The other day I had a conversation with a male friend about ChRihanna. He knew me years ago when I myself was in a violent relationship. He knows about my current work in the community and with organizations such as Safe Horizon that help to eliminate the myths around abuse and help victims of violence move towards healing and recovery. We discussed what we had heard about the incident between Rihanna & Chris. During our conversation I took the position that Chris needs to be held accountable for his actions and that no matter what Rihanna said or did, she did not deserve nor make Chris beat her. His response was “Well, he’s a kid…they’re both young and as they grow up they’ll more than likely move grow out of this behavior.”
My response to him was pointed. “Immaturity is not an excuse for violent behavior. If that were the case, everyone would be batterers at one point in their life.”
Contrary to popular misconception, abusive behavior is not a behavior that you grow out of. Domestic violence has its roots in a paradigm of thinking that is characterized by fear and control. As much as some would like to believe this to be true, batterers do not age out of their behaviors. Batterers typically just become more adept at hiding and or justifying their abusive behavior.
His next statement really brought into focus how misinformed many people are about domestic violence. “Well, he’s been a victim of violence himself. He witnessed abuse as a child. He’s a victim too.”
I paused and took three breaths before speaking.
“That may be a reason why he is who he is, but it doesn’t excuse his behavior.”
A “feel sorry for me” story about his childhood is simply a way to distract from the abuser’s current behavior and place the blame for his actions on another person. The problem isn’t the abuser’s childhood-it’s how he thinks. Everyone suffers…that is a fundamental truism of life. Everyone has been hurt and many have been abused. Yet not everyone reacts to frustration and anger by using their fists. I am pleased to say that by the end of our conversation, my friend had shifted his position on the issue and acknowledged that there was no excuse for what Chris did to Rihanna. I applaud him for his willingness to change his position based upon a logical argument, and not stand by his prior one simply because of ego or social conditioning.
I hope that Chris continues to seek the support and counseling needed to really reflect upon his abusive behavior and the impact that it has had not just on the woman he loved, but to all the young men and women who look up to him. Abusive men deserve compassion and forgiveness just like anyone else. But they must also be held accountable for their actions and not be given passes because of age or personal history. It is my hope that Chris continues to seek help and really take some time to reflect upon not just his actions in the car with Rihanna that night, but his relationship to women overall. Violence against women will not end until we as a collective stop rationalizing abusive behavior and adopt a zero tolerance attitude towards violence. Let’s call it what it is: a crime against women that annihilates the soul and destroys the family.
Sil Lai Abrams is the author of No More Drama: Nine Simple Steps to Transforming a Breakdown Into a Breakthrough and Men’s Fitness magazine’s relationship expert. She is a domestic violence awareness & prevention advocate who actively works with Safe Horizon to combat violence against women and children. You can learn more about Sil Lai and her work by visiting www.sepiaprocess.com. She was also recently featured on Good Morning America talking about domestic violence in response to the Chris Brown/Rihanna incident.