Months after the father of Keke Palmer’s son faced swift backlash on social media for criticizing an outfit she wore to Usher’s Las Vegas residency, which I wrote about here, we’re finding out gruesome details about physical abuse she says she suffered at the hands of Darius Jackson.
According to outlets, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge granted her temporary custody of their son, Leodis, after she filed yesterday. The order will be reviewed in December. In addition, she filed for a temporary restraining order against Darius, which was also granted. According to court documents obtained by media outlets, Keke alleges there have been “many instances of physical violence”, which include the destruction of her personal property, hitting her in front of their son, threatening suicide if she left, harassment, and other forms of physical and emotional abuse.
I was up for hours past my usual bedtime, scouring the internet for details and reactions to this horrific news. My heart and the hearts of so many others are completely broken for Keke and her son. And there are three reasons I believe, unequivocally, that he did exactly what she said he did. The first reason is because her own mother had to hop on social media to take Darius and his brother to task. The second is because of the pattern and cycle this story falls into. And the last reason is because she was able to prove it with video evidence.
Keke and I are roughly the same age. And she’s been a star for half her life, and therefore, half of mine. Until last night, I had never, ever seen her mother, Sharon, who has quietly remained behind the scenes for the last 22 years when Keke first started acquiring fame. Like Keke, her mom lays low. And I mean low. But with all of this news coming to a head, she felt the need to share a video on social media addressing the situation, in particular, Darius’ brother’s post and delete on Twitter, in which he said:
Upon reading it, you’d think he was talking about his brother, but based on Mama Sharon’s response, his comment appears to have been targeted towards Keke, which is what prompted her to respond in the first place. In it, she slams Sarunas, saying she went to him over a year ago to inform him that his brother was abusing Keke, and in response to her, he said he used to “be like that too”.
There is a distinct tone and quiver in Sharon’s voice throughout that video, which is instantly recognizable to any mother who has feared for their child’s safety, or anyone who has feared for their own, at some point. She didn’t get glammed up to record the video, nor did she put on fancy clothes. Despite that very evident fear, Sharon bravely spoke her truth, telling Sarunas that he taught Darius how to be abusive, which brings me to my next point.
When I wrote that first piece after the Usher concert, I described the almost unanimous support for Keke from men and women alike. People dragged Darius, suggesting he didn’t know his place and saying he wasn’t the “leader” of the family considering his incomparable net worth and career. But of course, there were still the outliers that sided with him in his assertion that her clothes weren’t appropriate for a mother.
At the time, several women pointed out that a man’s obsession with how their partner dresses, on top of his efforts to publicly humiliate her, were indeed a warning sign of abuse. But as this Twitter user points out, response to those sentiments suggested any woman who felt that way was bitter, single, or delusional.
I think the irony of women constantly being gaslit in their assertions about abuse in relationships, especially as it pertains to where that abuse starts, is that gaslighting is an indication of abuse, too. Telling us we’re crazy for suggesting there is fire where there certainly is smoke is a tactic that abusers, like Darius (allegedly), often use on their victims.
Sitting here months after that first blow up and learning more details about their relationship prior to that blowup, the picture being painted is very clear.
Abuse is abuse. And while it looks different for everyone and impacts everyone differently, there are a few recognizable patterns that you will find in almost any situation, regardless of the gender, socioeconomic status, and race of the abuser or the victim.
Despite Keke and Darius having a relationship that spanned five years, she says the physical abuse only started in 2021. Keke says he did things like destroy her personal property, abuse her in front of their son, and threaten suicide if she left. These are all very common behaviours in abusers, who, at their core are grossly insecure and desperate for control.
And though by all accounts, it appears he was abusive before the Usher concert, I can only imagine how much it worsened after the fact, with his ego, pride and masculinity being mocked and threatened by millions of strangers on the internet. To me, that’s probably the reason Keke stayed so tight-lipped throughout that ordeal. We praised her for taking the high road, but in retrospect, I don’t think she felt like she had a choice.
I can’t imagine what Keke went through the very first time he put his hands on her. But I can only imagine how alone she must have felt, despite support from people like her mom and millions of fans around the world. And that’s why people are having such a hard time accepting that she could possibly be the victim of domestic violence. Because here’s a “strong Black woman” with resources, why couldn’t she get out? But in the same way that any one can be an abuser, any one can be a victim. Even the cheeky, funny, confident, powerful and rich Keke Palmer.
There’s a reason I listed the video evidence as the very last of all the reasons I believe her. Because even if she wasn’t able to produce images or videos of him in the act of abuse, even if she wasn’t able to show a mark on her body, I still would’ve believed her. Because in the same way we’re looking at patterns of abuse, patterns exist for Keke, too.
Over her 22-year long career, Keke has managed to keep her name clean. I can’t recall an instance, prior to this, where she was ever in some sort of scandal. The closest thing would’ve been her informing us years ago that Trey Songz was a predator, and guess what? It turned out to be true. So by all accounts, she is honest, she minds her business, and as I said before, she lays low.
Why, then, after 22 years of managing something that very few celebrities can, would she throw that out the window all for the sake of tarnishing Darius’ name? Why would she incite and invite this kind of drama into not only her life, but her son’s, if she didn’t feel the absolute need to?
Though for many of us, this case is crystal clear, there are still people who doubt her story and wonder why she’s coming forward with these allegations now. And let me be clear in saying that if you have the luxury of asking either of those questions or any others even remotely like it, consider yourself lucky to not know the grip that abusers have on their victims. And how that grip strengthens when there is a child involved.
There is a certain point where mothers realize they need to leave the person they had a child with. It could be because they’re unhappy, it could be because their financial situation would improve if their child’s other parent were no longer in the picture. Or, in Keke’s case, it could be because it’s quite literally unsafe to stay.
But there is another point that no one really talks about. And it is the moment you realize you are terribly afraid and remorseful of the fact that you had a child with this person in the first place. The weight of the realization that for the rest of your life, for the rest of your child’s life, you are bonded to this person, is so heavy, so crushing, that it can knock the wind right out of you. So though I am not the praying kind, I am saying a prayer today that Keke musters up all of the strength she has within her and fights like f-cking hell. For her son. For herself. For all the women that have endured what she has. And for all of the women that will.