Domestic Violence and Glorifying a Violent Response

This song, “Never Again,” came out on the 2001 album “Silver Side Up” by Nickelback.  It depicts a domestic violence relationship between a husband and a wife through the eyes of their child.  The song talks about the violence and how the woman tries to protect the child by sending him to his room.  But the child knows what is happening and is afraid the man is going to kill her.  She ends up in the hospital where she lies to the nurse about the injuries.  The song ends with the woman, who’s “had enough,” fighting back and shooting the man.

The first time I heard this song I didn’t listen to the whole thing.  I misinterpreted the whole song based on the first few lines and disgustedly turned it off.  It wasn’t until recently that I thought of it again and managed to hear the whole thing (and look up the lyrics).

I have love/hate feelings about this song.  First of all I think it is a good issue to make a song about.  It is a good way to bring a “private” issue into the public eye.  Domestic violence isn’t something that often happens in public places.  No, it happens in the privacy of homes and on the privacy of the victim’s body.  What I mean by that is bruises and marks are often in places that can be hidden or covered up.

The problems though, start with the myths portrayed in the song.  People often think that when the abuser becomes violent it is out of anger, or rage, or that there is an external factor such as drugs or alcohol.  The truth is that the abuse happens in cycles and it is going to happen whether or not the abuser is drunk, high, or angry.  It looks like this.  Tension builds.  The victim becomes fearful and feels like she is walking on egg shells around the abuser.  Then the incident happens.  Some sort of violence occurs, whether it is physical, mental, emotional, verbal, spiritual, etc.  After this the abuser tries to reconcile.  He apologizes, says it was an accident, that it will never happen again.  Then the “honeymoon” phase occurs.  The incident is forgotten and the abuser is on his best behavior.  But this can only last so long and soon the victim starts becoming worried that it is going to fall apart.  The tension builds.  It can take weeks, months, or years to complete a cycle, or it can happen several times a day.

Either way the “incidents” are going to keep happening.  The abusers goal is to maintain power and control over the victim.  It may look like anger from the outside but he is very much in control and knows exactly what he is doing.

The other problem I have with this song is the ending.  In the end it says that she’s had enough and she shoots him.  It is glorifying the victims violent response to the abuse.  In a way it is encouraging the notion that the only way out is a return of the violence.  It is suggesting praise for such a response and in return minimizes any other response.  The woman in this song is strong because she did something about it and ended the violence.  What about the women who don’t?  The ones who run, or even the ones who stay?

People are pretty unforgiving towards a victim who stays.  A domestic violence relationship is extremely complicated.  It may look clear-cut to those on the outside but it is anything but.  I explained the cycle above but there are also feelings involved.  Yes, it is possible for a victim of domestic violence to love her abuser.  He is not violent all the time.  And if she does leave the chances that she will go back are high.  She often has to leave and come back more than once before she can leave him for good.  That is why I do not like the ending.  It implies that these women, the ones who stay, are weak.  They are anything but.   The most dangerous time is when she tries to leave.  They are not stupid, or blind.  They are surviving.

So the song makes for a mostly good message.  But it only focuses on the violence.  From the abuser and eventually the victim.  It is a good start I suppose and it does get people talking about something that most of us would rather not think about.

**Above I refer to the victim as a woman and the abuser as a man because that is true the majority of the time.  I understand that men can be victims, women can be abusers, and violence happens in gay and lesbian relationships.**


One thought on “Domestic Violence and Glorifying a Violent Response

  1. emmawolf says:

    This is a great post. My husband, who is very much a feminist, and I often butt heads when we talk about DV because he just doesn’t understand the cycle and that “leaving” is so much easier said than done and is no guarantee to solve the problem.

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