Chris Brown is the poster child for intimate partner violence


(Image via EOnline)

Chris Brown was 19 years old that day in 2009 when the world learned of his beating Rihanna. That was part of the defense offered, free of charge, from his fans and others eager to not discuss intimate partner violence and abuse. He was a kid who made a mistake. He should be allowed to learn, grow, and move forward.

And Chris Brown tried to convince us that he had learned, grown, and was ready to move forward. Or, at least, that everyone else should learn, grow, and move on from talking about the abuse. He tried it in a bow tie on Larry King Live, months after the photos of Rihanna’s bruised face surfaced, and he tried it by throwing chairs and breaking windows after an appearance on Good Morning America two years later.

Then, it was no longer about him being only 19. Then, it was about why Chris Brown wasn’t being allowed to move forward when there are a number of well-known abusive men in the entertainment industry that go unbothered. Charlie Sheen, Sean Penn, Michael Fassbender — what was the difference? Why was Chris Brown, young black man, being vilified while these middle-aged white men worked in relative peace, without their past misdeeds haunting them? It was unfair to make Chris Brown the poster child for intimate partner violence.

These weak-ass defenses never did hold much weight, but even less so now. Because at 26 years old, Chris Brown is still being abusive — in front of cameras no less. Whether or not it is fair to turn him into a poster child for intimate partner violence is irrelevant — he’s doing it to himself.

According to TMZ, last night, Brown arrived at nightclub where ex-girlfriend Karrueche Tran was and got a table next to her. Upset, she left club. Brown followed. She got into her car. Brown got into the car as well, uninvited. After driving for a while, she made him get out and she went home. At 3:30 am, Brown showed up to her home, banging and yelling on her front door. She left home and went to diner. Brown showed up there, too. They argued. She went home.

You can watch the video of Brown following Tran outside of the club and into her vehicle, but know that it can be triggering. Tran, even with security, doesn’t look as if she feels safe, and Brown, though he never speaks, is physically intimidating her the entire way. And not a single person in a sea of dozens tries to stop him.

This is the most troubling part. Chris Brown is abusive. This is known. We have the pictures to prove it. But for six years, every excuse has been made for him, every weak justification for his behavior trotted out to explain away the abuse. Learn, grow, and move forward, we’ve been asked.

But how, when Chris Brown won’t do that himself? And when he doesn’t seem to want to. Or have to. With so many people still willing to look past the abuse in favor of his talent, what incentive does he have? An internal desire to be a better person? Good luck waiting on that to kick in.

And it isn’t just an obsession with celebrity lives and gossip that drives interest in Brown’s story. He’s emblematic of larger problem that plays out in non-rich, non-famous lives everyday. He’s the story of the cycle of abuse. He’s a textbook case of witnessing abuse growing up and enacting it later in life. His public relationships show how abusers operate and what the responses are from their partners. He is the poster child for intimate partner violence.

Knowing that, it’s incumbent upon the rest of us to learn from what he’s shown us, grow in our analysis, and move forward in our activism to make sure we don’t create any more Chris Browns. That’s what he’s wanted all along, right?

Mychal Denzel Smith is a Knobler Fellow at The Nation Institute and contributing writer for The Nation Magazine, as well as columnist for Feministing.com and Salon. As a freelance writer, social commentator, and mental health advocate his work has been seen online in outlets such as The New York Times, The Atlantic, Salon, Al Jazeera English, Gawker, The Guardian, Ebony.com, Huffington Post, The Root, and The Grio.

Mychal Denzel Smith is a Knobler Fellow at The Nation Institute and contributing writer for The Nation Magazine, as well as columnist for Feministing.com and Salon.

Read more about Mychal

Join the Conversation