COBRA’s mission is to inform, educate and empower the vulnerable. We choose to focus on actionable self defence techniques and real-life based prevention methods to help women and children avoid dangerous situations and escape unavoidable ones. So watching public abuse play out with potential for extreme violence is difficult to say the least. Our alarm bells are ringing, and yours should be, too.
You would have inevitably heard about the messy divorce of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. Although you may not be a famous celebrity, many parts of their situation can be applicable to you in terms of managing abuse and defending yourself against threatening situations. Here are ten takeaways on the current situation between Kim and Kanye that everyone should know, and know to avoid at all cost.
1. ABUSE AND VIOLENCE CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE
Intimate partner violence can be experienced by anyone, including Kim Kardashian, a rich, able-bodied, white, straight woman. While power dynamics around class, race, sexual orientation, and disability affect and even shape the abuse, intimate partner violence occurs in all settings and among all socioeconomic, religious and cultural groups, according to the World Health Organisation. In patriarchy, privilege does not exclude the possibility of violence—it just makes resilience more attainable. Consequently, the violence may become more bearable, but unfortunately, it is inescapable.
2. ABUSE HAPPENS TO PEOPLE YOU KNOW AND LOVE, PROBABLY RIGHT UNDER YOUR NOSE
We’re used to only seeing celebrities’ very carefully cultivated personas, the sides of them that they want us to see. You rarely hear a celebrity actually talk about the stuff that makes us human, like being rejected or insecure or jealous or petty. So when their divorce plays out publicly it's very revealing indeed. Sadly, this is highly representative of the general population, who equally try to hide the not-so-pretty parts of their lives from those around them.
While Kardashian is no stranger to the invasiveness of the press—her first encounter with fame was a leaked sex tape that made the news in 2007—she has successfully harnessed her visibility into an empire. Her fame and influence, along with her aforementioned problematic behaviour, has resulted in a dehumanising approach to reporting on what West is doing to her without her consent: Since she is rich, beautiful, white, and privileged, to the press and people who read every word of gossip about her relationship, it seems unthinkable that she is actually suffering a very public cycle of violence.
Intimate partner violence occurs in all settings and among all socioeconomic, religious, and cultural groups—including the homes of the hyperwealthy and the hyperfamous—and it should be taken seriously in all contexts.
3. IT IS NOT ALWAYS HAPPILY-EVER-AFTER
The very first stories we’re ever told are fairytales. Once upon a time, there’s a beautiful peasant girl who is treated cruelly, often by her stepmother. She meets a dashing prince who rides a white horse. The star-crossed pair overcome adversity and get married, and the peasant girl is thus transformed into a princess. The genetically blessed couple kiss - in an entirely PG-rated way, of course; there are kids present! - as they ride off into the sunset. They live happily ever after.
We’re told that story, time and again, throughout our lives. First, in children’s books. Then in cartoons. Then in movies, TV shows, and literature. Fiction bleeds into non fiction as we watch our favourite actors, singers, models, entertainers and presenters find their perfect partners - who are often fellow celebrities - and settle down. Their images are splashed across magazine covers and on the internet. Their interviews profess their undying love for each other.
They live happily ever after... until they don’t. With celebrities and with everyone, in fact, things can and do go wrong. You must be prepared for this possibility.
4. IT IS EXTREMELY DIFFICULT TO LEAVE ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS
If Kim Kardashian can’t escape this, then what chance do’ normal’ women have? The reality star’s situation shines a glaring light on what so many women go through when they choose to leave. What we’re seeing is one of the most powerful, one of the richest women in the world, unable to get her ex to stop texting her, to stop chasing after her, to stop harassing her. Just think about that for a moment. Think about how powerful Kim Kardashian is, and she can’t get that to happen.
Leaving an abusive relationship, no matter the race, class, or gender of the victim or the abuser, is a high-risk decision that usually elicits violent responses from the abuser. Domestic Shelters, an organisation that helps abuse victims find support, reports that leaving an abusive relationship is “the most dangerous time for a domestic violence survivor” because abusers lash out in an attempt to regain control over their partner. The most devastating consequence of the post-breakup period of an abusive relationship can be extreme violence and even homicide.
5. ABUSE IS TERRIFYING TO WATCH
You may not feel sorry for Kim Because she’s rich and famous; because the way she dresses; because she appropriates Black culture; because she tells women they’re lazy; or for whatever reason. Maybe you hate her … but what she’s going through is terrifying to watch. Kim has publicly expressed her frustrations with Kanye about his harassment and how his “constant attacks” affect her and their four children. She has spoken in legal settings of his obsession with trying to control and manipulate situations negatively and publicly, causing pain for all.
Despite this, the world watches ongoing and increasingly disturbing behaviour from Kanye Wes, including sharing private text messages he’d received from Kim and disturbing memes and images. His behaviour has largely been deemed by experts as manipulative, intimidating and harassing. This sort of behaviour is life and death for many women and it should not, under any circumstances, be enabled or taken lightly.
