Eminem and Rihanna’s recent single “Love the Way You Lie? has been the No. 1 downloaded song for two weeks straight according to Billboard’s Digital Songs Chart . While this music collaboration ensures that the national dialogue we have been having about intimate partner violence continues, it’s not clear whether the popular track is more part of the problem or the solution.
In many ways, the song can serve to raise awareness about domestic violence. The title itself evokes an image about a woman in a domestic violent relationship who wants to believe her partner will no longer commit acts of violence against her, because he says he won’t. But what is explicit in the title is the notion that although the aggressor says he will reform, it is a lie. This calls upon some of the data available in the domestic violence literature on the high likelihood that a perpetrator of IPV will reoffend. In a 2004 study (see page 2) held in the Bronx misdemeanor domestic violence court, 62 percent of batterers who were arrested for domestic violence were rearrested within 2 years.
But at the same time, the song doesn’t clearly condemn violence against women or intimate partner violence. In some ways, it can be easily read as a song about relationship troubles that may not necessarily require an intervention because the woman never leaves. If the old adage is true that the first step in solving any problem is admitting that you have one, this song seems to fail at clearly identifying that what we are observing is dysfunctional violence. The fact that the track is included on an album titled “Recovery” doesn’t help in clarifying things. The situation is also worsened by the portrayal of a survivor who seems complicit in her abuse because she doesn’t just love the way her aggressor lies, she “likes the way it hurts.” For me, this line scream victim-blaming central and it calls upon the counterproductive accusations that survivors sometimes face.
But what are your thoughts? Does the song raise awareness about the pathological ways of batterers? Or does it fail to be a constructive intervention because it doesn’t clearly identify the problem of violence and can be interpreted as blaming the victim?