Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Gabriel Aubry and actor Olivier Martinez got into a physical altercation, resulting in Aubry’s arrest and both men receiving medical treatment for injuries. The fight between the two men occurred outside of actress Halle Berry’s home as Aubry dropped off their daughter. Aubry is Berry’s ex-boyfriend and father to her daughter and Martinez is Berry’s current fiancee.
Though the fight was between two grown men, much of the media coverage surrounding the news and blame has focused on Berry, which is incredibly problematic. What makes matters worse is that some have suggested that Berry’s history of being victimized by domestic abusers somehow makes her at fault for this incident.
Let’s be clear: Halle Berry didn’t fight anyone. Both Aubry and Martinez are adults, who make independent choices. It was their choice to fight, regardless of what Berry was doing at the time. She could have told Martinez to hit Aubry and he still then makes the choice to throw a punch. Despite some of the unhealthy patriarchal beliefs that many of us have that suggest that fighting is "manly" or acceptable, men are not animals. An often overlooked feminist belief is that which says men are highly capable of controlling themselves, even at times when passions and emotions are running high.
Berry’s own history isn’t necessarily relevant here. You can be a victim of domestic violence and then in the future be around someone else who commits violence. Being a victim of domestic violence shouldn’t lead to the narrative that you are prone to “drama” or that you simply have “bad taste in men.” Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams wrongly describes Berry’s life as tumultuous and says “That two of the men Berry’s been romantically involved with should wind up in fisticuffs seems at this point another sad punctuation mark in a life [Berry’s] marked by fighting.” But Berry’s history of victimization isn’t necessarily directly connected to this current incident of violence.
Domestic violence is systemic. It’s bigger than Halle Berry or any individual woman. The swiftness with which we excuse the actions of two grown men and point fingers at the only woman involved is disheartening and yet also illustrates much of what victim blaming is. While this particular set of facts doesn’t perfectly encapsulate victim blaming, where the woman is the victim of sexual assault or domestic violence, and then blamed for either causing the man to commit the violence or allowing herself to be placed in that position, the situation with Berry is similar. Berry’s own willingness to speak openly about her history shouldn’t open her up to blame for this incident.
As Lori Adelman at Feministing notes, “While there are many things that factor into who we choose as our romantic partners in life, and some of those reasons can may be flawed or informed by difficult life circumstances, abuse is still not the victim’s fault. “
The two adults involved who have committed violence are to blame for the violence. Just because Berry is associated with the situation because of her past and current romantic involvement doesn’t absolve them of their own individual autonomy and choice to hit someone.