I’ll admit, I really enjoyed writing about and observing the Michael Avenatti show the last few months. There was a part of me, one that I’m not entirely proud of but does produce some good writing, that was looking forward to his run for president for the entertainment value of it. His public persona has been an interesting mix of serious issues and circus-like stunts. In many ways his schtick is perfect for our modern environment where pop culture, viral stories, and politics all collide.
Michael Avenatti, the attorney for adult film star Stormy Daniels in her legal battles with President Trump, was arrested Wednesday following allegations of domestic violence, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
Avenatti, who has denied the allegations, was booked Wednesday afternoon on a felony domestic violence charge after police took a report on Tuesday of the alleged incident. He was released on $50,000 bail.
Police say the incident occurred at a residence on Santa Monica Boulevard near Beverly Hills, according to BuzzFeed News.
Avenatti is entitled to defend himself and has the same right to due process as anyone else. None of us have any idea what happened and should let the facts of the case play out. My point here is more about the coverage of Avenatti in light of these events, and more specifically how some folks are still covering it the way they have for the last few months.
Social media lit up at the news, mocking and making a joke of the man who had been the public face of Stormy Daniels and others and constantly insisting and championing women against President Trump’s alleged treatment and payoff, and later a Brett Kavanaugh accuser. For her part, his most famous client is saying if the accusations prove to be true then she will find new representation, but is reserving judgement. The politics of hypocrisy and personal scandal always make a good story and will no doubt be so here.
The problem is once again the focus will all be on the celebrity accused of abuse, and the conversation that we should be having but never seem to get around to on domestic violence will once again be relegated.
1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime, according to NCADV statistics. Domestic violence is often found to be present after the fact in more serious violent crimes. Intimate partner violence accounts for nearly 15% of all crime. Extrapolating the data out, on average nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.
But the memes, jokes, and political takes will get all the attention. Avenatti’s usefulness to people who oppose President Trump made him a media star to some while the supporters of the president see him as a villain. Neither take has a place now, or should be the leading item of coverage, because that is of trivial importance compared to whether or not a victim of a crime gets justice. Domestic violence is not only a horrible crime but a vastly under-reported one, and spinning it for the news cycle of the moment doesn’t help.
So if you absolutely cannot refrain from rejoicing in Avenatti’s alleged fall from grace, such as it was, fine, do as you will in mocking the man. But if you go so far as to be happy that this happened because it fits your politics, or you want it to go away for the same reason, you are wrong. Dead wrong. There is a victim alleged in an official police report, and until that victim is given their due process and found to be wronged or in the wrong, Avenatti is no longer a laughing or political matter. Don’t treat it as such.