Yes, this post is a downer. Yes, it sucks to think about domestic violence. But it exists in the world we live in all around us. Maybe somewhere down your street, maybe with somebody you know, maybe it’s happened to you. But, as a warning, this is quite an unpleasant post and if you wish not to be unpleasant-ified, you should probably not read it. I almost debated not posting it because it’s usually futile to try to sway people’s minds that are already made up (I’m stubborn as a mule, so I know this firsthand), but I think domestic violence and the blame game are important topics to discuss considering we’re still in an age where 25% of women will experience domestic violence at some point in our lives.
Whenever I’ve been asked why I don’t support Chris Brown’s, or anybody else who’s harmed their partners, work any longer, I simply state that I can’t. It would be permissive to pretend I still like them when I can’t un-know what I know. I would love to say that I’m one of those people who sees art as art. But I can’t read Transformations by Anne Sexton who, according to Linda Gray Sexton herself, sexually abused her own daughter. Alas, I cannot: I see abuse by beautiful, talented, famous people no less despicable than abuse by any old person on the street or in my apartment building.
“He/she made a mistake” is not a good excuse, particularly when that “mistake” can traumatize a person for life. As I’ve written about in the past, I’ve been raped more than once. Now, if somebody were to tell me that the fellow who attacked me at the ripe old age of 13 and caused my Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was just “making a mistake,” I doubt I’d know how to respond and I think that most sensible, non-sociopath human beings would also not quite know how to respond. We would see that a violent crime is a violent crime: calling it a “mistake” does not make it any less violent.
Alas, people have somehow time and time again blamed Rihanna — I would provide more links but (1)we all know it’s true and (2)searching would simply depress me — for being beaten. Tweets like “Chris Brown can beat me any day” and “she was probably being really annoying” make me sick to read. Since when is being beaten by your significant other a desirable thing? Just because he’s famous and attractive, that makes it all right? But whether you’re talking about a person being sexually assaulted or beaten up, it’s incredibly similar: it’s unwanted, brutal violence done purely to gain power over another human being. Blaming her for how she behaves at any point after not only comes off as sexist, it’s also completely ridiculous. Who are we to judge how PTSD may have affected her? Sure, she’s a public figure which makes her actions easier to scrutinize, but does that mean she is suddenly to blame if she does things to save her own sanity?
Believe me, I am definitely guilty of occasionally questioning her actions and I fully understand why we feel the need to do so. (By the way, these actions I question do not, of course, include the whole “S&M” thing. I still don’t understand why so many people, including friends of mine, think that consensual activity between adults is the same as being brutally assaulted without any consent whatsoever. I’ve had somebody punch me in the face before without my consent and I’ve also had somebody inflict light pain during intimacy: I promise, it’s different. It’s incomparable.) But, in regard to her publicly stating that she cares about him still and being friendly towards him, I too have thought, “?!” when I’ve read about or watched those actions.
If you were walking down the street and some random person grabbed your purse then punched you in the face, then you pressed charges, would you be all right with your friends and neighbors and peers that telling you that they would be happy to let that person assault them? If that person were to face minimal repercussions, would it still be all right that strangers openly state that you were somehow asking for it? Of course not. But for some reason, domestic violence (and rape, for that matter) is simply not seen as the same sort of crime.
Yet, at the same time, people have insisted on Usher actually apologizing for criticizing Chris Brown. How does that make sense? What sort of world is this when somebody can be forced to apologize to a perpetrator for saying he shouldn’t have assaulted his girlfriend? What sort of world are we living in when a woman can actually report the crime and have photos taken of her face and have the assailant actually admit his crime, yet people will still insist she’s lying and somehow her story isn’t the whole one? It’s the same one in which 40% of teen girls ages 14 to 17 know somebody who has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend. What message are we sending them that if you openly admit that somebody has assaulted you, your actions will be criticized for years whereas anybody who criticizes his is somehow a “hater” that needs to calm down and move on?
So instead of asking, “WTF is Rihanna doing?” we should instead ask what the perpetrator, who chose all of this to occur from the second he punched his girlfriend, is doing by going anywhere near her. When we ask, “What is Rihanna teaching her young fans?” instead we can ask, “What are the VMAs and other awards shows or productions teaching its viewers by allowing him to be onstage?”
I am by no means trying to judge or condemn those who have questioned her behavior; as I said, I have also done that. I just want to help propel the conversation in a different direction. I fully acknowledge that this isn’t the most popular opinion, but I definitely still want to hear what the rest of you have to say on this sensitive issue.