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Cassie Getty 1.jpg

You Shouldn’t Have to See a Victim’s Abuse to Believe Them

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Celebrity | May 22, 2024 |

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Celebrity | May 22, 2024 |

Cassie Getty 1.jpg

Over the past week, the CCTV footage of singer Cassie Ventura being assaulted by her then-partner Sean Combs has gone sickeningly viral. For a while, it was impossible to avoid on Twitter, where videos automatically play when you see the tweet and it often takes a few seconds for you to realize what it is you’re watching. CNN released the footage, taken from a 2016 incident in a hotel where the horrific suffering experienced by Cassie is on full display. It’s a stomach-churning watch, one so unavoidably cruel that it takes your breath away.

Last year, Cassie filed a lawsuit against Combs under the Adult Survivors Act, alleging a decade-long cycle of abuse and sex trafficking. Combs settled almost immediately, although he still faces a number of other suits and accusations of violence against women. He initially denied Cassie’s allegations but made a queasy semi-apology video acknowledging his abuse once the CCTV footage was shared. Said hotel footage is detailed in the suit, along with details of multiple other incidents that churn the stomach to read them. The entire suit is so graphic that it came with a trigger warning.

Responses to the video were almost exclusively in support of Cassie, a reaction that is sadly not guaranteed when it comes to documentation of violence against women. A lot of people said that we had to watch the footage, we had to share it. Glamour published a piece saying that ‘we must not look away […] Sometimes an abuser has to be exposed for who and what they are.’ The piece makes some salient points about the ways in which women are seldom believed regardless of how much evidence they have. We shouldn’t look away from an epidemic of misogyny that reduces half of the planet to acceptable punching bags and jokes. That it had to come to this speaks volumes, but I don’t think turning a video of a woman being brutalized by her partner into viral media or a symbol of the problem is helpful.

Cassie did not share this video herself. We have no idea how CNN obtained it. One of the darkest moments of her life is now content. Think of how traumatizing it must be to know that your pain is available for all to gawk at, earnestly or otherwise. It’s not just her either. I think a lot about how Amber Heard’s extensive documentation of her abuse was treated as a web of lies because some bots and a rotten-toothed jerk with deep pockets twisted it into one. The onus is always on women to not only provide irrefutable evidence but be a ‘likeable’ enough person to make everyone believe it. Never mind that the demands for both are forever changing and never satisfied. Such cases are now inevitably flung into the all-consuming pit of the ‘culture war’, where anything a victim says or does is smeared as part of an insidious agenda.

And there are still people who are tying themselves in knots to find near-conspiratorial explanations for why Combs just ‘had’ to beat and stomp on his girlfriend. They’re in Cassie’s Instagram comments, they’re polluting YouTube, and they’re sharing their theories over the dinner table. When you truly hate women, there’s no such thing as proof, only more fuel for your delusional fires. And, frankly, a lot of people thought the video was funny. They laughed at her trauma, just as they did to Amber Heard and Megan Thee Stallion. Those creeps made Heard’s tears into Etsy merch for profit. They turned footage of Megan being shot into memes. Every accusation that a woman was lying to shake a poor innocent man down for money was accompanied by a Patreon link or YouTube ad. How many musicians and comics are still making Ike and Tina jokes?

Combs can’t hide from or deny that video (although he did seem to be filming his apology in a location with real ‘no extradition laws to the US’ energy.) But the hunt for justice is a far heavier plight. We’ve all seen the statistics on how shockingly low arrests and convictions for abuse are. The odds are painfully stacked against those who seek help from both the police and the legal system. I understand the mindset behind believing that the Cassie video is a tipping point or an utmost necessity in this perennial battle. Yet we know it won’t be. It took so little time for that forage to become spectacle, for a victim’s intense suffering to be picked apart and gawked at like a reality TV show. Many will watch it, think about how horrible it all is, then go right back to claiming most women lie about this stuff or that men like Combs are being blackmailed for their money.

There is no amount of evidence or video or outright confessions that can undo a sick society, and forever pandering to this futile hope that just one more photo or video will get the job done only seeks to retraumatize those who have already suffered enough in the courts of law and public opinion. We shouldn’t have to make victims go through this humiliating cycle over and over again in the hopes that the system will finally do its job. All it proves is that many people, including those in power, will commit to increasingly ludicrous and malicious theories rather than believe victims. These are the people repeatedly failing the likes of Cassie, who spent years under the thumb of Combs and his vast circle of Yes men who turned the other way when it was convenient to do so.

Gendered violence and domestic abuse are not sideshows for our consumption. The most blood-curdling displays of cruelty toward victims should not be reduced to a carnival that may or may not meet impossible standards for proof that they even happened. Cassie detailed that specific assault in the lawsuit, the video confirmed it, but that still wasn’t enough for some. It is true that people lie about rape and abuse all the damn time but it’s not the victims doing that: it’s the perpetrators, and they will be guaranteed the benefit of the doubt regardless of the evidence. That needs to change, and making victims relive their pain for the world’s media to get clicks from won’t accomplish that.