The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

You Better Sit Down Kids

Because school is in session. Or it should be, because some you have a fucked-up view of domestic violence that doesn’t bode well for your futures.

Up until now, I have resisted commenting on the Rihanna/Chris Brown matter, in part because I’ve been increasingly appalled with just how its been handled in the media. (The absolute nadir was the leaking of what was reported to be Ms. Fenty’s battered face. I purposely avoided looked, until I saw it splattered across a tabloid by the cash register where I waited to pay for my groceries. I looked away after a realized what it was. Ms. Fenty’s already been violated once — yes, that’s what domestic violence is; a physical, psychological and emotional violation of someone’s humanity. Leaking/publishing those pictures violated her again, felt. That picture shouldn’t have been seen outside of a courtroom, until or unless Ms. Fenty decided to release it.)

But I also declined to comment because the issue hits way too close to home for me. No, I’ve never been in an abusive relationship myself. But I’ve watched people I love and care very much about deal with just that, and I know it’s not always as cut-and-dried or as easily dealt with as people — including some of you — seem to think.

Which brings me back to my initial point, kids.


What the fuck is wrong with some of you?

Hip-hop star Chris Brown’s arrest for allegedly beating singer Rihanna has sparked outrage in the media for weeks, but a survey conducted by the Boston Public Health Commission found almost half of Hub teens think she is to blame for the assault.

“Somehow young people have gotten the message that this is just part of a relationship,” said anti-violence advocate Deborah Collins-Gousby.

Of the 200 Boston youths (ages 12 to 19) surveyed last month, 51 percent said Chris Brown was responsible for the incident, 46 percent said Rihanna was responsible and 52 percent said both were to blame; 52 percent said the media was treating Brown unfairly; 44 percent said fighting was a normal part of a relationship; and a “significant” number said “Rihanna was destroying Chris Brown’s career.” Women blamed Rihanna as much as men did.

Prosecutors said Brown, 19, punched Rihanna, 21, repeatedly in the face, choked her and threatened to kill her Feb. 8.

Punched. Choked. Threatened.

Those word don’t sound like much. But here’s the long version, via CNN,  from the affidavit regarding the incident.

“Brown was driving a vehicle with Robyn F. as the front passenger on an unknown street in Los Angeles. Robyn F. picked up Brown’s cellular phone and observed a three-page text message from a woman who Brown had a previous sexual relationship with.

“A verbal argument ensued and Brown pulled the vehicle over on an unknown street, reached over Robyn F. with his right hand, opened the car door and attempted to force her out. Brown was unable to force Robyn F. out of the vehicle because she was wearing a seat belt. When he could not force her to exit, he took his right hand and shoved her head against he passenger window of the vehicle, causing an approximate one-inch raised circular contusion.

Robyn F. turned to face Brown and he punched her in the left eye with his right hand. He then drove away in the vehicle and continued to punch her in the face with his right hand while steering the vehicle with his left hand. The assault caused Robyn F.’s mouth to fill with blood and blood to splatter all over her clothing and the interior of the vehicle.

“Brown looked at Robyn F. and stated, ‘I’m going to beat the s–t out of you when we get home! You wait and see!’

The detective said “Robyn F.” then used her cell phone to call her personal assistant Jennifer Rosales, who did not answer.

“Robyn F. pretended to talk to her and stated, ‘I’m on my way home. Make sure the police are there when I get there.’

“After Robyn F. faked the call, Brown looked at her and stated, ‘You just did the stupidest thing ever! Now I’m really going to kill you!’

Brown resumed punching Robyn F. and she interlocked her fingers behind her head and brought her elbows forward to protect her face. She then bent over at the waist, placing her elbows and face near her lap in [an] attempt to protect her face and head from the barrage of punches being levied upon her by Brown.

Brown continued to punch Robyn F. on her left arm and hand, causing her to suffer a contusion on her left triceps (sic) that was approximately two inches in diameter and numerous contusions on her left hand.

“Robyn F. then attempted to send a text message to her other personal assistant, Melissa Ford. Brown snatched the cellular telephone out of her hand and threw it out of the window onto an unknown street.

“Brown continued driving and Robyn F. observed his cellular telephone sitting in his lap. She picked up the cellular telephone with her left hand and before she could make a call he placed her in a head lock with his right hand and continued to drive the vehicle with his left hand.

