Four Five Seconds to Domestic Violence

Sometimes, when you spend eight ten twelve hours a day working on something, you start to see that thing everywhere, even when other people might not.

For me, that thing is domestic violence. As an attorney who works on child abuse and neglect cases, I get more than a few cases a day that involve domestic violence (because hey, if you’re going to beat up your kid, you may also be beating up your partner).

So as I was driving into work the other day, I heard Rihanna and Kanye West’s new single, Four Five Seconds. For the unfamiliar, here are the lyrics:

Four Five Seconds (Lyrics from metrolyrics.com)

I think I’ve had enough
I might get a little drunk
I say what’s on my mind
I might do a little time
‘Cause all of my kindness
Is taken for weakness

Now I’m FourFiveSeconds from wildin’
And we got three more days ’til Friday
I’m just tryna make it back home by Monday mornin’
I swear I wish somebody would tell me
Ooh, that’s all I want

Woke up an optimist
Sun was shinin’, I’m positive
Then I heard you was talkin’ trash
Hold me back, I’m ’bout to spaz

I’m FourFiveSeconds from wildin’
And we got three more days ’til Friday
I’m tryna make it back home by Monday mornin’
I swear I wish somebody would tell me
Ooh, that’s all I want

And I know that you’re up tonight
Thinkin’, “How could I be so selfish?”
But you called ’bout a thousand times
Wondering where I’ve been
Now I know that you’re up tonight
Thinkin’ “How could I be so reckless?”
But I just can’t apologize
I hope you can understand

If I go to jail tonight
Promise you’ll pay my bail
See they want to buy my pride
But that just ain’t up for sale
See all of my kindness
Is taken for weakness

Now I’m FourFiveSeconds from wildin’
And we got three more days ’til Friday
I’m tryna make it back home by Monday mornin’
I swear I wish somebody would tell me
Ooh, that’s all I want

FourFiveSeconds from wildin’
And we got three more days ’til Friday
I’m just tryna make it back home by Monday mornin’
I swear I wish somebody would tell me
That’s all I want

Songwriters
Mccartney, Paul / Fenty, Robyn Rihanna / Omari, Kanye West

Published by
Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

The radio show hosts couldn’t figure out what it meant. They spent a long time discussing what “Four Five Seconds” means–is it forty five seconds? Four, five? Four “five seconds”?

They did not talk about the heart of the song, which is, to me, obviously about domestic violence. At least, I thought it was obvious. Apparently the internet doesn’t think so. I googled “Four Five Seconds meaning”, and didn’t find anything about domestic violence, other than one article that simply hints at “ins and outs” that Rihanna and Chris Brown have gone through. Wikipedia had this to say about the meaning of the song:

Lyrically, it “express emotions ranging from the flip to the resigned”.[9] Sharan Shetty of Slate stated that the song is about “heartbreak and redemption”,[17] while a Yahoo! Newsreviewer noted that it is about “personal travails and confusion”.[18] Nora Crotty of Elle magazine described the single as an “ode to repenting in the morning for the foolish mistakes you made the night before”.[4] -Wikipedia “FourFiveSeconds”

Baffled that that nothing explicitly mentioned the clear domestic violence message of the song, I tried googling “Four Five Seconds domestic violence”. Nothing. There were some sites about the song and some sites about domestic violence, but really nothing that linked the two. So, dear internet, let me tell you. “FourFive Seconds is a song about domestic violence, told both from the perspective of the abuser and the victim. It attempts to go beyond the surface level discussions that so often surround these debates, and get into the heart and souls of people in such relationships.

All of My Kindness is Taken for Weakness

Rihanna doesn’t waste any time getting into the heart of domestic violence. Survivors might feel like they’ve had enough, but they’re willing to give their abusers one more chance, out of the kindness of their hearts. Over and over again survivors talk about not wanting to give up on their abusers. They love their abusers, and so, even while recognizing that they’re not being treated as they should be they bestow “kindness” on the abuser, giving the abuser a chance to redeem themselves.

From an outsider’s perspective, this “kindness” is so many times called “weakness”. We often hear things like “Why can’t she just leave that guy–he’s always beating her and slapping her, she’s just too weak to leave”. Rihanna herself suffered such victimization. After Chris Brown famously assaulted her in 2009, Rihanna left him. After many rumors that they were back together, she announced in 2013 that they had reunited. Commenters on a Rolling Stone article about the reconciliation had this to say about that decision:

“I love seeing someone like her run back to her abuser-she looks like the idiot she is by her actions.” Hook UK

“Rihanna is a role model for young women. By staying with her abuser, she is encouraging other women to stay in abusive, dangerous relationships. It’s only a matter of time before one of those women ends up battered, maimed, or dead. As far as I’m concerned, Rihanna has or will have blood on her hands. Shame on her.” Robotclam

So many times victims say that they want to give their abusers “one more chance”. It is an important step. While so many people view it as weakness or idiocy, it is not meaningless. It is an important step that a victim takes towards recognizing that there is a problem in the first place.

