It was not a fight, it was an attack

To add yet another blog post to the growing archive of blog posts/news stories about the Chris Brown-Rihanna incident makes me feel kind of…weary. But yesterday I watched something that made my blood boil and I just can’t contain my ire.

Sean “Diddy” Combs (previously Diddy, previously P. Diddy, previously Puff Daddy) was on The Ellen Degeneres Show. To Ellen’s credit, she brought up the issue of Combs giving Chris Brown sanctuary in his Miama house and facilitating the “reunion” of Brown and Rihanna. There are reports and photos of Chris Brown jet-skiing as if enjoying a vacation, which has enraged a lot of people.

Ellen tried to walk the eggshell-strewn fine line between wanting to express her outrage and not wanting to rock the boat. Gotta be nice!

On what may arguably be the most popular daytime talk show in the U.S., one of the (arguably) most famous hip-hop stars not only defended his friend, but completely downplayed the gravity and brutality of domestic violence.

You can watch the video here (the discussion begins at about 4:30).

First, I take issue with Ellen’s characterization of Chris Brown as “a guy who hit a girl.” Sigh. Chris Brown beat Rihanna. But I am happy that Ellen said, “I don’t want any girl out there thinking it’s okay to go back to a guy who hit her.” Well said.

Secondly, I take issue with almost all of what Combs said:

  • “I don’t cast a stone.”
  • “It was a dark time for them.”
  • “…we know sometimes relationships get ugly.”
  • “You wasn’t in that car [sic]. I wasn’t in that car. It isn’t right for him to put his hands on her or her to put her hands on him. We don’t know what the problem is.”

Let’s take them one at a time. Oh, but before I do: allegedly, allegedly, allegedly, allegedly, allegedly, allegedly, allegedly, allegedly, allegedly. There, that should do it. Technically Brown has not been convicted, so everything stated herein about the “alleged” attack is only alleged. He has, however, apologized and announced that he is seeking counselling (more on that later), so I used the word “allegedly” loosely.

Okay. “I don’t cast stones.” So Diddy won’t place blame or make judgments on a man who beat his girlfriend to a bloody pulp and choked her almost to the point of unconsciousness. Kudos for not casting stones! You know, sometimes it’s okay to cast stones. I am not a perfect person, but I can certainly hold people to account when they commit grievous injustices against others.

“It was a dark time for them” and “relationships get ugly.” Wow! Way to underplay it. May as well have said, “They hit a bumpy patch.”

“It isn’t right for him to put his hands on her or her to put her hands on him. We don’t know what the problem is.” I don’t even know what to say about this. There is nothing in the police report about Rihanna “putting her hands on him” except in self-defense, but even so, we’re talking about domestic abuse here. It’s not about what the “problem” was, who started the argument, or what they were arguing about, because it wasn’t an argument—it was a man beating on a women half his size!

The incident may have began as an argument, but it ceased to be as soon as Chris Brown started beating on Rihanna, leaving her with wounds requiring medical attention. Nor was this a “fight.” A fight is between two people, fairly evenly matched, both hitting each other. One person wailing on another is not a fight, it’s an attack. If a woman is raped or beaten up by a stranger twice her size, would that be a “fight” as well? Would we be talking about what she did to “provoke” it? (Well, if you’re Bill O’Reilly you probably would, since he thinks women who dress provocatively and drink alcohol are inviting rape.)

At this point, lest you think I’m being one-sided or inflammatory, I invite you to read the LAPD officer’s affidavit about the incident.  Here, I’ll highlight some of it for you:

  • “When he could not force her to exit [the car], he took his right hand and shoved her head against the passenger window of the vehicle causing an approximate one inch raised circular contusion”
  • “…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 [Rihanna’s] mouth to fill with blood and blood to splatter all over her clothing and the interior of the vehicle.”
  • “Brown looked at [her] and stated, ‘I’m going to beat the shit out of you when we get home! You wait and see!'”
  • Brown said, “Now I’m really going to kill you!”
  • Rihanna placed “her elbows and face near her lap in attempt to protect her face and head from the barrage of punches being levied upon her by Brown.”
  • Brown “pulled [Rihanna] close to him and bit her on her left ear.”
  • “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 [Rihanna’s] left and right carotid arteries causing her to be unable to breathe and she began to lose consciousness.”
  • “Brown bit her left ring and middle fingers….”

