Kids notice the way their parents treat each other. This early exposure influences how they'll subsequently treat their romantic partners later in life. Over time, they'll also pick up cues from what they see and hear on TV, in films and songs. Domestic violence doesn't just spring out of nowhere. When a pre-teen, teen or young adult beats up on his or her partner, that's a learned response. Knowing that pop culture has the ability to reverse and change attitudes, several organizations have sought to appeal to boys and men -- even putting the iconic James Bond in drag -- to encourage them to apply their strength to care for their girlfriends and partners.
Yet all these thoughtful efforts to end domestic violence are for naught if the powers that be celebrate men who beat on women. And that's what many are saying happened at Sunday night's Grammys when Chris Brown was featured prominently at an awards event he infamously missed three years earlier after abusing then-girlfriend pop vocalist Rihanna the night before.
In the Boston Globe, AP entertainment reporter Jake Coyle writes:
On Sunday evening, Twitter was abuzz with questions of Brown's significant role in the proceedings. Many critics argued against the Grammys' decision to celebrate Brown and endorse his comeback.
New Yorker music critic Sasha Frere-Jones called Brown's return "one of the Grammys' weirdest choices ever"....
In an op-ed, Valerie Strauss for The Washington Post said that while people deserve second chances, "That doesn't mean they deserve a chance to strut around the Grammy stage a few years after being convicted of felony assault."
Jeffrey Goldberg for The Atlantic tweeted: "I don't look for the Grammys for moral clarity, but, really? Do the words `felony assault' mean anything at all?"
Coyle also observed that tweets from Chris Brown fans exhibited questionable taste and made light of the domestic violence angle. One example: ""I don't know why Rihanna complained. Chris Brown could beat me anytime he wanted to."
It's disturbing to realize that what might have been a turning point in the conversation about partner abuse has become a sort of joke. Shortly after the Chris Brown/Rihanna story broke, in a commentary for Salon Tracy Clark-Flory described how during her evening train ride home, she'd overheard a teen couple arguing when the girl found photos of other women on her boyfriend's phone. When she protested, he smirked, "Don't go all Rihanna on me, now." And now, three years later as evinced by fan tweets, Rihanna still is seen as "complaining" and a person to blame.
For six years -- from age 7 through 13 -- Chris Brown grew up seeing his own mother's abuse at the hands of her domestic partner. Even though he vowed not to ever hit a woman, in a stressful situation that's what he did. Domestic violence is a learned response. It takes deliberate effort to unlearn the tendency to lash out physically or verbally with the intent to hurt.
With so many groups and organizations working hard to change the dynamic, the least that "the powers that be" could do would be to support their efforts and not glorify a man convicted of felony assault. Chris Brown may have made a musical comeback with his album F.A.M.E. (Forgiving All My Enemies), but he's still got far to go to earn the forgiveness of those who work with domestic victims and the men who hurt them. Celebrating him at an event associated with his abusive past sends a conflicting message to his fans and to women who've been victimized. It takes more than fame to make his wrongs right.
- Highlights of the Chris Brown/Rihanna Assault Case
- Dating Violence: Has It Happened to You? What Did You Do About It?
- James Bond in Drag? UK "Equals" Pro-Woman Short Film
- Partner Abuse Prevention Campaign "My Strength is Not for Hurting"
- Facts on Tween Dating Abuse & Violence
- 10 Facts on Teen Dating Violence