Four Five Seconds from Wildin’

I absolutely love the chorus of the song. It evokes so much emotion. The pouty, slow breaths of the lines bring up feelings of struggle. The references to Friday and Monday make one remember that personal struggles are not just about these lofty ideals of “what type of person is right for me” and “what do I want out of life”, but rather are often much more finite–“how will I pay the rent this week” or “my child is sick but I can’t take any more time off of work” or “we don’t have any more chicken in the freezer but I don’t get paid until Thursday”.

I remember one night in college, I was all stressed out because I had a big paper due that I wasn’t nearly ready to turn in, along with some other finals and shifts at my part time job. I called a friend, who told me that she was also feeling stressed. We decided to meet up and talk about our issues. I remember feeling almost angry with her when she told me that the problems that were keeping her up at night were “what type of person do I want to be” and “where do I see myself in 10 years?”. Of course those are important questions to answer, but you can’t really deal with them until you turn in that final paper, which is due no matter what type of person you are.

While a relationship can give people joy and love and safety, there are also practical benefits. There’s housing, there’s shared finances, there’s co-parenting. I know someone who has been separated from his wife for years, but still hasn’t signed the final divorce papers because he and his daughter are benefitting from being under his wife’s insurance. This arrangement works for him, but if his wife was abusive, it may not be practical. There’s a lot of extortion that happens: Sleep with me and be my partner, or you can’t stay in my house anymore. If you leave, you’ll have no where to go. Your job (if you even have one) won’t be enough to pay for an apartment and living expenses all on your own. Stay with me, where it’s safe.

If I Go To Jail Tonight, Promise You’ll Pay My Bail

If my husband needed to be bailed out of jail, I would march over there and bring every single penny in my account to help him out. Because I love him and he’s good to me and he deserves my help. Even if he did something foolish and stupid–he might have to deal with the consequences later, but I’d help him out in the moment because, love.

For so many victims, the sentiment is the same despite years of being treated badly. There is still love. There is still affection. There is still a very real feeling that the abuser deserves to be loved, despite whatever may have happened in the past, because, love.

This can’t be dismissed very easily.

There are no easy answers. We can educate boys and girls how to behave in relationships and what is healthy and what is unhealthy, but at the end of the day, every individual has to make the choice that is right for him or her. There are so many nuances involved in the decision that an outsider can’t see. All that an outsider can do is offer assistance and support, and most importantly, to be there, no matter what.

“He put me in the hospital when I was pregnant with her. The next day he started crying, begging for forgiveness. He said: ‘I’m so sorry, I was drunk, I need you so much.’ So I took him back. The next time it happened, he managed to convince me that it was my fault. He said that he wouldn’t have gotten so angry if I had paid more attention to him. So I started thinking that I could be better. Then it happened again. Honestly, I stayed with him so much longer than I should have because I was afraid of becoming the stereotype of a single black mother.” HumansOfNewYork.com

Niddah Diaries, Month 2: The Magnet Analogy

This month, I only menstruated from Saturday afternoon until Tuesday evening–3 1/2 days. I sort of feel gipped out of my Niddah time. Last month, by the end of the week, the Niddah observance had created this incredibly powerful sexual tension between us. This month, sure, there were moments when I really wanted to hug or kiss him, but I held myself back. There weren’t ever any moments when I really, really considered breaking the rules (once, I was sitting on the couch next to him and forgot I wasn’t supposed to touch, so I jokingly jabbed him in the elbow after making a bad pun. I immediately realized my mistake, pulled away and said, “well I guess that’s the most action you’re going to get all week”)

Our arrangement did create some logistical problems. We were planning to spend Shabbat together in my community. I had arranged for him to stay in the apartment of a friend that was going to be away. I did this for two reasons. First, when I was making the plans, I wasn’t 100% sure if my roomates were going to be home. They prefer that guys not sleep over in the apartment, so I’m respectful of that. The second reason is because he didn’t want to be parading to the community that he was sleeping at my place, even if that is what would end up happening.

