Even though domestic violence has been a pressing issue since, well, the beginning of time, it has only recently become a popular topic of discussion in the media because the infamous video of Ray Rice hitting his wife exposed the ubiquity of this type of abuse amongst professional football players.
The NFL is trying to change its violent image by partnering with NO MORE, an anti-domestic-violence coalition (though its legitimacy is up for debate), to air PSAs throughout the season. And last night, the Grammys made a big effort to raise awareness for the cause. It may have been a long time coming, but at least an anti-domestic-violence movement is happening now.
During last night's show, President Obama appeared on video to encourage Americans to take personal responsibility to stop domestic violence and sexual assault as part of the White House's ongoing " It's On Us" campaign. Then, a woman named Brooke Axtell took the stage to share her own powerful story of domestic violence.
Axtell, an Austin-based writer, activist and performance artist, is the director of communications for Allies Against Slavery, a nonprofit that fights human trafficking, a practice she unfortunately knows all too well. When she was a child, her nanny took her to the basement of a strange house and sold her to men who raped her.
When she became an adult, she again became a victim of violence. But this time, it was at the hands of her boyfriend.
In her spoken word performance, Axtell described how her partner became increasingly violent and eventually threatened to kill her. Finally, a single conversation with her mother saved her life. "Authentic love does not devalue another human being," she said. "Authentic love does not silence shame and abuse." Katy Perry followed Axtell, performing her heart-wrenching ballad "By The Grace Of God." While the song is not directly about domestic violence, it was a perfect pairing with Axtell's piece, with lyrics like "And I looked in the mirror and decided to stay / Wasn't gonna let love take me out that way."
But while I definitely respect the Grammys (and Katy Perry) for drawing attention to this issue by featuring Axtell, I must say, their message was weakened tremendously by not only inviting Chris Brown — who was convicted of assaulting Rihanna in 2009 — but actually nominating him for an award. That move seemed pretty hypocritical to me. Putting that aside, Axtell closed with an important message for all victims of domestic abuse: "If you're in a relationship with someone who doesn't honor or respect you, I want you to know you are worthy of love. Please reach out for help."