J. Soltys's Weblog

February 18, 2009

Careful In Our Judgments of the Chris Brown and Rihanna Episode

men-and-women-symbolsAs I’ve watched the Chris Brown/Rihanna saga unfold, I’ve kept my sympathy and anger in check. Why? Because my experience in dealing with gender issues, sexual politics, and domestic violence topics has taught me that what we believe/assume, and what is real/truth are consistently at odds with one another.

Feminist have done a great job convincing society that domestic violence is a problem that victimizes loving, caring, vulnerable women. Their spouses are the evil, controlling, misogynist partners, whose macho ideals manifest into violence against women. But sadly this is not the case. Feminist and women right’s supporters have been incredibly effective over the past decades creating more mythology than truth about domestic violence and the behaviors of  women and men. Why? Because the truth shatters their benevolent aura they espouse about women and femininity.

Recent research has shown that not only can women be victims of domestic violence, but that they are also more likely to instigate the violence first – the perpetrators. Studies on domestic violence in recent years reported by The Center For Disease and Control Prevention, the American Public Health Associationthe American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the University of New Hampshire, and others are changing our preconceived notions concerning domestic violence. The studies mentioned have concluded that women are just as likely, if not more likely, to instigate a physical confrontation in a relationship as compared to men.  

However, this is really not news – it’s just the first time we are hearing about it.

Feminist and women’s rights supporters have known for a while that many studies have concluded that women are just as likely to instigate violence in a relationship (Martin S. Fiebert from the Department of Psychology at California State University has compiled a list confirming this) .
However, over the years, feminist have successfully dismissed these acts of violence as “self defense”. In other words, it was the victims fault: the very societal cruelty feminist have tried to eradicate, that is, “blaming the victim”. Feminist studies advocates blaming the victim is wrong, as long as the victim is female. But if the victim is male, and the perpetrator female, then this disturbing societal ill is readily acceptable.

Here is evidence of this irony. I found this on a women’s website about domestic violence. It explains one of the warning signs of an abuser – blaming the victim:

  • Denial and blame — Abusers are very good at making excuses for the inexcusable. They will blame their abusive and violent behavior on a bad childhood, a bad day, and even on the victims of their abuse. Your abuser may minimize the abuse or deny that it occurred. He/she will commonly shift the responsibility onto you: Somehow, his/her violence and abuse is your fault.
  • It appears feminist excuses for female domestic violence are at odds with their own beliefs, essentially establishing they may be potential abusers themselves.

    But what separates some of the recent studies from the older studies is that the more recent research includes methods for distinguishing  between reciprocal and nonreciprocal violence in the analysis. And when this is done, the results are surprising – women initiate violence more than we once believed. For example, the CDC study concluded:

    In fact, 71 percent of the instigators in nonreciprocal partner violence were women.This finding surprised Whitaker and his colleagues, they admitted in their study report.

     And it should be noted: when a man retaliates against a woman’s violence, she is more likely to receive the more serious injuries.

    Women receive significantly more serious injuries than do men (Dasgupta, 2001). Archer (2000) found that more than 60% of those who suffered an injury from an act of partner violence were women. Using data from the National Survey of Families and Households, Zlotnick, Kohn, Peterson, and Pearlstein (1998) found that 73% of those individuals reporting injuries from domestic violence were female. Even when the partner violence is mutual, women sustain higher levels of injury.

    In other words, the severity of injuries one receives can never be used as an instrument to determine who initiated the violence, as some feminist and women’s rights groups would like you to believe.

    So why do I bring this up? I’ve learned not to make quick, easy assumptions when hearing about domestic violence cases.

    Here is what is being reported at this point about the Chris Brown/Rihanna case:

    — It was first reported that Chris Brown became enraged in jealousy due to Rihanna’s potential interest in another man. Now it has been reported it was actually Rihanna who became enraged over a text message Brown received from another woman. Ironically,  just days before this violent episode, OK magazine reported a source close to Rihanna as stating she is a “clingy” girlfriend. The magazine reports:

    The Barbados-born beauty is a clingy girlfriend who can’t bear to let boyfriend Chris Brown out of her sight. 
    “She has to have Chris around her 24/7,” a source close to Rihanna, 20, tells OK!. “If Chris is with her on a photo shoot and steps away for a second, she starts saying, ‘Where did he go?’”
    “If Chris isn’t with her, she wants to call and check in every second. She’s crazy about him.”

    Many advocates for prevention of domestic violence offer tips to help individuals spot the warning signs of a potential abuser. Here are the some of the behaviors to watch for:

    • act excessively jealous and possessive?
    • control where you go or what you do?
    • keep you from seeing your friends or family?
    • limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?
    • constantly check up on you?

     Whether or not the OK magazine source is accurate about Rihanna’s behavior, it validates my point about our skewed assumptions concerning men, women, and relationship violence. If it was reported that Chris Brown displayed the same behaviors as Rihanna, he would immediately be judged a typical abuser. However, as we see from the OK magazine article, Rihanna is accused of just being “crazy” about him. In other words, when possessive, controlling behavior is attached to a man, that behavior is judged as a threat. But when that same behavior is found in  a woman, the behavior is judged as “beautiful, feminine love”.

    — It was reported Rihanna suffered “horrific” injuries. But factual reports state that Rihanna refused medical treatment at the scene, and agreed to a medical exam at a local hospital only at the urging of the authorities and friends. 

