Angry faces. Yelling voices. Demands. Concessions. Tearful begging. Apologies. Right hook to chin. Falling down as blood spilled from my mouth and flooded my chin. Running for my car to lock myself inside. Inserting the key and churning dust as he stood in my way. I gunned the engine, desperate to escape as he glared at me. I sped toward him, swerving to avoid him as he jumped out of the way but landed final blows on my window as I fled toward a payphone to call for help.
Less than 10 minutes later, I sat in the back of a police cruiser, barely able to move my bloodied jaw as I told the officer my side of the story. Instead of feeling empowered for doing what I should have done –fled and called for help– I felt like the perpetrator. The officer asked what instigated the fight, if I had done or said anything to set him off. The officer sighed deeply and took my report. The state then prosecuted him for me, pressing charges on my behalf.
The abuse did not stop there, however. He came to my home with friends to vandalize my car in the middle of the night. Do you have any idea how frightening it is to see figures draped in black beating on your car in the middle of the night out in the deep dark country?
Three years ago, Chris Brown brutally attacked Rihanna as they rode through the night in his vehicle after an argument about a lengthy text message from a woman with whom he had previously had a sexual relationship. He nearly killed her as she attempted to defend herself with her body and various attempts to call for help with the cell phones in the vehicle. He turned himself in and did not fight the charges. Chris Brown accepted his sentence and is paying the court appointed penance for his actions that night three years ago. Rihanna has issued public statements in which she forgives him, wishing him well in his career and in life.
Yet as a society, we have ascribed a new celebrity role to Chris Brown. He is our new poster boy for men who abuse. Remember Mike Tyson? David Justice? Ike Turner? For awhile, the title belonged to them as well. Why do we do this? How long must he wear the label of “woman-beater” before we too, as Rihanna has, forgive his past sins? What will motivate us to do so? Anything? Why are we more forgiving of women who have harmed men?
Lisa Lopes burned Andre Rison’s mansion to the ground yet when she passed away, she was celebrated as a beloved member of society. Spin Magazine points out that Miranda Lambert directs Chris Brown, via Twitter, to listen to her song “Gunpowder and Lead” and be put back in his place. “Gunpowder and Lead” is a song about an abused woman who sits at home and awaits the return of her abusive partner with a loaded shotgun. Why do we hold men to a higher standard? Violence or abuse is never acceptable within the confines of a relationship, regardless of the gender of the source and yet as a society, we are more forgiving of women who perpetrate it than of men.
As we wait for him to “earn” our forgiveness, we must ask ourselves why he has to do so. By forgiving someone of their past transgressions, are we not removing the power of their actions from our lives? At this point, is there anything Chris Brown can do which will not be viewed as a pathetic publicity stunt to improve his image and sell records?
Then there are the women who tweeted on Sunday night during the Grammys about how they would “let him beat me allllll night long.”Should the Grammy’s or Chris Brown be held responsible for their tweets as this petition at Change.org implies? Or is it more of a reflection on our failure as a society to educate both men and women of the dangers in an abusive relationship? Have our desires for money and fame finally overridden our desire for a normal, ethical, and moral respect for self and others? When did we stop talking to our kids about the importance of self-respect in relationships? What will it take to gets us to initiate that discussion again? As a parent, if I discovered my son or daughter tweeted about letting someone beat them all night long simply because they were “rich and famous,” you better believe there would be a serious discussion in their immediate future.
Bottom line here: Where does Hollywood’s responsibility end and ours begin? Why did we let that line get so blurred? How can we fix it? How do we remove the inequality of gender-based blame and forgiveness from the equation?