Does that sound like a fight to you?

Not only did Brown pummel Rihanna with his fists, choke her, bite her, and threaten her life, he did it while driving, further endangering her life and the lives of anyone else on that road.

And have you seen the leaked photo of her facial injuries?

Stars with the reach and influence of Sean Combs and Kanye West (who has characterized what Brown did as a “mistake” and asked folks to “give him a break”) owe it to their adolescent and teen fans to speak truthfully about the horrors of domestic violence. When people discuss this case as a “fight,” or argue about whether it was “provoked,” or characterize it as a “mistake,” they unforgivably downplay domestic abuse.

A mistake is stepping on your cat’s tail or forgetting to pay a bill. Mistakes can even be tragic, like accidentally hitting someone with your car. But mistakes are accidents. You don’t “accidentally” put someone in a headlock nearly choking them to death. That is a choice, not an accident. This was an attack, not a fight.

Domestic abuse is about power. One partner, predominantly the male in a heterosexual couple (85% to 95% of victims are female), exerts control over his partner by dominating, intimidating, and physically and emotionally attacking her. He also retains his power by instilling fear and increasing his partner’s dependency on him (financial or emotional, or both).

Sadly, it’s textbook how the cycle of domestic abuse occurs, and Chris Brown’s “apology” would be right there on the first page. The abuser will always apologize, but that hardly ever means that the abuse won’t happen again. Rihanna told the police that this wasn’t the first time Brown hit her and that the attacks have been escalating. He probably apologized after each one, swearing it would never happen again. But sorry is not enough.

Now there are rumours that Rihanna is getting back together with Brown, or at least considering it. Which leads us to this question: Why do women stay in abusive relationships? Obviously it’s not because they want to be beaten again. It’s a complicated and complex series of reasons:

  • She may believe her partner when he says it will never happen again, that this time it will be different.
  • She is trapped, literally fearing for her life and/or the lives of her children, other family members, or pets.
  • She is dependent, either financially or emotionally. Emotionally, she may feel that he is the only one who loves and “gets” her, that she’ll never meet someone else who will love her, and that she loves him and can’t live without him.
  • She has little self-esteem, thinking that she doesn’t deserve any better (or, as I mentioned above, that she can’t do any better).
  • She feels guilty. Abusers will often convince the victim that she is to blame (You know how I get! Why did you provoke me?) and it’s easy to buy into that (Why would this person who loves me hurt me? I must have done something wrong!).
  • More guilt (I’m all he has in the world, I’m the only one who understands him, I can’t leave him all alone to take care of himself, I don’t want people to view him as a bad person, etc.)
  • Shame. Women feel that they cannot “come out of the closet” about domestic abuse without being ostracized.
  • Blame. While the victim is busy blaming herself, society is joining right in with the blame-the-victim game, much like what is happening now with Rihanna. This makes it even harder for women to leave abusive relationships and get help.

Essentially, when a man not only exerts power over you but takes your own power away, and society acts as though you relinquished it, it’s the perfect storm for remaining in an abusive relationship.

Chris Brown is apparently seeking “counseling” from his mother and his pastor. Sorry, bucko—that ain’t gonna cut it. You have serious, deep problems and you need serious help. See a Psychiatrist and/or Psychologist and get some real, intensive therapy. This is about more than controlling your anger; this is about how you view women, relationships, and love. This is deeply imbedded in your brain and requires more help than your mommy can offer.

For any young people who may be involved in a violent relationship, please get out. And stay out. Don’t look at this media storm about Chris Brown and Rihanna and come to any other conclusion than this: There is never, ever a good reason or excuse to beat anyone up. Visit this web site for help:

From the American Institute on Domestic Violence: 5.3 million women are abused each year; 1,232 women are killed by an intimate partner every year; domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women; women are more likely to be attacked by someone they know rather than by a stranger.

Here is a statistics packet by the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence for the U.S. from 2002.


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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Thanks yet another excellently researched and argued blog! This issue upsets me so much and I get so angry when I hear people (and I’ve mostly heard this from women which also pisses me off) say “well no one was there, we don’t know the full story.” To which I say, there isn’t anything someone could say or do to deserve the kind violence that the police report describes!

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