
“Nice guy” or not, The Parolee you sat down with physically, sexually, mentally, emotionally and financially abused me for years while we were married.
Don’t fall victim to a patriarchal and misogynist society/media that silences, abuses and objectifies women. We live in a racist and sexist society. Women have had to fight not to be seen as second-class citizens—and black women have had to fight to be seen at all. Intimate-partner violence should matter even when you’re not the victim, Raquel—even when it’s not someone whom you love or even know. Right is right, and wrong is wrong.
I am growing tired of seeing people—mainly women—being dragged for filth after surviving one of the worst experiences one can have in this lifetime. When I finally filed for a restraining order after years of abuse—because The Violator attempted to murder me in my own home while my daughter slept—the fallout was indicative of how our society views women. I was called “liar, whore, b–ch, stupid” and every other name but the one my mom gave me.
D.L. Hughley did not just call me a “thirsty b–ch;” he did an entire segment on his radio show about me. He mocked my pain and my very real experiences as I was hiding out at a friend’s house—homeless, hurt, heartbroken, scared as hell, with a 2-year-old baby girl who had witnessed most of the abuse I barely survived. The arduous steps it took for me to even file the report in the first place were almost halted by my scared inner-child—the part of me that said I deserved it because I wasn’t good enough. The part of me that said I should stay because who else would want me?
The parts of me that my abuser spoke to daily in order to continually inflict pain and hurt in my life…
You can read the rest of Tanee’s letter over at The Root.
Veronica Wells is the culture editor at MadameNoire.com. She is also the author of “Bettah Days.”