When I got up this morning and scrolled through my social media feed, I saw multiple headlines about the Kanye West (now “Ye”) and Kim Kardashian breakup. I normally would scroll past Hollywood clickbait articles but these headlines set off alarm bells for me as a family law attorney who represents victims of domestic violence. As I read about the post, texts and excessive behavior, being a GenX 1990s teenager, images of Whoopi Goldberg from Ghost scrolled through my head: I thought “Kim, You in danger, girl!”
Kim Kardashian is a global social media sensation, but she is also a person, a mother, and a wife going through separation. As I started reading the social media messages, personal text message, and pictures Ye was posting, I saw the hallmark signs of enjoinable domestic abuse as defined by California’s Domestic Violence Prevention Act.
The DVPA defines “abuse” as “intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury, sexual assault, placing a person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to that person or to another, or engaging in any behavior that could be enjoined pursuant to section 6320.” Abuse includes a broad range of coercive behaviors, including threats, stalking, annoying phone calls, vandalism, and “disturbing the peace of the other party.”
“Disturbing the peace” is incorporated into a new law adopted in California in 2020 and is defined as “conduct that, based on the totality of the circumstances, destroys the mental or emotional calm of the other party.” (§ 6320(c); Stats. 2020, ch. 248 (Sen. Bill 1141), § 2.) The “conduct may be committed directly or indirectly, including through the use of a third party, and by any method or through any means including, but not limited to, telephone, online accounts, text messages, internet-connected devices, or other electronic technologies.” Not all states have as broad protections as California.
Ye may be a public figure but these posts and messages look no different from the hundreds of “ordinary” perpetrators our firm has successfully protected our clients against. Ye even posted messages from Kim where she clearly states that “this is scary…” This is only what Ye has been willing to post himself, which shows that he does not have boundaries and does not view his behavior as abusive. She’s right. Ye’s behavior is scary and dangerous and in my professional opinion meets the definition of the abuse under the DVPA.
Domestic violence knows no boundaries of wealth, fame or race. I was a senior in high school when the horrific news of Nicole Brown Simpson’s murder at the hand of her ex-husband gripped our nation. It is triggering and horrifying for survivors when abuse plays out in a public forum like this. Whether you are a celebrity or not, everyone deserves protection from abuse.
What our clients often want, more than anything, is for the perpetrator of abuse to get better and be a good parent. These are former lovers, spouses, often the father of their children. Women are socialized to protect their partners, especially the fathers at great personal cost to themselves and their children. However, that is not always feasible, especially when the parties first separate. In our experience, it is not easy for victims to separate, establish boundaries, and restrain their abuser’s conduct. Abuse dynamics can continue long after the relationship is over; savvy abusers just move on to new techniques. It may not be physical violence anymore, but it could be controlling, humiliating, stalking, and harassing behavior. It is all abuse. Very often it will take a Domestic Violence Restraining Order and court intervention to achieve the safety goals of a victim and the children. In the case of Kardashian and Ye, Ye’s behavior, as demonstrated in the public eye, is clearly enjoinable under the DVPA. In cases where the perpetrator has financial means and power, it is even more critical to use all available tools to establish boundaries early on. The purpose of the Domestic Violence Prevention Act in California is to provide for such protection and a period of peaceful separation for the parties so that a survivor may live their life free from the harassment of their abuser. It is not okay to disturb the peace of your partner in a relationship, and harassment is not an acceptable byproduct of a breakup. It is all domestic abuse.