6. THOSE AROUND ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS MAY JUST WATCH FROM THE SIDELINE
As a society, we are largely standing by and watching the car crash that is Kim and Kanye despite significant misgivings and alarm bells; in fact, the situation this couple faces is largely being utilised for entertainment and news click bait. This is may be the case for YOU if you are in a similarly abusive relationship; it is hard for those around you to step in or help put a stop to things. Many just watch wincing from the sidelines. Kardashian has made it clear publicly that she feels she is being harassed by West, but is being dismissed by many due to the public’s opinions of her.
7. THERE ARE MANY KINDS OF ABUSE, NOT JUST PHYSICAL
Whatever news you might have read about Kanye’s behaviour, let’s be clear about one thing: it’s abuse. It is emotional abuse; Kanye told his million followers that Kim has tried to keep him from his children out of petty malice despite his obvious emotional instability. He put their marital issues out there for all the world to see. It is digital abuse; Kanye shared private conversations with his ex and told his fans to publicly berate and scream at Pete Davidson like Kanye is Henry II and Pete’s a turbulent priest.
Experts can argue whether Kanye’s behaviour meets the legal standards for stalking abuse, but constantly harassing your ex online, broadcasting her private messages, and doing your best to intimidate both her and her new partner meets OUR standard if nothing else. Worse, Kanye is not only enabled but actually encouraged by his entourage and fans to continue his abusive behaviour. It is frightening and very real.
8. EMOTIONAL ABUSE CAN TURN PHYSICAL, AND OFTEN DOES
There is a pattern to relationship abuse. When things are good, when the relationship and life are relatively stable, the abuser is charming. He (usually but not always a he) demonstrates how much he adores his partner. He buys her things, helps out with the kids, maybe even does some housework. He is attentive and caring, and his partner is often lulled into a false sense of security. Perhaps the abuse hasn’t started yet. Perhaps they’ve ignored the warning signs.
But this honeymoon phase doesn’t last forever. Tensions build. Financial issues, stubborn kids, arguments over dinner, and whose turn it is to wash dishes. If we’re talking about exes, perhaps the victim begins dating someone new. Whatever the excuses the abuser requires for his behavior, the pressure builds until they explode. They lash out at their partner, their ex, or their children. Oftentimes that abuse is emotional and comes in the form of gaslighting, insults, intimidation, threats of physical violence or self-harm, isolation from friends and family, and financial restrictions. Other times it ends in violence. A smashed car or other possessions. Physical abuse of their partner or abuse of the children. If it’s a hostile ex, they may take out their resentments on their own current partner by striking them as well.
Regardless of the form of the abuse, it continues until the perpetrator has exhausted their current rage. They tell the victim it’s their own fault, that they drove the abuser to such extremes. Now, they are sorry. The honeymoon phase begins again. Flowers, gifts, pampering, apologies. And the cycle continues.
9. THERE ARE CONFOUNDING FACTORS AND THE STAKES ARE HIGH
Kanye has self-admitted mental health problems, a common concern in modern society, Of course, we sympathise with anyone in this position. The world does not know Kanye's management plan, and it is no one's business but his own. But he is a 44-year-old man with all the resources he needs to care for himself.
No one else is responsible for his behaviour. Right now, the world is treating him as a public spectacle. This has been presented as juicy gossip, when it should be presented as deeply concerning - if presented at all. It's absolutely key that we remind ourselves that even though it's in a public forum, this is potentially people who are really struggling and who may be seriously unwell. That deserves our compassion and respect. Right now, the world is ultimately making light of pain: the pain of Kanye, but also the pain of Kim, their children, Pete (Kim’s new partner) and everyone else in their orbit.
The consequences of this are yet to be seen, but the stakes are high. This is real life, and we need to change the way we talk about it before we contribute to any further harm.
10. BREAK-UPS ARE NORMAL; ABUSE IS NOT
This isn’t the first time—and it won’t be the last—that the tabloid press has monetised a case of domestic abuse between two celebrities. The case most similar to the current West/Kardashian situation is perhaps the relationship between O.J. Simpson and Nicole Brown, which tragically and infamously ended in homicide. After Brown filed for divorce, Simpson stalked and harassed her in an attempt to reconcile the relationship. Unlike Kardashian, Brown was completely financially dependent on Simpson from the beginning of their marriage, which made her situation much more volatile. Regardless, the fame of being Simpson’s ex-wife did not save Brown from being violently murdered.
However you feel about the individuals involved in this truly tragic situation, the issues and dangers are clear and very real. We hope you can take heed of these lessons in terms of watching the drama unfold, but also in your daily life if/when you are ever faced with instances of manipulation, violence or abuse. Be it from someone you love, or towards someone you know, be empowered with the very basic knowledge that abuse is not acceptable, and never will be. Strengthen your own confidence with self defence awareness and techniques to escape any potential danger you may face, be it from a known or unknown foe. Help us protect those most vulnerable in our society, because one woman is too many.