At about 5 pm last night, Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson were arrested at their home in Goodyear, AZ. Johnson’s sister called the police after a fight between Griner and Johnson became physical. According to police reports, several people in the home were unable to separate the two. Neither Griner nor Johnson sought prosecution and police arrested them both on suspicion of assault and disorderly conduct.
Griner, Phoenix Mercury‘s star athlete, and Johnson, of the Tulsa Shock, announced their engagement last year, and were featured on Say Yes to the Dress.
Both Griner and Johnson sustained minor physical injuries in the fight, though neither were armed. According to the police report, Griner said the couple had been having relationship issues. “It turned into a fight,” Griner told responding officers, “Broke up. We kept arguing, mouthing back and forth, clashed again, separated us, clashed again, separated us, and here we are now.”
They were both released from police custody around 4am this morning.
Phoenix Mercury Executive Vice President, Jim Pitman, released this statement:
“The Mercury organization is aware of an alleged incident involving Brittney Griner. We are in the process of gathering additional information, and will have no further comment at this time.”
Tulsa Shock President, Steve Swetoha, also released a statement:
“We are aware of the reports out of Phoenix regarding our player Glory Johnson. We are in the process of gathering information at this time. Of course our first concern is for Glory’s well-being and health. We are looking into the matter further and have no other comment to make at this time.”
Intimate partner violence in queer relationships is often misunderstood, underreported or misreported. If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship and want to talk to someone or get help, you can call the Anti-Violence Project‘s 24-hour hotline at 212-714-1141, search the directory of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs or report the abuse through their secure online form.
this makes me so sad :( i hope everyone involved is okay
Oh no! I hope they both receive the emotional help they need.
I’m from Phx and an athlete and a MOC queer and followed these two’s story with much queer happiness, so I had a personal reaction to seeing this story on my feed, as I’m sure many of you did.
And my reaction was how terrible it must be for Britney and Glory to deal with a difficult personal situation with SO MUCH BAGGAGE from the media/ society on top of it. Not just being famous, but having so many stereotypes and misunderstandings heaped upon them. For example, TheRoot, a POC-positive media source, used their mugshots to report the story, which reinforces the stereotypes of POC athletes as unlawful. Masculine queer women and ethnic women are stereotyped as “angry”; professional athletes are stereotyped as violent. None of that is actually true, plenty of non-athletes are violent and plenty of athletes are pacifist.
So I wanted to gently ask a genuine question: are AS ppl assuming this is an abusive relationship? If a couple fights and it gets physical, does that mean a person is being abused? I thought abuse was about imbalance of power, not the mere presence of a physical altercation. So I can see the value of the links at the end of the post, but in a way it seems to color the story, saying that these two specifically are abusive to each other, and I don’t think we can conclude that, right? It could be, but we don’t have enough info to say conclusively, right? Honest questions; I hope they’re not offensive to anyone.
Thanks for any feedback, and thanks for the coverage AS and KaeLyn (and thanks for not using their mug shots jeez).
These are really thoughtful comments and questions, Rey, and I’m glad you raised them here. Here’s my super long answer because I really want to respond to your comment thoughtfully.
We thought a lot before even posting this news, because we don’t want to add to the cultural stigma surrounding these issues. We also didn’t want to add to the cultural silence around partner violence in LGBTQ communities. On top of all of that, there is the issue that many news outlets are reporting this with Brittney Griner’s name, only, in the headline. This is probably because she is more famous in mainstream sports coverage. However, it also speaks to and certainly adds to the implicit bias that “masculine”people are always aggressors. We don’t know if that is true here and, from what info we have, it seems that it is more likely they both attacked each other.
So we decided to post it without commentary, because we don’t have all the facts and because it is important to acknowledge that violence happens in queer relationships. It is also important to put the story out there in a way that tells what really happened and is not…awful (see: Mug Shot), not focusing on the more masculine-presenting partner in a biased way.
So here is it.
On the question of whether this is intimate partner violence, I would say, “Yes.” Griner and Johnson may disagree and that is their right as a couple. Certainly, when things escalate to a physical fight, there are relationship issues that need to be addressed. We can all agree on that, I’m sure. In a past life, I worked in domestic violence services and I believe that the “cycle of violence” and the “power and control theory” are useful, but do not always fit the reality of how violence plays out in relationships. What DV experts might call, “Common Couple Violence” is probably what we are seeing here, which is fairly common and much less likely to include sexual or emotional violence and is not about controlling a partner. It is characterized by violent outbursts, using physical harm to escalate fighting, and is slightly more likely to be perpetrated by women than men (though they are close to 50/50). It is also less likely that the people involved will classify this as IPV, but it is violence…between intimate partners…who are not likely to hit or attack people outside of the family. It is also harder for someone in a relationship with couple violence to recognize it as abuse. There doesn’t have to be one abuser and one victim. Family violence can be much more complicated than that. And no one deserves it.
