They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but in the case of the now viral photo of Christy Mack that was posted on Twitter earlier this week I was left utterly speechless.
What I saw was a woman beaten beyond recognition. What I read was a story so horrific I was surprised she survived.
As Mack reports it, her ex-boyfriend, mixed martial arts fighter Jon Koppenhaver (AKA The War Machine), made her undress and shower in front of him before beating her insistently, stabbing her with a knife, sawing off her hair, and threatening to rape her from which she was only spared because he was unable to get aroused. Ultimately, Mack was able to escape from her house naked and injured when Koppenhaver left her bleeding and shaking on the ground to go find another knife after the one he had been using broke.
The result is 18 broken bones in the face, a broken nose, a cracked rib, a ruptured liver and several missing teeth. When Mack arrived at the hospital her face and body were swollen, bruised and lacerated. She was unable to chew or see out of her left eye and could not walk without assistance.
Despite her injuries and proof thereof on Twitter, Koppenhaver quickly went to his defense saying the following:
I’m not a bad guy, I went to surprise my gf, help her set up her show and to give her an engagement ring and ended up fighting for my life.
I only wish that man hadn’t been there and that Christy & I would be happily engaged. I don’t know y I’m so cursed.One day truth will come out.
Let’s get the facts straight here. According to Mack the couple broke up in May after which he moved out of her house and to San Diego. Secondly, when Koppenhaver arrived unannounced at her house he found her hanging out with a male friend fully clothed. What Koppenhaver says, however, leads you to believe that he walked in on his girlfriend having an affair on the night he was due to propose, but this simply isn’t the case and for that matter wouldn’t haven been a defense for why he beat her up anyway. Despite his claims of innocence, Koppenhaver is currently on the run from the Las Vegas police.
Truth be told I didn’t know who Mack was before she posted the picture online. I now know she is an adult film star and to be clear I purposely left this little tidbit out of my post until now because frankly I don’t think it matters. Other outlets haven’t been so kind. Every single article I have read about Mack follows or precedes her name with the phrase “porn star.” Would it be relevant to include her occupation if she were say a teacher or nurse or lawyer?
I think not. So why is it any different for Mack?
Perhaps it’s because being a porn star makes it easier for people to blame her for what happened. In response to the very graphic photos which show how severe the injuries she sustained were, commenters had the following responses:
You could have easily have prevented this–your lifestyle leaves you open to violence and other abuse.
Those type of guy’s are not mentally fine and they need to see a therapist. But certain women do know how to pick them and love to be mistreated.
In addition to responses like these on social media, much of the media coverage of what happened is quick to blame Mack. Take for example a Fox News story with the headline, “Friends say they warned porn star Christy Mack to stay away from violent ex.” Why don’t we ever see headlines that say instead “Friend warned violent mixed martial arts fighter to stay away from former girlfriend (and not beat her to near death)”? This headlines is also misleading. Let’s not forget that Mack was in her own home when she was assaulted. She hadn’t been seeking out his attention.
This Hollywood Life article with the headline “MMA Ex Made Rape Joke Months Before Alleged Attack” again paints the picture of a woman who should of known better. And even if there were warning signs, as there often are, does that mean Mack is to blame for what happened? I certainly think not.
What happened to Mack — and what an estimated 1.3 million other women face at the hands of their intimate partners — is truly atrocious. Being a porn star doesn’t make her any more to blame for what happened than any of these other victims. Samantha Allen from The Daily Beast couldn’t have said it better: “Mack was not abused as a porn star, she was abused as a woman.”
A woman brave enough to share her story. A woman with proof of what happened to her. Like the video proof in the Ray Rice scandal, here Mack had tangible evidence of the abuse she endured, but instead of coming to her defense or having some sympathy for what she experienced, there is still the overwhelming desire to blame her for what happened.
“How is it that we don’t believe women, even when there is a preponderance of horrifying proof?” asks Jessica Valenti in her post about what happened.
Perhaps it’s our way of distancing ourselves from the victim. That wouldn’t have happened to me. I would have known better. I would have seen the warning signs. I wouldn’t have put myself in that situation. The problem is that this type of thinking really only makes victims feels worse and helps distance perpetrators from the crimes they commit.
Christy Mack deserves better. We all do.
Photo Credit: Michael Dorausch