When it comes to domestic abuse, it has no boundaries. It doesn’t matter what sex, race, socioeconomic status, or religion you practice. It can happen to anybody, and it happens a lot. When a person is abused by someone they are in a close personal relationship with, it can be quite frightening. It leaves its victims feeling helpless and alone.
It might surprise you to know that domestic abuse is happening all around you. It could be the woman next door or the teacher who teaches your child in elementary school. It could even be happening to the celebrities you watch every day on tv. So what are some famous cases of domestic violence?
Domestic Violence and Celebrities
In 2009 when rapper Chris Brown was dating Rihanna, he attempted to push her out of his car. He banged her head against the passenger window and punched her over and over again. He then threatened to beat her once they got home, but Rihanna called for help, and Brown was arrested and charged with two felonies.
Brown pled guilty to felony assault and was sentenced to five years probation and 180 days of community labor.
In July 2021, Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback Dwayne Haskins and his wife, Kalabrya Gondrezick-Haskins, got into an altercation in a Las Vegas hotel. They were there to renew their wedding vows when they began to argue. Kalabrya allegedly punched Haskins in the mouth, causing him to lose a tooth. Police were called, and Haskins was taken to the hospital.
Kalabrya was arrested and faced a felony charge of battery and domestic violence, but later it was reported that the couple hashed out their differences, and the charges were dismissed.
In this instance, actor Charlie Sheen was not the victim but the perpetrator. It seems that he has a long list of allegedly assaulting, threatening, harassing, and abusing women. And in one instance, he has allegedly shot at women.
Sheen claims that every woman who has made allegations about him or even taken out restraining orders against him is lying. Yet, at the same time, he has been arrested and has pled guilty in two of his court proceedings regarding domestic abuse.
In 1990 Sheen allegedly shot actress Kelly Preston, whom he was engaged to, inside their Malibu home. She sustained injuries to her wrist and ankle and immediately ended the relationship.
In 1994, two months after marrying Donna Peele, a UCLA student sued Sheen, alleging that he hit her in the head because she wouldn’t have sex with him. They settled the case out of court.
In 1996 Sheen was arrested for beating his girlfriend, Brittany Ashland, an actress in adult films. She said that Sheen knocked her out and threatened to kill her. Sheen pleaded no contest to battery charges and received two years’ probation and a $2800 fine.
The list continues on Christmas Day, 2009. He received felony second-degree assault charges and felony menacing and a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief for allegedly strangling, holding a knife to the throat of, and threatening to kill his then-wife, Brooke Mueller. He pleaded guilty to third-degree domestic violence but didn’t go to jail. He was allowed to return to work and attend an outpatient program in Malibu for behavior modification.
In 2010 Sheen was transported to a New York City hospital after trashing his hotel room in a rage. He was there with adult film star Capri Anderson who says that Sheen put his hands around her neck and threatened to kill her. She ended up locking herself in the bathroom to keep herself safe.
In 1988 Mike Tyson, 22, married then television actress Robin Givens, 23. Givens had left graduate school at Harvard to pursue an acting career. But Givens says that their domestic abuse problems started before their marriage. At that time, he was physically abusive, and she said she wasn’t going to see him anymore. However, he kept calling her and crying on the phone, telling her how much he loved her. And she believed him.
Once they were married, the abuse increased. She tried to hide it, but her mother finally figured it out and confronted her. Yet still, Givens remained with him. She felt as though she had to protect him and convince him that the world could be an okay place.
Not only was Tyson physically abusive, but he was emotionally abusive as well, even after their divorce. He reportedly made several disturbing phone calls telling her he would make her life so miserable that she would commit suicide. In an interview for People magazine, she said, “I remember my ex-husband calling up and saying, ‘I’ve decided I’m not going to kill you. I’m going to make your life so miserable you’re going to slit your own throat and die.’ ”
Ike and Tina Turner
Ike and Tina started their career together when Tina joined Ike’s band, Kings of Rhythm, in the 1950s. The couple was married in 1962 in Tijuana, Mexico. They were in search of a justice of the peace, and then immediately after they were married, Ike took her to a brothel to a live, pornographic sex show.
Ike first started to take control of Tina when he discovered her as a teenager. He withheld her finances, beat her with a shoe stretcher while pregnant, and burned her. Tina describes their life together as defined by abuse and fear.
Though she knew she should have left him years earlier, she said she just didn’t know how. She didn’t have any money and didn’t know how to take the first step. She was convinced that her only way out would be through death.
When she and Ike had sex, she described it as an act of hostility. It would end with him beating her. She has had a broken nose and several black eyes. He even burned her with scalding coffee that he threw in her face giving her third-degree burns.
