Let’s talk about love, Chris Brown and Rhianna

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

7 thoughts on “Let’s talk about love, Chris Brown and Rhianna”

  1. What A powerful post Jacqui. Really. I felt moved to call GMTV and complain! Well done for higlighting the issue and reminding us that there is NEVER an excuse. Fx

  2. This is a very thought provoking piece and I’m so glad you highlighted this issue.

    Men who abuse their partners are very often charming and intelligent – it’s hard for an outsider to believe he would harm a woman. And these men are clever enough to be nice for just long enough to keep a partner hooked.

    I quite agree that violence whether initiated by a man or a woman is completely wrong. Sadly, despite calls for equality, women are still more vulnerable – physically and economically. I read recently that two women a week are murdered by partners every week in this country. I hope that statistic’s wrong, but somehow I doubt it.

    Attitudes need to change, and people like you raising awareness of these cases can do nothing but good.

  3. I’m sorry – I didn’t proof read my comment before posting.

    should have been:

    ‘I read recently that two women are murdered by partners every week in this country.’

  4. Jacqui—Enjoy your blog and am in complete agreement with your post on domestic violence.
    There’s good reason why this story has resonated with some many people, in so many parts of the world. Domestic abuse is an equal opportunity threat to people of any race, religion, gender or educational or economic background. Even the rich and famous, like these two.
    By the way, you and I are doing doing similar blogs on both sides of the pond. See my post “Now for Something Serious–The Chris Brown Thing” at Birds on a Wire Blog.
    No excuses. P

  5. Jacqui,

    Thanks for all the kind words you put on my blog and, yes, feel free to link anything or anyone you deem appropriate to Birds on a Wire.

    I’ve been mulling over the last few words of your comments: “I worry for the consequences for her, and what this image of a returning victim will say to young women all over the world who, having experienced violence themselves, are waiting to see how to act next.”

    Yes, I, too, worry about what her actions will prompt others to do, but I think it would be a mistake for Rihanna to make a decision based on any needs but her own. Here’s why:

    When I was formulating my plan of escape (over the course of a very stressful day or two), it took all I had to fight off the very comfortable cop-out of making a decision based on everyone’s needs but my own. If I leave, will he kill himself? How could I do that to him? What will my parents say if I end this relationship? How will I explain what I’ve done to my/his friends? Will the people I know back me on this decision?

    As it turned out, some did, some didn’t. But, I found the only way I was able to move forward was to consider nothing but my own needs and my own safety (which at the time, included the needs and safety of an infant).

    Like many women (from what you’ve said about your own life, maybe even you), I had spent way too much of my life worrying about the needs of others in every important decision I made. If there was ever a time when I needed to think about me (and my baby), it was then!

    If my choice happened to resonate with others and help them make a decision to act, great, but that was not my worry. I was not trying to be a hero, merely a living, breathing woman with a future.

    I hope that is what Rihanna will want to be, as well.

    To insure a future, she may have to ignore the needs of her handlers, her family, many of her fans, the media, whatever, if she is to make a decision that will work for her.

    Does this make sense to you, as a psychologist?

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