Brown pulled Robyn F. close to him and bit her on her left ear. She was able to feel the vehicle swerving from right to left as Brown sped away. He stopped the vehicle in front of 333 North June Street and Robyn F. turned off the car, removed the key from the ignition and sat on it.

Brown did not know what she did with the key and began punching her in the face and arms. He then placed her in a head lock positioning the front of her throat between his bicep and forearm. Brown began applying pressure to Robyn F.’s left and right carotid arteries, causing her to be unable to breathe and she began to lose consciousness.

“She reached up with her left hand and began attempting to gouge his eyes in an attempt to free herself. Brown bit her left ring and middle fingers and then released her. While Brown continued to punch her, she turned around and placed her back against the passenger door. She brought her knees to her chest, placed her feet against Brown’s body and began pushing him away. Brown continued to punch her on the legs and feet, causing several contusions.

“Robyn F. began screaming for help and Brown exited the vehicle and walked away. A resident in the neighborhood heard Robyn F.’s plea for help and called 911, causing a police response. An investigation was conducted and Robyn F. was issued a Domestic Violence Emergency Protective Order.”

At the end of his statement, Andrews said Brown sent a text message nine days later apologizing.

“In the text message, Brown apologized for what he had done to Robyn F. and advised [Rihanna’s assistant] Ford that he was going to get help.

At least he apologized, right?

Read the above again. A verbal argument ensued. Brown reached over, tried to force her out of the car, failed, and a beating ensued. Not a fight. A beating.

A young woman was beaten — literally, from head to toe. Her blood was spattered all over the car. She was punched, bitten, choked, bloodied, bitten, bruised and abandoned in the street.

And after all that brutality, after all that terror, he…just walked away.

I won’t presume to say what Ms. Fenty should or shouldn’t do. Plenty of people who have lived that nightmare had said she should leave him, and plenty of people who have lived that nightmare understand why she hasn’t…yet. I can only speak from the perspective of having seen people I care about live through the same nightmare, asking why doesn’t she/he leave? (Yes, it happens to gay people too, and I’ve have one friend go through it.), and understanding that it’s the wrong question to ask.

You want to get the question off, “Why doesn’t she leave?” and onto the one that people hate asking, “Why does he beat her?”, and focusing on the most helpless of cases is the quickest, easiest way to do that. But what it does, I realize, is separates “good” victims who deserve our sympathy from “bad” victims who deserve to carry 51-100% of the blame. You see the same effect when it comes to rape — the public offers its sympathy to the woman who was wearing a potato sack and a stranger jumps out of the bushes, and we do so in part so we can blame other women for raping themselves by being, and you know the drill, sexually active before, wearing that, stupid enough to drink around men, willing to go out with men she should have known were rapists — name your “date rape/gray rape” cliches that take the heat off calling it what it is, which is rape.

… So why doesn’t Rihanna leave, when she can afford to?  I have no idea.  Maybe Chris Brown is that charming.  Maybe she saw what I’m seeing, which is this passively (and actively) taking of his side in celebrity circles, and she realized that her career, which depends on socializing with these people, would suffer.  Maybe she thinks he won’t do it again now that he’s been publicly shamed to a degree. Maybe her socialization as a woman has trained her, like most, to feel like she’s got to take the scraps she’s given from men. Probably all of the above.  If so, then she’s like most women in her situation, a mixed bag of motivations that are all, because of our sexist society, pointing her in the direction of staying.

A major reason men beat women is because we ask, “Why doesn’t she leave?” In fact, abusers often taunt their victims with just this question, because they grasp the psychological power of it, the sexism and the self-esteem erosion behind it, and they are happy to use it as a part of their arsenal to demoralize the victim and make her think she doesn’t deserve better.  So every time we ask that, we have to ask ourselves why we don’t believe that society coddles batterers, when we are engaging in batterer assistance ourselves.

One reason that it’s hard for feminists to communicate these ideas is that we can’t express them without giving really specific examples, and to do so is often a violation of someone’s privacy.  And because victims of gender hate crimes are shamed by our society — told it’s their fault — they rarely wish to talk about it at all. So we express these trends in vague terms that make it easy to disbelieve, if that’s what you want to do.  Jaclyn has a post that gives some examples to that you have something to hang onto, and she links to another.  Those are helpful, but I suppose they only go so far in helping people understand this situation.

