Chad, Evelyn and Blaming the Victim

Chad Johnson and Evelyn Lozada.

Most people with an internet connection know by know that NFL player Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson was arrested over the weekend and jailed overnight for allegedly head-butting his new wife, reality star Evelyn Lozada. The details of what happened between the two seem to be well-documented (reports say that the altercation ensued when Lozada found a reciept for condoms purchased by her husband; 911 audio can be heard here) and honestly, not surprising given their histories. Both have been known to engage in violent behavior in the past. Lozada’s bullying, hitting and bottle breaking with female castmates on Vh1’s Basketball Wives is legendary. And Johnson was arrested, convicted and sentenced to probation and mandatory anger management classes for assaulting his then-college girlfriend. Both are arrogant, bombastic, and more than likely narcissistic, as evidenced by their mutually violent, egomaniacal and attention-seeking behavior.   

As of press time, Johnson has been released from his contract with the Miami Dolphins (who later made a statement implying that the one-day-after-the-incident move had nothing to do with the player's arrest) and Vh1 has stated that "due to the seriousness of the allegations," the upcoming reality series Ev and Ocho​ is no longer on the network's schedule.

So it really wasn’t surprising that their mutually exploitive relationship exploded into physical violence. It’s not uncommon for people to repeat the mistakes of their past, especially if they’ve never received any successful treatment for their issues.  ChaVelyn is a cautionary tale of what often happens when two very broken souls come together and try to work out their unresolved emotional issues through their relationship-without realizing that it will be impossible for them to have a healthy relationship with each other until those issues are first resolved within themselves.

Another thing that is not surprising, though quite disturbing, is the reaction to the incident that has played out on social media. I couldn't help but to think back to the Tweets and blog posts that said Rihanna deserved to be beaten up by Chris Brown because she, like Evelyn, “don’t act right.” 

A troubling number of responses to ChaVelyn-gate fall into four categories:

  1. Illogical: “Chad had a right to head butt Evelyn because they had an open relationship and she shouldn’t have confronted him in the first place. Because “normal” people don’t get upset nor have the right to question their partner on their infidelity.” Um, right. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but it’s probably safe to assume that Evelyn got angry at Chad because she didn’t realize he was actively exercising his sexual freedom – which was the condition they both agreed upon when defining their relationship.  
  2. "Comical:" “This is my chance to show everyone how funny and unconscious I am by making lame jokes about something that is really not funny.” See Bill Bellamy’s Twitter timeline for a good example of this.
  3. Hateful  “Chad is the victim because Evelyn has a bad temper, too. Plus, she’s a known gold digger who only was in this relationship for the money & attention.”  ‘Cause we all know Chad isn’t motivated by either and doesn’t have a temper. (Insert side eye.)
  4. Nonsensical: “This was something they planned to do so they could boost ratings for their upcoming Vh1 reality show Chad & Evelyn.” (Insert multiple side eyes.)
A whole lot of Black folk on Twitter are #TeamJohnson. In the hundreds of tweets I’ve seen, only a handful expressed disgust at his behavior.  Everyone was too busy explaining why Evelyn deserved to be assaulted to even ask the more important question:  why didn’t Chad just walk away?

Even people we don’t like or respect can be victims of assault.

Look, I get that Evelyn does not make a sympathetic victim.  But even people we don’t like or respect can be victims of assault. Evelyn has a big mouth. Evelyn has a temper. Evelyn may even be a gold digger, but at the end of the day, Chad still allegedly physically assaulted a woman he professes to love.  And just like Evelyn should be held accountable for assaulting Jennifer, Chad needs to be held accountable for assaulting Evelyn. Chad is not the victim. Evelyn is the one who ended up in the hospital with a three-inch laceration on her forehead, not Chad.

The macro is a reflection of the micro and vice versa.  As long as we continue to rationalize, minimize, and justify violent behavior in our intimate relationships, we’re going to continue to have people who feel entitled to use violence as a way to “resolve” conflict in their relationships. Our widespread cultural acceptance of domestic violence and our overwhelming tendency to victim blame is part of what’s driving our disproportionately high rates of sexual assault, domestic violence and intimate partner homicide. We need to start raising the bar on what is acceptable in our relationships and stop doing to each other what Massa did to us. 

As Dap