Here’s what I want to say to everyone who is obsessed with Chris Brown and Rihanna, including Oprah, Dr. Phil, The New York Times, The Washington Post, TMZ, and the other 34 million Google hits on their names: Thank you! Shining a spotlight on abusive violence is good for everyone. Abuse is a crime. If you are being abused, you need help immediately — and you need to end the abusive relationship. Our society and criminal justice system need to hold abusers responsible for their actions, and stop further abuse.
However, anger at Chris Brown, and the backlash on those who defend him, masks a terrible truth that women and children who have loved abusers know all too well: that most abusers have already been punished, usually by enduring awful abuse during their childhoods, as Chris Brown says he did at the hands of his stepfather. I share the anger at abusers (male and female), but If we oversimplify the dynamics of domestic violence, neither victims nor abusers can ever get the help they need. To break the cycle of violence, our culture needs to understand more completely how intimate partner violence unfolds and repeats itself.
Batterers are criminals, but they are real people — not villains. We would never fall in love with them, or trust them with our love, in the first place if they were so obviously horrific. I’m not defending batterers — they need to come clean and take responsibility for their actions and their treatment, and you should never stay with an abusive man, no matter how much good you see in him, and how much you feel you love him. But it’s destructive for our society to paint a batterer in black and white terms. The hidden message perversely blames the victim: “How could she have fallen in love with such an awful man?” The truth is far more complex and dangerous.
It was so hard to recognize that I was being abused, and to leave my abusive partner, but I have gotten tremendous solace and support by joining the Million Voices campaign and by sharing my story in my book Crazy Love and a YouTube video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEsElsHrvC0
If you want to tell your story, please join The Crazy Love Project, a safe place for people to share stories of surviving abusive love (anonymously if you prefer).
I hope one day we hear Rihanna’s story. And Chris Brown’s. And yours.
Leslie Morgan Steiner