What do you think?
I should add that this kind of violence is also the most amenable to therapy and counseling to get through. Because there is not a power and control dynamic, it is more about learning how to communicate and how to deescalate emotionally. I have lots of love for Brittney and Glory, too, and it hurts my heart that this is happening between them. And that it’s playing out on the national media screen. I hope they can get through it and both be safe and happy, with each other or without.
I want to call IPV what it is, but I also want to see happy, healthy QPOC couples and I don’t think those have to be mutually exclusive, you know?
Why is it that when it involves same sex couples other queer people are seemingly so loath to use the word “abuse?” Yes, to the lopsided media coverage and stereotyping female masculinity… totally wrong, but to not report this story is to further sweep this subject under the rug and that’s inexcusable.
I think we’re in agreement, Gina, right?
“I think we’re in agreement, Gina, right?”
I’m glad you posted it, emphasized how we don’t know most of the story but did not make it sound like “these are our peeps, we like them, so it couldn’t happen in their situation and we should be quiet about it.”
I know trans people who were suggesting as much when a certain high profile trans woman sexually assaulted her cis ex-wife in San Francisco alst year (who, ultimately, didn’t press charges) and many in the community just wanted the story to blow away or to explain it as the stress of ‘dealing with oppression.’ Nuh uh, it was SA and DV, no excuses.
Right on, Gina. I agree completely.
Gina, you’re incorrect about the San Francisco case — the cis ex-wife (whom I know) definitely did press charges, and there was a guilty plea. Otherwise, I agree with you.
Donna L… thanks for the correction, I got the story mixed up.
Thanks so much for the detailed and thoughtful reply, KaeLyn. It makes a lot of sense and I agree with what you said.
When we were kids my sister and I hit each other all the time, but I don’t think it was an abusive relationship, it was more like what you described as being angry and expressing it physically. It wasn’t fun or healthy emotionally, but it wasn’t abuse, I don’t think. On the other hand I’ve been in relationships with no physical violence that were indeed very abusive. So for me, it’s useful to think of abuse as a specific thing that is distinct from physical violence.
But it sounds like all the great work and resources developed around ending DV and IPV have changed the meaning of words a bit from what I’m used to, giving the word ‘abuse’ a broader sense, which I hadn’t realized but am glad to learn of. I agree that Brittney and Glory are having interpersonal violence or common couple violence, and whether or not it strictly fits someone’s definition of abuse seems less important than finding a healthier way to interact. I learned from what you said that just because I might not think of it as abuse, doesn’t mean that common couple violence isn’t doing ppl a lot of damage, maybe even more than some situations that would qualify (to me) as abusive. Abuse seems like more of a spectrum than either-is-or-isn’t, perhaps.
Thanks again for providing useful and informed context.
Man I just feel like they were my friends who got arrested and insulted by the media. I know they are strong amazing humans though, who will get through this and rise up and on. <3
Right on, right on, right one, Rey.
People reserve the right to characterize their own experiences, absolutely.
When it comes to how we address violence culturally and systematically, I am glad that definitions are becoming less narrow. Remember when sexual assault culturally and legally only meant a person with a penis raping a person with a vagina through vaginal penetration? And everything else was sodomy or sexual harassment or just bad touching? We’ve come a long way in naming sexual assault and responding to it culturally and legally, changing the conversation around consent along the way.
Intimate partner violence and family violence used to be considered normal. In some cultures, it still is. We need words that help us navigate the kinds of violence that don’t fall into the typical trope of abuser/survivor or power & control. We need to name family violence for what it is. And we need to hold each other accountable and support each other. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. These issues have never been black and white, they are just portrayed that way, ya’ know?
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your personal experiences, Rey. You kickstarted a really good conversation!
I just want to say thank you because I’ve definitely been super bewildered by this in the past. It reminds me of conversations I’ve had with people about how to understand hetero couples where there is IPV that doesn’t have an apparent underlying control and power dynamic; I had always inclined towards still understanding it as abuse (if only because I recognise that abuse is so so complex and dynamics of retaliation – or even mutuality – don’t negate its status as abuse) but still tried to model it on the ‘power and control’ thing because that is the line trotted out by mainstream DV charities (i.e., heteronormative, transphobic, etc loads of the time).
Having read your comment just goes to show me how much I need to read/learn about the subject before making any great claims about what ‘abuse’ means.
So, thank you. For the comment and for the article as a whole.
And I really hope they’re both okay and that things work out in the way that helps both of them as best as possible.