She also says he used her nose as a punching bag so many times that she could taste the blood running down her throat when she sang on stage.
In 2016 this high-profile case was all over the news. It was during the divorce between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp.
They initially lived together in 2011 and married in 2015. By 2016 Heard was filing for a divorce and a temporary restraining order. She reported that Depp had been physically and verbally abusing her throughout their entire time together. Though Depp’s lawyers said Heard was just making allegations, Depp’s former managers backed up Heard’s story. They said that Depp had allegedly gotten physical with Heard on several occasions and that he had kicked her in the head.
XXXTentacion is a famous rapper/hip-hop artist who was charged with aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, domestic battery by strangulation, false imprisonment, and witness tampering.
The abuse started when XXXTentacion began to live with a young woman in 2016. He started by slapping her around, damaging her cell phone. Then she reported that he later threatened her life every day, once punching, stomping, and kicking her after she hummed along to a song on the radio. He also strangled her multiple times and threatened to kill her because she was pregnant. (She had sex with another man while he was in jail.)
One time he beat her so bad she asked him to take her to a hospital. Instead, he locked her in a bedroom for two days. Finally, she managed to escape and went to the Miami Beach police department and filed a complaint. XXXTenacion was then arrested.
Domestic Violence in the News
The case that changed how the United States views domestic violence began when Francine Hughes murdered her abusive husband by pouring gasoline around his bed while he slept and lighting a match. Before that, authorities wouldn’t listen to women who reported being abused by their husbands.
Around 1964, Francine Hughes married James “Mickey” Hughes, who began emotionally, verbally, and physically abusing her shortly thereafter. It started when she had bought some new clothes. Mickey ripped them off of her, yet she didn’t know why.
Soon, they had four children, and Mickey spent most of their money on alcohol. In 1971 she went to see a social worker about divorcing him. However, Mickey just ignored the divorce decree and came and went as he pleased, beating her when he came. When he was in a serious car crash, she took him in to nurse him back to health.
In 1977 Francine attempted to enroll in a secretarial school her mother was paying for, and Mickey forced her to burn her books and demanded she drop out. Francine called the police when he threatened to destroy her vehicle, but the police said that they couldn’t do anything about it since they didn’t witness the abuse. They said this even though Mickey had threatened them and told Francine in front of the police that it was all over since she called for help. As soon as the police left, he beat her and raped her, and then fell asleep. That’s when she knew what she had to do.
Acting quickly, Francine put her kids in the car, poured gasoline around Mickey’s bed, and lit it on fire. Then she drove to the Ingham County Jail and turned herself in. She was arrested and charged with murder.
This case started a whole grassroots movement to raise awareness of domestic abuse and create a safe place for women who are being abused to go. Next, activists targeted the legal system.
Eventually, Francine Hughes was acquitted due to temporary insanity, which they referred to as the “burning bed syndrome,” Since then, the burning bed syndrome has been used as a defense in other domestic abuse cases where women killed their abusers.
In 2014 Abi Blake was a single mom working as an operations manager at Manchester airport in England. It was there that she met Sebastian Swamy, and despite warnings from friends and family, she married him. She thought it was the happiest day of her life.
She, Sebastian, and her son moved to Knutsford, and then things quickly took a turn for the worst. At first, it was the way he talked to her – telling her how to behave, how to dress, how to speak. Then the insults came. She said he used to tell her as he pointed to her head that despite her degree, for someone with such intellect, she was pretty stupid. These comments made Abi doubt herself.
Abi tried to ignore the bad moments and focus on the good until the violence started, and she couldn’t ignore it anymore. One evening, after returning from a friend’s home, she found traces of cocaine on her son’s toy table, and when she confronted him, he slapped her very hard, grabbed her mouth, and told her to shut up.
The next morning he apologized, but that was only the beginning. Though Abi tried to hide the bruises with long sleeves and scarves, she could not hide her shame.
She called the police on several occasions when she was really scared, but she always failed to press charges. Even when it seemed as though her husband had tried to murder her by setting the house on fire while she slept, she did nothing. The police tried to convince her to press charges of arson, but she wouldn’t do it.
Eventually, the day came when he almost finished her off for good. Swamy kicked and stamped on Abi’s body with so much force that he damaged her spinal cord, broke her ribs, and punctured her lung. As she lay there injured, he yelled at her, telling her he had had enough of her and to shut up.
Finally, she realized she needed to leave him. She suffers from permanent spinal cord damage and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But she’s still alive.
Domestic Violence of an Unusual Kind
Navy Man Rusty Babcock
There was a time when a gay person in the military kept his sexual preference hidden for safety reasons. The military took the stance of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” This was the position Babcock faced while living with a toxic, controlling partner from 2003 until 2009.