What Ms. Fenty needs right now is the love, support and care of her friends, family, and people who love her. And they need to stay by her through whatever comes — no matter how many times their advice to “just leave him” seems to go unheeded, or how often she sheds tears because of him, or sports new bruises beause of him — because if or when the moment comes that she decides to leave, she will need them.

And being there will make it a little easier for her to make the break when she’s ready. She will need your reassurance that she’s making the right decision. She will need your support as she steps into her new life. And she will need your love, because she will have a lot of healing to do.

Abuse can influence a victim’s future behavior in relationships and even in friendships, depending on whether the victim stays or leaves, said Mark Crawford, a clinical psychologist based in Roswell, Georgia. Those who stay are likely to stop trusting their own perceptions and become passive in both romantic and nonromantic relationships.

Victims who do leave — which is the healthier choice, Crawford said — often become over-accommodating because they want to avoid conflict, even verbal disputes, at all costs. Some women won’t trust people easily, if at all, and won’t be able to handle even normal expressions of anger.

…New research shows that abuse victims feel the impact of violence long after it occurred. A recent study in the Journal of Women’s Health found that older African-American women who were exposed to high levels of family violence at some point in their lifetimes — whether by a partner or family member — are at a greater risk of poor mental and physical health status.

…It makes sense that abused women would report worse health, given that people in stressful situations have higher levels of stress hormones, which interfere with immune function, Crawford said.

Other studies show a clear connection between depression and abuse. Adult women who have been abused in a relationship in the past five years have rates of depression 2½ times greater than women who have never been abused, according to a different study of more than 3,000 women. They are also more likely to be socially isolated, said author Amy Bonomi, associate professor at The Ohio State University.

Women who have been abused prior to, but not during, the past five years had depression rates 1½ times greater than those without abuse experience, said Bonomi, who has collaborated with Dimer on research on abused women.

But back to Mr. Brown.

I don’t care what ensued in that car before he took that hand off the steering wheel and put it on Ms. Fenty. I don’t care what was said during the verbal argument. I don’t care what ensued in the hours, days, weeks, months, or years before that moment.

Robyn Rihanna Fenty did not deserve this:

When he could not force her to exit, he took his right hand and shoved her head against he passenger window of the vehicle, causing an approximate one-inch raised circular contusion.

She did not deserve this:

Robyn F. turned to face Brown and he punched her in the left eye with his right hand. He then drove away in the vehicle and continued to punch her in the face with his right hand while steering the vehicle with his left hand. The assault caused Robyn F.’s mouth to fill with blood and blood to splatter all over her clothing and the interior of the vehicle.

She did not deserve this:

“Brown looked at Robyn F. and stated, ‘I’m going to beat the s–t out of you when we get home! You wait and see!’

She did not deserve this:

“After Robyn F. faked the call, Brown looked at her and stated, ‘You just did the stupidest thing ever! Now I’m really going to kill you!’

She did not deserve this:

Brown resumed punching Robyn F. and she interlocked her fingers behind her head and brought her elbows forward to protect her face. She then bent over at the waist, placing her elbows and face near her lap in [an] attempt to protect her face and head from the barrage of punches being levied upon her by Brown.

She did not derserve this:

Brown continued to punch Robyn F. on her left arm and hand, causing her to suffer a contusion on her left triceps (sic) that was approximately two inches in diameter and numerous contusions on her left hand.

She did not deserve this:

Brown pulled Robyn F. close to him and bit her on her left ear. She was able to feel the vehicle swerving from right to left as Brown sped away. He stopped the vehicle in front of 333 North June Street and Robyn F. turned off the car, removed the key from the ignition and sat on it.

She did not deserve this:

Brown did not know what she did with the key and began punching her in the face and arms. He then placed her in a head lock positioning the front of her throat between his bicep and forearm. Brown began applying pressure to Robyn F.’s left and right carotid arteries, causing her to be unable to breathe and she began to lose consciousness.