You’re welcome! I don’t know that everyone in the DV/IPV community would agree with me. But many would. The “power and control wheel” does fit a lot of IPV situations and I have no problem with that narrative being front and center.
The more common violent situations like this are often ignored, are harder to talk about, and harder for people to report. In some cases, it is a completely isolated incident and it never happens again. Sometimes, though, if people don’t get the help they need to change the behavior, it starts happening over and over again. The challenge is recognizing that the pattern of violence can look different in different situations. And acknowledging that no one deserves to be hit, ever. Even once.
There’s a fine, fine line between an “unhealthy relationship” and an “abusive relationship.” It’s not always easy to see the red flags.
Thank you for this insight. I’m close to someone who’s been arrested for (and plead guilty to) domestic violence. I wasn’t there but everything I know about the situation leads me to believe that their ex-partner has a pattern of control and emotional abuse. My friend deeply regrets escalating to violence, and has been through an intensive DV treatment program, but their ex never faced any consequences for their own part.
KaeLyn, thank you for the language of “common couple violence” it really helps to put into words what I have witnessed among women. As someone who worked with victims of “traditional” forms of domestic violence I always found it more difficult to explain instances where both parties were involved in the violence as opposed to there being a strict abuser/victim dynamic.
Yes! It finally has a name, thanks to more recent research and writing on the subject. I think for a long time we filed these (dismissed these) cases under “unhealthy behavior” instead of family violence.
I’d never heard the term “Common Couple Violence” before, Kaelyn, and I’m glad what you’re talking about has a name because I think that this type of thing is often its own beast.
Yup. It’s more recent language from research by Michael Johnson. I don’t know that all IPV crisis organizations have even adopted it yet, but I think it is really valid. And puts a name to something that we know is true, but don’t always know how to talk about.
< href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intimate_partner_violence#Situational_couple_violence">Here’s the very credible Wiki definition.
Thanks for this thoughtful, nuanced response, and for the resources. I (as usual on AS) feel like I learned something.
P.S. I love the oxford comma and, therefore, you. Things I love: you, nuanced conversations about complex topics, cats, and the oxford comma.
Thank KaeLyn, I’m glad AS reported this article with care, and I’ve learnt a lot from your comments.
Thanks for not quoting TMZ like other articles I’ve seen today! Speculation and unnamed sources do no one any good.
This is so upsetting :(
DV in our community seems to still be such a taboo, downplayed subject. I hope we can talk about it more.
Co-sign everything you wrote.
This sucks as a whole but that last paragraph was a nice touch. Always nice to put the resources out there. Nice going Kaelyn
Never hurts to put it out there, ya’ know? Especially when bringing up potentially triggering subjects.
Hi Folks! I work in a domestic violence shelter in Ohio, so I figured I would post the hotline information here. The Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization (BRAVO) is specifically for LGBT folks experience sexual assault, DV/IPV, and harrasment. Their website is http://www.bravo-ohio.org/, and their hotline is 1-866-86BRAVO. On the topic of whether or not this was DV/IPV, I definitely can’t answer that, but I will say this is one of the most important things I’ve learned in my job: anger is an emotion, and violence is one way of acting on that emotion. Violence as an action is never an ok way to react in a relationship. I may be wrong, do other people have thoughts?
Thanks for sharing this resource, Rachel!
Agree that violence is never an OK way to express anger. And of course, as ya’ know, anger is often masking other…more authentic…emotions. Like fear, frustration, sadness, anxiety, etc. Never excuses the behavior when people take that out on someone else.
I am feeling kind of inarticulate at the moment, and don’t have enough knowledge or the words to quite put this together, but the story is making me think about ways that DV and IPV are handled.
I was relieved to read that Brittney and Glory had both been released because I do not trust the system to treat two queer Black women in a way that does not inflict even greater violence. Some of INCITE’s work on this has been really good; I clearly need to read more.
Thanks for your thoughts! I found it interesting they were both arrested, even though neither one wanted to pursue charges and no one sustained significant injuries. Not that they shouldn’t have been, necessarily, but it sounds like the fight was broken up and the arrest was probably not essential to keeping them safe individually. Of course, I don’t know because there are limited details. I’m just speculating about what went down.
It’s often ridiculously hard to get police to intervene in IPV or family violence situations, especially when no one wants to press charges, so there’s that. Like, in many cases, advocates are begging police to take a more active role. It’s possible they were treated differently and seen as more of a threat because they are black and queer. I don’t know how you’d prove that, nor if it’s true, but it is definitely worth thinking about in the context of this convo we’re having about what this all means.
What I find interesting about INCITE is that they are trying to find ways to address violence without calling the police – that seems really crucial to me.
