With Valentine’s Day come and gone in a whirl of over-commercialised expense, we emerge at the other end of the week with a statement from Chris Brown regarding the alleged domestic abuse incident of his girlfriend Rhianna.
According to the LA Times, Chris Brown says “Words cannot begin to express how sorry and saddened I am over what transpired. I am seeking the counseling of my pastor, my mother and other loved ones and I am committed, with God’s help, to emerging a better person.”
Whilst admirable in its humbleness, anyone with an ounce of intelligence will see a carefully designed piece of press with a built-in sense of not actually admitting what he has done. The whole incident has raised the profile of domestic violence and whilst all publicity is good publicity, two recent references to this incident, one personal and one public stand out in my mind.
The first happened yesterday whilst I was waiting to be served in a local take-away. Four men standing in front on me were discussing the incident.
First man: “That Chris Brown wants locking up, doesn’t know what he’s got with that Rhianna umbrella bird.”
Second man: “You can see why he did it though. Her parading round in that short skirt, probably flirting with everyone, you can see why, I wouldn’t like my missus to do that, she’d need putting in her place.”
Putting in her place? Honestly, on the 15th February 2009 that was the conversation I heard.
The second reference was on GMTV this morning. Whilst discussing the incident between Chris Brown and Rhianna, Carla Romano, the LA reporter for GMTV told us that in fact she is not shocked by incidents of this kind amongst celebrities and that we will see that the truth will come out because Chris Brown seems like such a nice boy. I was absolutely appalled by the tone of this report and as an active campaigner against domestic violence this represents, for me, a step backwards. Does Carla really believe that those men who are about to punch their girl friends in the face wear a tshirt telling us that they are out of control and unable to manage their anger? That just because someone ‘seems nice’ that they are incapable of hitting their partner? When the media suggests that domestic violence in any context is not shocking, it is normalising something that is, in fact illegal.
The whole Chris Brown and Rhianna incident has been widely reported in different ways, but significantly Carla Romano’s report is scaffolding the beliefs of the man in the takeaway by reinforcing him appalling response to domestic violence, by blaming the woman. around 2 million viewers this morning recieved the suggestion that domestic violence was not shocking and that Chris Brown may not have actually hit Rhianna, despite being charged and issuing a contrite statement of almost-guilt.
It is never right for a man to hit a woman or a woman to hit a man. Every time, the blame for the violence lies with the perpetrator. Each person is responsible for their ability to control their anger.
A view held by many women who have been abused is that ‘He did it because he loves me and he didn’t want X/Y/Z to take me away from him.’ (- insert a range of situations at X/Y/Z). After sustained mental and physical abuse, women can begin to believe that the man they ‘love’ and who ‘loves’ them is actually working in their best interests by ‘putting them in their place’. Their self esteem is so low that they believe that their abuser is their saviour, with a cycle of normality followed by abuse followed by remorse reinforcing the classical conditioning.
The truth of the matter is that a person would not physically abuse or psychologically abuse someone they loved and respected. If someone is abusing you it isn’t because they love you. It’s because they want to control you in some way. That’s very different from love.
I’m sure the Chris Brown and Rhianna story will resolve itself in due course, I hope that Rhianna gets the help she needs to recover from this incident and that Chris Brown received the counselling that he needs to free himself from his anger issues and his pathological perception of women. The man in the takeaway will continue to put women in their place until he is arrested and Carla Romano will probably go on with her irresponsible reporting until someone complains about her.
Who will break the cycle? Well, I’m going to try, I believe in love and I believe that everyone who is in an abusive relationship has an alternative, an escape route, and a future with someone who really does love and respect them. I can’t change the world on my own, but I can write about it and I can actively campaign against domestic violence.
Domestic violence helpline: 0808 2000 247