My roomates ended up going away, and Friday night he did sleep at my place. Saturday I got my period, so Saturday night he stayed at my friend’s apartment. This was just annoying. We spent all day Saturday together, and all day Sunday together, but he had to go back to a different apartment in between. Instead of just waking up together, eating breakfast, and then heading out for the day’s activities, we had to mutually agree upon a time to get up, call each other on the phone to see if the other was awake at the agreed upon time, have him walk over to my apartment,  while I spent that time drinking coffee and getting myself ready.

This sexual tension thing is tricky. Like most things in life, it requires a happy medium. Just as the sexual tension will be lost if a couple spends every moment together in bed, it can also be lost if a couple separates themselves to the extent that they have completely removed all possibilities of tension. I think of it like a magnetic field. If you hold the opposite poles of the magnets too close to each other, they’ll attach together, but if you hold them too far apart, they’ll be completely outside each other’s magnetic field and have no acknowledgement of the other magnet whatsoever. If, however, you hold the magnets near each other but not to the point of attachment, you’ll have this excellent magnetic tension that can deeply improve the magnets’ desire for each other.

Facebook Enables Insecurity

Girls like to over-analyze. So do bloggers. Therefore, I can feel justified in falling into multiple stereotypes as I write the following.

Today, I noticed that despite the fact that my boyfriend and I currently live 4 hours away from each other and only have the chance to get together once a week at best, approximately 50% of the pictures tagged of me on facebook from this past year have him in it. That’s grossly disproportional to the amount of time that I spend with him.
Why so many pictures of us together?
I recently read an article which reported on a study that found that people are happier with their relationship when they see pictures of them with their significant other. So perhaps that’s it.
Another thought hit me tonight. I am going kayaking with him tommorow. While thinking about what to pack, I debated bringing a camera. Pros-kayaking pics are awesome. Cons-digital cameras are expensive to replace if damaged by water. Clearly the cons outweighed the pros on this. But I REALLY wanted to bring it. Why?? I have gone on a number of fun outings this summer with friends (strawberry picking, fourth of july fireworks, outdoor movie on the waterfront) where I felt no need to take pictures. But for some reason, outings with my boyfriend seem to necessitate picture taking.
Furthermore, what is my purpose in taking the pictures? Are they for me or for my friends? I certainly feel more of a push to publish my boyfriend pictures online than my friend pictures.
Could it be that I need to project how cute of a couple we are to the world? Am I that insecure with our relationship, that I need other people to see how happy we are? Do I need a reminder that my relationship is a happy one? Why isn’t the knowledge that I did those things enough?
Am I so insecure in my relationship that I have to validate it by posting tons of pictures of me and my boyfriend? Have I really become THAT girl?

Living Together Via Skype

Oy. It’s been a while. Too long, too long…

It’s been so long that this post will seem to be wholly out of place. When we, ehrm, I, last spoke, I was considering breaking up with the boyfriend. Very long story short, we broke up, realized we really didn’t want to be without each other, and got back together. What did we decide about the future? Not really so much. We will cross that bridge when we get there, and I’m sure you all will hear all about it.
The current issue. We make up for the fact that we can’t be physically together by skyping. All the time. I get home from school, tired and hungry, and the first thing I do is skype call him. We talk for a bit, then we proceed to make dinner “together”. It’s cute. We talk while we make dinner, we talk while we eat dinner, we talk while we clean up from dinner. Then, if we have school work to do, we’ll do it while keeping skype on in the background. After schoolwork, if it’s not too late, we’ll usually play some sort of online interactive game like Scrabble or Settlers of Catan. Then it’s off to bed, often times with Skype still running. If we’re lucky and the connection wasn’t lost during the night, we’ll wake up with each other in plain virtual view and start the day all over again.
I think you can easily see the problem with this. I love him, but I have absolutely no me-time. I can’t veg out on the couch and watch T.V. because I feel guilty for not being with him. I wanted to write in my journal the other day, so I told him I was going to take a shower. When I told him that I wanted to call an old friend to catch up, he asked if I could keep skype on when I called her. He just couldn’t understand that even though I wasn’t going to be saying anything about him, I didn’t want him listening to everything I was saying to her. Her business is private, if she chooses to discuss something with me, that doesn’t automatically mean she wants to disclose it to him as well.
Let me be clear, he is in no way controlling about this. In all of these situations I would have been able to do what I wanted without him, he just requests that I don’t. If I say no, he’s completely fine with it, it’s just not his first choice.
I feel like I’m living together with him, 300 miles away. In many ways, it’s worse than living together, because I wouldn’t feel so bad about watching a T.V. show while he surfs the internet looking up sports stats, I could go in another room to make private phone calls, and I could journal write in bed, before I go to sleep, with him laying right next to me.
I realize that many couples who live together face similar issues. However, they’re often able to justify the problems they encounter by saying that getting to be with the person 24/7 is worth it. I don’t get to be with him 24/7. I get to be with a computer screen that looks and sounds like him, but can’t provide me with any of the physical comforts that he can.
Thinking about all this makes me wonder how I will be with living with a significant other, in marriage or otherwise. Will I be able to give up my me-time? Will I be able to tolerate him croaching in on my zone. Will I get sick of him? I love my current roommates, but I often feel like I need to take a break from them. Will I feel the same way with him? Is this normal and healthy? Will he understand this need? And furthermore, why doesn’t HE feel the same way? Why doesn’t constantly being with me bother him? Is that a good thing?
Sometimes I think I’m ready for marriage. Then I think about this post.

