Three years ago this week, I arrived in to my job presenting the breakfast show on i102-104 and set about my morning routine of getting up to date on what had gone on in the world overnight. It was pretty standard fare to start with, but then a photograph popped up and to be honest, I couldn’t believe my eyes. We’re all familiar with it at this point, but at the time I couldn’t believe it was real.
There was the beautiful Rihanna, battered and bruised, with a lump on her forehead and scratches and blood on her chin. Somehow, you could see the pain on her face, beaming through her closed eyes. I remember googling other photos of her to check that the tattooed roman numerals which were visible on her shoulder matched up to other, happier, images of her. As the details emerged I spoke about them on the show, with the weight of the responsibility of knowing that the person who was responsible for this damage was the hero of many of the young people I was speaking to on my shoulders. I wanted to make sure they understood that his behaviour was in no way acceptable. I wanted them to know that it was NEVER acceptable for a man to harm a woman in this way (or vice versa). As far as I was concerned, his career was over. It had to be, right? He couldn’t be allowed to be a role model.
When the police report surfaced, it made me lose my breath. It described how Rihanna’s boyfriend of a year and half, Chris Brown, had viciously assaulted her on a car journey home from a pre-grammys party over a text message from an ex of his. Here are a couple of excerpts:
“Robyn F turned to face Brown and punched her in the left eye with right hand. He then drove away in the vehicle and continued to punch her in the face with his right hand while steering the vehicle with his left hand. The assault caused Robyn F Osmouth to fill with blood and blood to splatter all over her clothing and the interior of the vehicle. Brown looked at Robyn F and stated “I am going to beat the s–t out of you when we get home! You wait and see!?”
“Brown held Robyn F close to him and bit her on her left ear. She was able to feel the vehicle swerving from right to left as Brown sped away. He stopped the vehicle in front of [address] and Robyn F turned off the car removed the key from inignition and sat on it. Brown did not know what she did with the key and began punching her in the face and arms. Brown began applying pressure to Robyn F left and right carotid arteries causing her to be unable to breathe.”
There’s more, a lot more. You can read the full report here, and I think everyone should refresh their memories. This was not a single loss of temper, or flash of anger, it was an assault that lasted long enough for her to leave a voicemail for one assistant and attempt to get in touch with another. He punched her repeatedly, he bit her more than once, and he threatened to kill her. The fact that she has been able to bounce back in the way she appears to have is incredible, but I suppose none of us really know what goes on behind closed doors or what she feels about the whole thing at this point.
As for Chris Brown, he released this heavily scripted video 5 months after the incident in which he said he “accepted full responsibility” for the incident.
I’m not sure I bought it. In subsequent interviews Chris Brown seemed agitated by questions about the incident, he seemed like he felt everyone should be over it. According to reports, he was so agitated by the questions in this interview that afterwards he tore off his t-shirt, stormed out of the studio, and broke a window in his dressing room:
That didn’t seem like accepting responsibility to me. If he had accepted responsibility and fully acknowledged what he did and the consequences of his actions he wouldn’t have been in any way surprised that people wanted to talk about the incident two years on. As far as I was concerned, people would be talking to him about this long into the future, as they should be. The man was a role model, adored by young men and women all around the world, and he really messed that up.
But…it would appear that in some places, all is forgiven. Last night, Chris Brown performed at the Grammys, the biggest night in music, and went on to win one of the awards for “Best R&B Album”. I have a problem with this. A big problem with this. And this is why:
Those are just a few, there are loads more, loads of young women who think that having someone beat you up is an acceptable price to pay for having a famous and attractive boyfriend. By glorifying him, society is sending a message to those young women that what he did really wasn’t all that bad. Society is sending a message to young men that it really isn’t the worst if you lose your temper and hit your girlfriend. People will get over it.
I’m not over it. I don’t think I ever will be.