Thursday, August 6, 2009

Chris Brown Updates

We're a little late to the game on this one - Summer is a very busy time at WRC - but there has been a lot of recent Chris Brown news. We don't normally zero in on celebrities like this, but following the Brown case start to finish can really provide some insight into what abusive relationships looks like.

First off, after accepting a plea deal for no jail time, Brown was spotted at a party wearing a $300,000 custom-made diamond necklace reading "Oops". In light of that, his video apology rings kind of hollow. We're not the only ones who think so.

The obvious flaw in his apology is that you can't tell what he's apologizing for. He simply calls his brutal assault on Rihanna "the situation" or "what I've done". Anna at Jezebel provides a critique:

Brown says he's sorry about "those few moments," about "what I've done," about "the situation," about "what happened," and about "my mistake." Only once does he actually use the term "domestic violence," and this when he is mentioning the domestic violence that he witnessed growing up. Whether or not his apology is simply a calculated "ploy to encourage parents to let their children buy his records again," as puts it, someone in Brown's camp clearly knows that if he said, "I'm sorry that I beat Rihanna," the apology would go down a lot less smoothly.

By going the vague route, Brown allows fans to forget the visceral reality of what he did — assaulting Rihanna until her face was swollen and bruised — and instead focus on all the nice things he says about his mother, his "spiritual advisors," and his commitment to change. By saying he's sorry he didn't "handle the situation better," he casts the beating as a response to a bad "situation" — and instance of poor conflict resolution, not of flying off the handle. And by implying there was something that needed to be "handled" in some way, this statement subtly implicates Rihanna too.
It seems that Oprah didn't buy it either. As promised in his apology video, Brown wanted to immediately begin doing interviews once his sentencing hearing was over. He wanted Oprah, but Oprah turned him down, so he turned to Larry King instead. His handlers believe that King will allow Chris the opportunity to get his apology across without facing “brutal questioning”.

But what does all this mean? Will Chris Brown stop being a batterer? Will his fans accept his apology and move on? No one knows, by Jaclyn Friedman at Huffington Post summarizes the implications of the sentencing, and of batterers intervention in general, nicely.

But what really may make the difference for Brown is a factor most programs sorely lack -- accountability. While all eyes will be on Brown as he completes his sentence, that's hardly the case for most abusers. In fact, few jurisdictions in the country have systems in place to enforce their own sentences when it comes to batterer intervention programs, resulting in a national noncompletion rate of about 50%. Given that abusers who fail to complete their court-mandated programs are more than twice as likely to reoffend than those who do, that's a gap which urgently needs addressing.

Go read Jaclyn's whole article. It makes some recommendations I'm sure that our friends at Men Stopping Violence would agree with.

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