We don’t know if Glory or Brittney were treated differently because they are queer and Black. But it’s so easy for law enforcement to justify violence against Black women (see Rekia Boyd this week) even when they haven’t been arrested that it seems like police involvement always risks that violence. I guess I don’t know how to look at two different types of violence and figure out what to do.
I wonder why they were arrested also.
Considering the sister phoned the police to intervene in their fight when others had tried to separate them while they were fighting and failed.
Maybe the issue that both of them were arrested is a decoy strategy: for what I don’t know. Maybe they are both a physical risk to each other.
I doubt that they wanted to go public about this. I expect a lot of speculation, about the “reasons to arrest both of them”.
This reminds me of that incident where musician Paul Simon had a fight with his wife and musician, Edie Brickell, which apparently involved battery and assault. Charges were later retracted and re-interpreted into less hostile and played down terms. I expect this to go the same way. Celebrities: they are just like us. except famous.
In an ideal world (ha!) I’d like to think that it was a way to get both of them out of the house and give them a place to cool down. Or that, beyond black and queer, they’re both big women and therefore seem threatening. But this isn’t an ideal world. deep sigh
Yes, at the end of the day, we don’t know exactly what happened. It isn’t uncommon for police to hold people overnight to “cool down” even when charges aren’t pressed, in cases of family violence and in cases of physical aggression (see: Bar Fights), in general. So I don’t want to say that the police did anything wrong, necessarily. We don’t know that.
It is important to talk about the reality that involving the police can sometimes be more dangerous for POC. I don’t know that it applies here, but it is worth talking about.
Generally, in writing about this issue, we tried to veer away from speculation and report only on what is known.
I want to acknowledge that you wrote about the issue of domestic violence with objectivity, experience, and treated the subjects involved with respect and compassion.
I guess I am cynical about how heteronormative media and cops/justice departments regard the welfare and safety of Black Queer and, in this case, Strong and Athletic women.
I hope that they are getting support individually and can move on.
It appears that Arizona is a state that requires arrest on domestic violence calls — regardless of whether the victim wants to press charges — when physical injury occurs. See http://www.saveservices.org/dvlp/policy-briefings/what-are-the-state-laws-that-mandate-arrest-for-dv-assault/
Laws like this, of course, were passed to try to make sure that DV calls wouldn’t be ignored or trivialized,
back when refusal to arrest the perpetrator was all too common.
kaelyn thanks for all your super informative, and thorough explanations/responses. i see you sharing what you know and also not claiming to be the expert on all things DV, thank you for this.
i’m curious about this part of your comment:
“Common Couple Violence” is probably what we are seeing here, which is fairly common and much less likely to include sexual or emotional violence and is not about controlling a partner. It is characterized by violent outbursts, using physical harm to escalate fighting, and is slightly more likely to be perpetrated by women than men (though they are close to 50/50).
Common Couple Violence. That term makes me feel so many things. Like it’s so simple and contained and yet it describes these awful situations between people. situations that often involve fists and threats and all those things. I didn’t know there was a term like this. It’s frightening when I think of the times in my past where I’ve participated in Common Couple Violence. Times when I thought I was a monster and didn’t know myself and feared that I’d always be this aggressive monster-person that would find other monster-people to be in relationships with. I didn’t know that my actions had more to do with my ability to deal with anger/rage and frustration then something innately wrong with me as a human being. I don’t know if knowing about that term back in the day woulda helped anything, but maybe knowing someone like you, someone with this type of knowledge, maybe that could have helped me find a balance sooner. you know? i finally learned that i am in control of me. i can leave. i can walk away. i can stop. i can use my words or at least just hold them to my chest until i know what to do with them. i finally know that i’m not a monster, you know?
i guess all of this to say, thanks for being present in these comments and being so intentional in the work you do and the words you share with all of us. i hope these two humans get the help they need.
Thanks for sharing all of that wisdom and experience. Really. I think this kind of violence is very common in queer relationships and in relationships, in general. We tend to write it off as “anger issues” or “bad fights.”
But as you say, it goes deeper than just being irrationally angry. I’ve never had the experience of being the person who crosses that line, but I’ve been the person whose partner has crossed the line. And I’m still with the partner. And I do see the part of our relationship where that was happening as emotionally abusive and we did break up because of it. But we also dealt with our shit separately and, ultimately, got back together and became extremely healthy communicators and over a really long time, forgave each other and ourselves and built the trust back up between us (and individually, with ourselves). Now we’re really really ok and happy, even, and it’s really good to be on this side of things.
You’re not a monster. Neither is my spousal boi. And neither are Glory or Brittney. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it or pretend it’s not messed up, you know? I really hope they get what they need, too!
Wow, thank you for this conversation. Thank you.
Comment award of the century to KaeLyn. Thank you for this article and all your insight, you are a queen.
This is really sad.I hope they work things out.