By now many of you have seen news of a group of high school students who chose to reenactment singer-dancer Chris Brown’s attack of mega-popstar Rihanna before they were to both attend the 2009 Grammy Awards. This blog is not really about these clowns. Enough will be written about them. I won’t even post a link to an article about it. You can find that yourself. The school will issue a statement, domestic violence advocates will denounce their actions, Black community leaders will demand an apology and all the students at this school will take sides, take to facebook, twitter and youtube to express their support or disgust. But based on the smiling faces in the picture above, some of that disgust would be fake to me.

It is never ok to poke fun at something like this. Domestic abuse disrupts lives. And it also kills. As for the blackface I will assume the students were too young to remember all the hoopla when Ted Danson did it and too stupid to really get how ridiculous they look and how insulting this still is.

Let’s talk about said abuse between Chris and Rihanna. The firestorm that ensued post his arrest and the leaking of pictures of a bruised Rihanna are forever etched in our minds. For months afterwards news of a reconciliation, the ramifications of it and whether Rihanna was a good role model were discussed, dissected and rehashed ad nauseum. Chris Brown was vilified. At the same time Rihanna was also slammed by the media and domestic abuse advocates for forgiving Chris Brown.

During that period I was reluctant to comment on any facebook and twitter posts about either one. But after the surfacing of this disgusting act by these high schools student, apparently sanctioned by school officials and the now alleged rekindling of their friendship/romance, I feel it was time for me to add my two cents however unnecessary it might be. First I want to say that amidst all of the blogs and articles written on their domestic issue one sane voice stood out to me and that is of activist and author Kevin Powell. Mr. Powell wrote an incredibly insightful open letter to Chris Brown in the aftermath of assaulting Rihanna and offered advice and his own personal counsel. Based on the comments I read a great deal of people disagreed and I could not understand why.

In 2010 Rihanna ended her ties with Chris Brown as she should at that time. While many women would have chosen to stay with their abuser Rihanna chose to end their relationship. This act alone spoke volumes. Men who abuse their spouses (and vice versa) rely on one simple thing even if it is not the thing they can actually articulate and that is that their partner ‘agrees’ with the behavior. Most women who have survived such abuse can recall a time when they would make excuses for their abuser. They kept trying to figure out ways not to anger him. They think they must be doing something wrong. And the list goes on. For the abuser all of those excuses work. But for women at some point in their recovery will tell you that forgiving the abuser is part of that recovery. They understand that the violence  is never about them but about some unresolved hurt that has manifested as anger and rage.

In 1993 I myself was involved with a man who turned out to be a violent abuser. At that age I did not know what the signs were. How many young women are taught the signs? How many mother have open conversations about this issue?

I took his checking up on me constantly as his way of showing he cared. In the short time we were together (five months) what I learned is that he was insecure, possessive and downright calculating. While he would publicly praise me to my friends he would constantly question my loyalty to him in private. He drove like a maniac and had what we dub as ‘road rage’. He quickly and swiftly pulled me away from friends and family demanding all of my time. When I look back at that young woman I sometimes can’t believe I came out of that at all. It would have been so much easier to swallow my pride and pretend. To hide. But a part of me would not allow it. One of many arguments ensued and on December 28th, a few days after Christmas, the final straw.

The argument itself is not important but in short he thought I was being disloyal when while having a discussion about dealing with workplace discrimination I did not “back him up”. Now you have to understand that the discussion he was having was with my godmother. This is a woman who I’ve known my whole life. A woman who helped raise me and who is a retired educator and businesswoman. The last thing I would do is take his side when she a mature, college education mother and professional was providing great advice.

He brought it up again and decided with pen and paper in hand to take notes as I reiterated to him why I left the room as their discussion became heated and I did not feel the need to defend him. At some point I walked out of the living room and turned my back to him. Within seconds he grabbed me by the hair and pummeled me several times and gave one swift blow to my ribs. With the air knocked out of me thoughts of what I should do next and questions of whether he was about to kill me flashed through my mind. I was no match at 5’8″ 127 pounds to his 6′ solid 200 pounds.

In typical fashion he was very apologetic. Nursing my wounds but I don’t recall him ever promising to never do it again. Even more typical he explained it away. All I wanted him was out of my apartment. I bit my tongue. I said very little. It was over as far as I was concerned. That was the first and LAST time he would put his hands on me. But he did not believe me. He did not believe me when I changed my locks (Yes this dummy gave him a set of keys.) He did not believe me when I went the other way when I saw him in the hallway at school. Ultimately he was able to remove his things from my apartment. But for months after our break up he kept up this act of being concerned about me, talking to my professors and friends about me. I can’t even imagine what was going through their minds. I got crank phone calls threatening me. I went to the police. Nothing. I resorted to informing campus security. Their typical answer. “WE can’t do anything.” I was advised we go to mediation court. That was apparently the best that could be done at that time.

After that he was not allowed to speak to me or my friends or colleagues. He was mandated to stay 100 yards away from me. Like most abusers he denied ever hitting me. But he also never bothered me again. He finally got the message.

Chris Brown unlike many abusers openly admitted his guilt. He also admitted to watching his own mother suffer at the hands of his father. But outside of this admittance one can conclude that any help Brown has sought since that time will have to be a long time commitment. I hope it is one that he is able to keep. And if he and Rihanna should rekindle a love affair I hope that Rihanna will take her time and make sure she is in a relationship with someone who is on his way to recovering from his violent past. If not I do not see any reason to pursue a romance.

I briefly joined a support group in the aftermath of my own abuse and learned that statistically 1% of all abusers ever work to change their behavior. It is my hope that Chris Brown is part of that 1%.

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