On Feminism and Date Rape

I used to be a rape apologist, as some would call it. I never really bought into the argument that “just because I’m wearing a mini-skirt and grinding with you doesn’t mean I don’t want any from you”. I agreed with this person’s view on date rape. Read the article, but if you don’t, this quote just about sums it up:

Let’s get this straight: any woman who heads to an EI party as an anonymous onlooker, drinks five cups of the jungle juice, and walks back to a boy’s room with him is indicating that she wants sex, OK? To cry “date rape” after you sober up the next morning and regret the incident is the equivalent of pulling a gun to someone’s head and then later claiming that you didn’t ever actually intend to pull the trigger.

I recently went to an event at my college about sexual assault. There was a poster there which said, ” ‘yes, yes, yes, oh God, yes!’ means yes. Prevent rape by waiting for enthusiastic consent”. I’m still not sure whether I agree with that one. I mean, there’s been movies that I wasn’t sure that I wanted to see that my boyfriend convinced me to see. Does that me he coerced me into seeing it? Did he “rape” my movie-choosing? No, he convinced me to see it. Same with sex. Sometimes one partner is unsure of how much they want. Simple, non-forceful convincing is part of the give and take of a relationship.

At the event, a girl spoke about her rape and made me think about it in a totally different way. She said she was raped at a frat party, after going back with a guy whom she’d been dancing with the whole night. She said to the crowd “Maybe I was looking for SOMETHING, but not EVERYTHING. My dress does not excuse his behavior.”

Right. I sometimes forget about limits. The hard part is being able to communicate what the limits are, often because I myself don’t know what I want. Did this girl at the party have limits? Apparently. Did she communicate her limits to the guy she was with? Possibly. Should potential sex partners have to wait until their partner is begging them to have sex? Probably not. Where is the limit. Should one have to sign a consent form for sex? The lawyer in me wants to say yes, but the realist in me says no way.

Additionally, feminists will probably shun me for saying this, but I have certainly fallen privy to the game of saying “I’m fine” when in reality I mean “I’m not fine, but I don’t want to just come right out and say it, because I want you to press me to tell you whats really going on”. I like this. I like the fact that he begs me to open up to him. I like the fact that he reinforces how much he wants to know what I’m thinking and feeling. I don’t WANT to tell him straight away.

If men aren’t allowed to claim yes means no with regards to sex, can women claim that yes means no in regards to emotions? Can we really allow ourselves to force our boyfriends to press us to tell them why we’re upset, if they can’t then press us into having sex with them? Frankly, I’m not ready to give up the cat-and-mouse game of emotional jenga. And if that means playing cat-and-mouse sex, okay.

Shomer Negiya

As if the past year hasn’t given me enough reason to reject the concept that shomer negiya makes a relationship stronger (our worst times were when we were apart from each other), this article proves it from a scientific standpoint.

Confusion

My boyfriend suffers from depression.

Does this mean I should suffer with him?

I suffer from low self esteem, and I am acutely aware of this.

I keep thinking I need to end this. I think, why should I be stuck in a relationship where my partner doesn’t want to do things with me, doesn’t make an effort to see me, doesn’t understand why all this upsets me.

And then I think, but if I break things off, I will be alone. I like thinking that I have someone to confide in, someone to share things with, someone to turn to when I’m upset.

And then I think, I’m that person for him. I’m who he turns to when he’s upset, when he’s depressed. And is it fair for me to not be there for him if I want him to be there for me?

And then I think, if I break things off, he’ll get more upset and more depressed, and now is not the time to do that to him.

But maybe now is the time to do that. Maybe I shouldn’t wait until he is happy, because then I will be set him into ANOTHER bout of depression.

I love him. I think he loves me, but he never tells me unless I say it first.

He makes me laugh. When he’s not depressed, I can make him laugh.

We enjoy the same forms of entertainment, though lately we haven’t been doing much of anything.

I will only persue a relationship that I think has long term potential. Does this?

I love him.