What We Can Learn from Mr. Peanut about Domestic Violence

I watched a rerun of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” when as part of a joke, he said, “Google Mr. Peanut domestic violence. I don’t know what you’ll find.” I was bored, so I did. What I came across was a ​YouTube​ video.

The video begins with the Law and Order: SVU opening. After the famous ​DUH DUH​, a Planters commercial plays. Mr. Peanut is hosting a holiday party. Suddenly, a nutcracker named Richard arrives and the room falls silent. Richard apologizes to Mr. Peanut, where we then see that the back of Mr. Peanut’s head is cracked. There is a band-aid covering his head.

Richard then says, “I don’t know what got into me.” Then, Mr. Peanut replies, “forgive and forget – kind of.” As he turns away, Richard creeps closer to Mr. Peanut and opens his mouth. Mr. Peanut shoves his cane in Richard’s mouth chuckling, “I don’t think so!” The guests cheer and the commercial ends.

It sounds silly, but there is something to learn from Mr. Peanut about ​domestic violence​. The humor in the commercial is not lost on me. However, if we pretend that Mr. Peanut and Richard are in an intimate relationship, their behavior towards one another reflects what often occurs in a relationship with domestic violence.

Mr. Peanut’s situation and the cycle of abuse

The ​National Domestic Violence Hotline​ defines domestic violence as a “pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.” This pattern, known as the “cycle of abuse,” is displayed below:

Cycle of Violence diagram

Source: National Center for Health Research

We know that Richard has physically abused Mr. Peanut once before, as evident from the band-aid. As Richard begins to approach Mr. Peanut, his mouth widens; signifying that he means to physically harm Mr. Peanut.

Richard and Mr. Peanut’s behaviors mirror domestic violence victim and abuser interactions

Abusers often make excuses for their behavior. Richard does this when he says he “doesn’t know what got into him” after apologizing to Mr. Peanut. Then, Mr. Peanut responds, “forgive and forget – kind of.”

Domestic violence is more than just abuse: it’s about power and control. Victims stay with their abusers and “forgive” them for ​multiple reasons​, including:

  • If the victim has children with their abuser
  • If the abuser controls finances or is the “breadwinner” of the family
  • Believing the abuse is “normal” based on past relationships and upbringing
  • Cultural/religious restraints
  • Immigration status
  • Abuser’s psychological control over the victim; fear, low self-esteem, embarrassment/shame, etc.

Mr. Peanut should want Richard out of his life after another attempted attack, but he laughs this incident off. This is a common reaction from victims, as they normalize and rationalize their abusive partner’s behavior.

Does Mr. Peanut’s domestic violence scenario sound familiar?

It also should be known that domestic violence is ​not​ just physical abuse. As the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s definition states, domestic violence is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to control the other. Types of domestic violence includes:

  • Mental/psychological abuse
  • Emotional/verbal abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Financial abuse
  • Stalking

If you think you or someone you know might be a victim of domestic violence, ​call the National Domestic Violence Hotline​ at 1-800-799-7233 or ​visit their website​ for more information.

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