She did not deserve this:

“She reached up with her left hand and began attempting to gouge his eyes in an attempt to free herself. Brown bit her left ring and middle fingers and then released her. While Brown continued to punch her, she turned around and placed her back against the passenger door. She brought her knees to her chest, placed her feet against Brown’s body and began pushing him away. Brown continued to punch her on the legs and feet, causing several contusions.

Nobody does. And certainly not from anyone claiming to love them. The action she managed to take — trying to call for help, letting your attacker know someone will be expecting you, removing the key from the ignition while still in a populated area, using her arms to protect her face, going for the eyes in order to free herself, screaming for help — probalby saved her life. In fact, many of them are exactly what a self defense instructor might suggest in a life threatening situation.

And given the description above, she had every reason at that moment to think, “Oh my god, he’s really going to kill me.” He was already choking her in the car, and he’d promised to “really kill” her when they got home. Alone. Behind closed doors.

And Brown. Brown gets no sympathy from me. Yes, I know about his background. I know he witnessed his stepfather beating his mother, and if as a result of his crime he gets (is mandated to get) the help he’s clearly needed to deal with the effects of that, good for him.

But it neither explains or excuses what he did. Plenty of people grow up abused or witnessing abuse, and don’t become abusers. In fact, for some the experience strengthens their resolve not to become what he either chose to become or didn’t choose not to become.

Because Chris Brown had choices that night. He was literally in the driver’s seat. He was in control (because domestic violence is about control and power). Had choices.

He chose to do this:

When he could not force her to exit, he took his right hand and shoved her head against he passenger window of the vehicle, causing an approximate one-inch raised circular contusion.

He chose to do this:

Robyn F. turned to face Brown and he punched her in the left eye with his right hand. He then drove away in the vehicle and continued to punch her in the face with his right hand while steering the vehicle with his left hand. The assault caused Robyn F.’s mouth to fill with blood and blood to splatter all over her clothing and the interior of the vehicle.

He chose to do this:

“Brown looked at Robyn F. and stated, ‘I’m going to beat the s–t out of you when we get home! You wait and see!’

He chose to do this:

“After Robyn F. faked the call, Brown looked at her and stated, ‘You just did the stupidest thing ever! Now I’m really going to kill you!’

He chose to do this:

Brown resumed punching Robyn F. and she interlocked her fingers behind her head and brought her elbows forward to protect her face. She then bent over at the waist, placing her elbows and face near her lap in [an] attempt to protect her face and head from the barrage of punches being levied upon her by Brown.

He chose to to this:

Brown continued to punch Robyn F. on her left arm and hand, causing her to suffer a contusion on her left triceps (sic) that was approximately two inches in diameter and numerous contusions on her left hand.

He chose to do this:

Brown pulled Robyn F. close to him and bit her on her left ear. She was able to feel the vehicle swerving from right to left as Brown sped away. He stopped the vehicle in front of 333 North June Street and Robyn F. turned off the car, removed the key from the ignition and sat on it.

He chose to do this:

Brown did not know what she did with the key and began punching her in the face and arms. He then placed her in a head lock positioning the front of her throat between his bicep and forearm. Brown began applying pressure to Robyn F.’s left and right carotid arteries, causing her to be unable to breathe and she began to lose consciousness.

He chose to do this:

“She reached up with her left hand and began attempting to gouge his eyes in an attempt to free herself. Brown bit her left ring and middle fingers and then released her. While Brown continued to punch her, she turned around and placed her back against the passenger door. She brought her knees to her chest, placed her feet against Brown’s body and began pushing him away. Brown continued to punch her on the legs and feet, causing several contusions.

When, in the very beginning he could have chosen to do this:

Brown exited the vehicle and walked away.

Get out of the car, walk your anger-management deficient self home, and cool off. And right now we’d all be talking about some other celebrity.

And one young woman would be one beating less brutalized, and one night less terrorized.

And if you think that she “deserved” what Chris Brown chose to inflict upon her (and what some of you have had inflicted upon you), I can guarantee you this.

Like any parent, I hope it doesn’t, but the day will almost certainly come in your life when someone else thinks you deserve all of the above and more. And chooses to dish it out to you. Perhaps your children will even watch it happen, and suffer for it later.

If that day comes, I hope you are met with a lot more compassion than you are choosing to dish out to Robyn Fenty. She deserves a lot more than that.

So do you.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: