Chris Brown is not a monster, he's an abuser
On a Friday afternoon in January this year, I received a phone call telling me my ex boyfriend had pled guilty to domestic abuse charges. We were due to go to court that Monday morning after 15 months of waiting. He had assaulted and abused me for six years.
Well, I hit him too.
I didn’t realise how little I needed to hear Chris Brown’s version of events the night he attacked Rihanna, until I did this week. “We were fighting each other....she would hit me, I would hit her.” Chris Brown’s narrative sides with the very common misconception that deep love goes hand in hand with violence. It’s a common trope; the couple who need each other so desperately that they can’t express themselves rationally. "They’re just as bad as each other."
One of the worst things about domestic abuse is the waiting. You know the fight is coming. It can hang in the air for hours, starting off as your partner complaining about the hoovering or that you forgot to get something from Tesco. It builds into something bigger; you’re constantly forgetful, it’s like you don’t have a brain in your head. You aren’t tidy enough so your parents didn’t raise you properly. Not surprising...your biological father left you, after all.
Tiny nicks until the real fight happens and you’re on the floor being punched in the kidneys while he spits in your face. By this point, it’s 3am and you have to be up in three hours to go to work and lie to your colleagues about why you’re so tired, making sure you wear long sleeves so no one sees the bruises.
I was at college full time studying to be a journalist and working around 30 hours a week for a big chunk of my abusive relationship. The late nights were killing me, so I started lashing out first. After a while, you know which moans will fizzle out and which you’re in for the long haul. I would just get the ball rolling and hit him first. The violence would be over relatively quickly, and I could go to bed. Scheduling my own beatings was as much control as I could hope for.
My abusive relationship didn’t feel like something that was happening to me. It felt like something we were going through as a couple, a cycle we had to work through together. He would try not to lose his temper from now on. I would make sure I never made the same mistake twice, which is what caused arguments. The “mistakes” were usually my most basic personality traits and habits, ones he’d seen and known since the day he met me.
Chris Brown released a statement when that photo of Rihanna’s bruised and swollen face emerged online. “Words cannot begin to express how sorry and saddened I am over what transpired.” He saw it as a random event, out of his control like a delayed flight or forest fire. Abusers are not overcome with rage or memory loss; you should see how quickly they reset when the police knock at the door.
Since that night in the car in 2009, he’s broken a window in a dressing room when asked about the assault, pushed a woman in a nightclub which resulted in her undergoing surgery for torn knee ligaments and stalked his ex girlfriend, threatening to kill her (she now has a five year restraining order). He got a tattoo of a battered woman on his neck then claimed that’s not what it was, knowing full well how it would be perceived. He blamed the media aftermath surrounding his assault of Rihanna on their breakup. Even his refusal to applaud Frank Ocean at the Grammys the following year revealed him as a morally stunted asshat. He said he doesn’t recognise the guy who beat up Rihanna back then. All he has to do is look in the mirror; he still is that guy.
I’ve seen differing coverage of Brown’s recent statements, some fair and others overtly blaming Rihanna for the relationship “going downhill” when she discovered Brown was cheating on her. Our use of words like “monster”, which Brown referred to himself as, isn’t helpful. One in four women will experience domestic abuse in some form. The perpetrators aren’t monsters, they are regular men who you know, or even love. It’s sad but there it is. The fact that Brown has retained a successful career after beating up someone as high profile as Rihanna shows how embarrassed and reluctant people are to confront domestic abuse. History is written by the victors, and by continuing to give him a platform, we are allowing this abuser to write his.