Polly Vernon: ‘All The Things I Felt Watching The Sean Combs Video’

Polly Vernon shares her thoughts on the chilling viral video of Sean 'Diddy' Combs

by Polly Vernon |
Updated on

When I saw the leaked CCTV footage that appears to show musician Sean Combs attack his former girlfriend Cassie Ventura in a hotel corridor in 2016, I felt all the same things you did. Horrified, mesmerised.

Wretched with that nausea-inducing jolt you get on witnessing a thing which just should not be happening – a big, raging man grab a small, unresisting woman by the back of her neck, throw her to the ground, kick her, drag her around – but which just is happening. Chilled by the understanding real life violence is so much worse than TV violence, so much more ordinary, perfunctory, distressing. Bemused by how just… weird it is, that the man allegedly doing the attacking is that one you’ve seen a thousand times before, suited and booted, polished and poised, well-lit and well-managed, in music videos, on red carpets, at premieres, on stage.

Struggling to reconcile the celebrity you kinda felt you knew (a bit?), with this guy. Towel-around-his-waist guy. Battering-a-woman-in-a-hotel-corridor guy. I did say ‘allegedly’, yes – not because I’m some weasly amoral agent of the mainstream media who’s either too weak to denounce domestic violence when she sees it or too indoctrinated with misogyny to think it counts, but because there’s a legal framework to this world, and it’s important have admitted his involvement.

Two days after the CCTV was leaked, he posted a video on Instagram saying, ‘I was f**ked up… My behaviour on that video is inexcusable… I’m disgusted… I’m so sorry.’

But here’s the last thing I felt on seeing that CCTV: guilt. Sneaky, creepy, rotten, unmistakable, inarguable guilt. Because even though I know domestic violence happens all the friggin’ time (an estimated 2.1 million people experienced it in England and Wales last year, according to the ONS), even though I know the new early release from prison scheme may well let perpetrators of DV out long before the end of their prison terms… I somehow still find it easy to ignore.

Dismiss. Deny, almost. There’s never really been a MeToo for domestic violence, has there? No collective outpouring of rage, of grief, no mass reviling of the perpetrators, no popularly mandated demand All This Must Change! I think we find it too complicated. Don’t we? Or too widespread. Too well-hidden. Too ‘but why did she stay?’ (or ‘he’… British men account for 751,000 of those 2.1 million estimated victims). I do think we think that, feel that…

Up until we see leaked CCTV footage of a man hitting, kicking and grabbing and dragging a woman in a hotel corridor, which is when we realise: it doesn’t really even matter who he is. It only matters that it stops.

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