The weekend before classes started, the topic of discussion centered around a professional boxing match. The two men squaring off were retired boxer Floyd Mayweather and Irish boxer Conor McGregor. The fight was a much-hyped televised event that made both parties big bucks. The winner of the match? The perpetrators of domestic assault.
Mayweather has been accused of domestic assault by women he was in romantic relationships with as far back as 2002. In 2010, he hit his ex-girlfriend and mother of several of his children, a violent act that resulted in a ninety day prison stint. One of his young sons, who witnessed the abuse, wrote a police report vouching for his mother’s injuries. During all of these incidents, Mayweather was still making an impressive salary as a professional athlete.
In the cases of Mayweather, no video or photographic proof has arisen to prove the case of his victims. Even with photographic proof a perpetrator can still thrive without being reprimanded by the law system or, more importantly, the fan base.
Model and actress Amber Heard, Johnny Depp’s ex-wife, took pictures of bruises given to her as a result of Depp’s violence. The abuse allegations came through during their messy 2016 divorce. Depp’s reputation seems unhindered by the negative media coverage. He will be appearing in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 2 in 2018, continuing his role as a highly paid actor.
We have to hold our heroes accountable. The fact that these people are in the public sphere gives the audience a unique chance to confront domestic abuse. As an audience, we pay their salaries with our attention and time. In the case of Mayweather, the boxer literally came out of retirement because he knew he would have a fan base (and with the fan base, money) waiting for him. He is being paid to be good at sport-sanctioned violence, just as Depp is paid to play twisted and dark characters. They brought these personalities home, and performed them in toxic ways in the domestic sphere, and we continue to allow them to make money off it.
It is a generally agreed upon notion on our society that domestic abuse is bad, but when we do not raise our voices to stop abuse and support victims, we are giving abusers the opposite message: this is okay, and you can get away with this. If we do not hold those in public light accountable, we are giving a message of normalization to others- our neighbors, children, friends- that this behavior is accepted if you keep it quiet.
I don’t want our society to be one where the perpetrators of sexual assault and domestic violence are the winners, but it seems like the results are always the same.