What Karrueche Tran Tells Us About How We Treat Women in Abusive Relationships

By Nneka M. Okona I’m a fan of Karrueche Tran. No really, I am. While most people resort to bashin...

By Nneka M. Okona

I’m a fan of Karrueche Tran. No really, I am. While most people resort to bashing her, calling her stupid and silly, I see who she is at her core: a woman who loved a broken man. She is the victim in this situation and she fully realizes how their tumultuous relationship has tarnished her reputation. In a recent interview with the BBC, she talks about how her career has taken slings because of it. She knows people are wary and hesitant to work with her because Chris Brown in himself is a controversial topic, not even taking into consideration his history of violent and abusive relationships with women.

But if many of us were more honest, we’d know that there are countless Karrueche’s in our lives. There are friends, colleagues, neighbors, family and church members. That auntie of yours who has been in a relationship for years with a man who abuses her — verbally, physically and emotionally — and yet stays. Your friend who came crying to you about what he did this time, the vitriol that came out of his mouth directed at her. And how in both of these situations and countless others, there’s judgement. There are thoughts of why she doesn’t love herself more, why she stays around in a destructive relationship.



When abuse entangles a person in a relationship, most especially a Black woman, it’s never that simple. I know because I was in one myself some years ago. My ex didn’t ever hit me but his injurious words, thrown carelessly at me like unrelenting darts, were enough to leave me deeply wounded for years. I still remember during the torturous eight months with him, which felt like eight years because of the seesaw drama that characterized us, how much my spirit was slowly shattered. So much so that when he finally dumped me for the third time since we’d been together, I had nothing left. I was hollow, forlorn, heartbroken and confused.

I lost someone who I considered to be a good friend during this period, too. She couldn’t see beyond her judgment, beyond preaching to a choir I wasn’t ready to be in, beyond telling me to love myself more as if it were that automatic. As if I could snap my fingers and be delivered from my propensity to be attracted to men who helped me to live out co-dependent behaviors and tendencies, things I learned at a young age were the only way to mimic true love, intimacy and affection. This was deep. The emotional and verbal abuse I weathered wasn’t about a wounded person, although he was. It was about power and control. All abuse is about power and control. And often, even the strongest, smartest, self-assured woman can become subjected to someone’s manipulative power ploys.

For each woman, whether they are victims of domestic or intimate partner violence or verbal, emotional and psychological abuse, there are levels. The power and control wheel illustrates this clearly. For each woman, there are certain factors which keep them tied to the relationship, clinging to it for dear life. There is a need that is being met within their bond with the person that they’ve not been able to have fulfilled elsewhere. There are real reasons for some women to feel it’s damn-near impossible to wrestle free from the stronghold. Walking away entails some level of real sacrifice and sometimes real danger. For instance, some women in abusive relationships can’t afford to leave. Their partners hold the key to their financial stability. Leaving would mean not having any money to their name.

And yes, there are some organizations that offer financial assistance to women in abusive relationships, but being scared about the many uncertainties, especially if there are children involved, is a normal and reasonable thing to feel. Many women don’t have the tangible resources to enable them to walk away even temporarily, let alone for good. This is why financial abuse, in particular, can be so powerful. The partner knows they don’t have the financial means, so they’ll do things like threaten the woman to withhold money to get what they want. Of course, the woman will comply with their requests despite how unreasonable they may be because of fear. Again, abuse is about control.

This is why we need to think about how we approach women, Black women, who are in abusive relationships. We need to think about how often we victim blame and guilt women who are in situations that ultimately are not their fault. We need to think about how there are many factors that come into play within these types of relationships, factors that can’t be easily shaken or broken away from.



And then, once we’ve done that, once we’ve removed ourselves from our tendency to label, we need to find compassion, a softness, a tenderness and true empathy. We need to truly be able to offer support to women who are in abusive relationships instead of cold shoulders and haughty words. We need to become informed on what abuse is, what it looks like and the many different manifestations it can take. Becoming informed is one of the only ways for us to offer purposeful support, love and care, to enable us to be loving and understanding when we’d otherwise be moved to turn our back when we become fatigued at navigating the complexities of abusive relationships and what it takes to sever ties. We have to learn to empower those we love — our girlfriends, our family members, the neighbor from around the way — women like Karrueche Tran.

We have to change the narrative, change the tune and change the way we look at abuse in totality. We must diminish our need to look at the abuser and instead turn a kind eye to the victim and think about uplifting her, loving her and inspiring her in the best way we can.

Photo: Helga Esteb/Shutterstock.com

Nneka M. Okona is a writer based in Washington, DC. Visit her blog at www.afrosypaella.com or follow her tweets at @afrosypaella.com.

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