The thing is, Babcock was stuck. Every time he tried to leave, his violent partner would threaten to tell Babcock’s senior adviser about their relationship. If that happened, Babcock could lose his career.
Babcock states that at the beginning of their relationship, they were always fighting. He felt like he was always screwing up. He tried to leave by relocating to San Diego, telling his partner that he could just follow him later after settling in for a few months, but his partner wouldn’t allow it. He said that Babcock wasn’t allowed to move alone. They had to go together.
When they got down there, his partner said he had a job but lied. He started drinking heavily and couldn’t hold a job. As a result of his careless living, he developed health problems that required a lot of medical care. Babcock ended up getting a second job to pay for their home and his partner’s medical expenses. At the same time, his partner would spend all their money on alcohol.
Eventually, Babcock felt so trapped that he stopped looking for ways to get out. His partner kept threatening to tell the Navy he was gay. Babcock felt like he was in a “double whammy” with the military and the “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” policy. He was not only a male victim of domestic abuse, but he was also gay.
Eventually, one night in December 2009, his partner tried to kill him. Babcock had gone to bed early and woke up with his partner swinging a meat cleaver and trying to kill him. His partner missed, but they fought for two hours until Babcock finally made it out of the bedroom. He grabbed his wallet and keys and escaped with his life.
However, as he started his truck, he heard a “thump!” His partner had jumped into the bed of the truck and was kicking the back window screaming at Babcock. Finally, Babcock sped up and then slammed on the breaks, and his partner fell out. He sped away.
A Muslim Male Victim Named Waqas
The stereotype of Muslim men is that they abuse their wives. This made it much harder for Waqas to get help. There can be a lot of shame for any man who is being abused by his partner.
For Waqas, it began when his now ex-wife and her family targeted his family looking for an arranged marriage. They lived in Canada and he in Maryland. He was originally born in Pakistan and came to the United States when he was four years old. When they were placed together, his ex would send him messages listing ten things she liked about him. She sounded great, and after meeting only three times, they got engaged. As soon as they were married, the abuse started.
His ex took total financial control. She moved to Maryland and transferred her company to Washington D.C., so Waqas was expected to quit his job. She then announced that she would be taking charge of the money. Within the first month of their marriage, her parents came for a visit and didn’t leave for several months.
Even though Waqas was making a six-figure income, his wife only gave him a $100 weekly allowance for gas and food. He didn’t know where all the money was going but later discovered it was going to her parents.
One month, after getting a tax refund and income from the two businesses he owned, he had deposited $50,000 in the bank. When it came time to pay the mortgage two weeks later, his wife said they didn’t have enough to make the mortgage that month. It turns out she was funneling all the money into her own bank account.
She even monitored his phone and computer. She gave him a new cell phone on their wedding night, but he later found out she used it to track his calls. At another time, her brother gave him a set of Photoshop CDs, but along with the software, he had unknowingly installed a keylogging program that tracked everything he was typing and forwarded it to her brother.
Slowly Waqas’ world got narrower and narrower as she limited his access to friends and family. They moved to Michigan in 2004 and had two children. Even though they would visit her family, she wouldn’t let him socialize with his own. Pretty soon, he had no friends.
Eventually, Waqas tried talking to a non-Muslim minister. He knew that if he talked to anyone in the Muslim community, the word would get out. He also started seeing a therapist who suggested marriage counseling. His wife told him that if he made her go to counseling, she would take the kids and run to Canada. She had dual citizenship –– in Canada and the United States. He did not.
Eventually, after more manipulation and control on her part, he filed for a divorce. His wife hired an expensive lawyer, and she ended up getting everything. He even tried to kick her parents out of the house, but he ended up leaving instead. She got all of their assets, and he got a lot of debt.
He states that she attacked him during their entire marriage and would scream at him, yet one time when he touched her shoulder, her family called the police on him. They arrested him and put him in jail. Because he was a guy, no one believed him when he told the truth. Even old friends would laugh at him when he tried to tell them what was going on.
Eventually, he called the National Domestic Violence Hotline. He was in such bad shape. He couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, and he had anxiety and PTSD. Yet they believed him, and they listened to him and referred him to a Michigan domestic violence agency. He finally got the help he needed.
This list above is just a tiny representation of a worldwide problem that, thanks to advocates who fought for new legislation, is finally getting the attention it deserves. If you are reading this story and feel like you identify with anyone portrayed here, please seek help. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233. You don’t have to go through this alone.
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Alexandra Christensen is a freelance writer and editor. When she is not working on an assignment, she can be found hanging around with other writers on Medium.com/@alexandra_creates where she writes mostly about raising foster and adopted kids and those with invisible disabilities.