    — The latest unsubstantiated reports are claiming that the bite marks on Rihanna hands and arms may not have been caused by her defending herself from Chris Brown, but rather the other way around. Fox News is starting to speculate by way of information received from sources close to the investigation that Rihanna became enraged about the text message and began striking Brown in the face while he was driving. In return, Brown used his mouth to clamp down on her arm until he was able to wrestle the car to the side of the road in an effort to avoid a crash. At that point Rihanna took the keys out of the ignition, exited the vehicle, and further enraged Brown by throwing the keys off onto the side of the darkened road. When Brown couldn’t find the keys, he attacked Rihanna. 

    — To this date, Chris Brown has not been charged with any serious domestic violence charges. While he may eventually face these additional charges in the future, some speculate the reason why he hasn’t already, or may not at all, is because he was not the one who initiated the violence. 

    Now I know that this is all speculation, and it still would not excuse Chris Brown for his violence upon Rihanna, but I shudder to think that Rihanna may be playing the victim to avoid accountability for her violence if in fact she did strike first.

    The assumptions made above are not out of reach. To prove how valid this speculation may be, one need only go back and glance at the headlines from July of 2002. At that time, race car driver Al Unser Jr. was driving home from a strip club with his girlfriend Jena L.Soto. Soto claims Unser was intoxicated so she offered to drive them home. As she was driving, Unser began reaching over and shifting the gears on the car. Soto admitted to police she became enraged when he didn’t respond to her repeated request to stop his behavior. She then lashed out and began striking him while she was driving. Unser then hit her back. Soto pulled over to the side of the road and got out of the vehicle. Unser then entered the driver seat and drove away leaving Soto on the side of the road. Soto called the police and Unser was later arrested for domestic battery and other domestic violence charges. Even though both Soto’s and Unser’s stories corroborated that she hit him first, Soto was never charged with any domestic violence crime, only Unser was.

    Does this sound fair and equal to you, or do you think gender stereotypes and feminist misinformation played a role?

    Here is another example how differently we dismiss female-on-male violence. I found this video of an Indian game show host who becomes enraged at a male contestant after he mouth’s off to her. She then lashes out at him with vulgarities, and then concludes her tirade by physically assaulting him. He responds by hitting her back. At that point the male crew members on the set rush in to protect her by beating/subduing him. The crew ignores her initial violence, and is instead coddled and nurtured as the victim in the incident. 

    It is disturbing to me that her irresponsible behavior and violent instigation of the attack was completely ignored.  And it is still more disturbing that she still has her job as a game show host. Imagine if a male game show host physically assault a female contestant during the taping of a show. The incident would make international headlines, seen by millions on the internet and television. He would immediately lose his job, suffer emotional and financial consequences for his actions, and become the poster boy for male violence towards women.
    But when the instigater is a woman, and the victim male, she is still labeled the “victim”, and suffers no consequences for her violent behavior.
    And it should be of pertinent interest that I found this clip while searching a website for “funny” videos – another indication of how discriminatory we are towards female violence.

    It is in my opinion, progress to diminish violence between the genders will continue to stall, or fail, until female violence is found to be as harmful and as dangerous as men’s, and the consequences equal.

    So let’s withhold our judgments of Chris Brown and Rihanna until we know more facts about what happened. If current research is correct, it may turn out both of them need serious help in addressing their emotional insecurities and their violent reactions to them. That would be in the best interest for both men, women, and the prevention of relationship violence.

     

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    5 Comments »

    1. I don’t really agree that much with this post but I do see where you are coming from.
      People are saying Rihanna deserved it for her behavior which is never the case. Even though I am pretty feministic myself, I think that a woman displaying those possessive, jealous, and physically abusive behaviors are just as extreme as men. I don’t expect a man to take that from a woman but I also don’t expect a man who is 10 times stronger than a woman to hit her full force breaking her face when he leaves unbruised after she hits or slaps him.

      It is all between the couple though, no one was there to witness what happened so no body but them knows what actually went down.
      In this case, though, it could be said that Rihanna is using her femininity and celebrity as a means to charge Chris Brown and portray herself as the victim which will later give her more followers, publicity, and destroy Chris Brown’s career. It’s easy for her to do this also because she is the one left with the broken face and bruises while Chris has nothing but his word that she hit him first.

      I think female on male violence is dismissed because society looks at men as aggressive and untouchable and dominating and women as the vulnerable weaker sex. It is also dismissed when the female is left broken and men unscathed and in perfect health. If females see themselves as so vulnerable and weak they shouldn’t put themselves in ridiculous situations that cause men to go temporarily insane.
      I don’t like how women are protected and put out there as vulnerable “oh so feminine and loving creatures” when sometimes they put themselves into these situations with men (knowing their aggression levels are higher) not expecting consequences. It’s not right to expect a man to take all the abuse, possessiveness and all that silently; it’s only human instinct to protect oneself if one feels threatened by another; male or female.

      Comment by 8traq — February 18, 2009 @ 5:53 pm | Reply

    2. Some of these examples are horrible especially the soto and unser story. If she was shoving him away from her gears, that would not be domestic violence. He could have killed them both. If I see my child in the street and a car is coming, I may run and abruptly grab my child. That would not be child abuse. If I see something about to fall on my wifes head that may kill her and as a result, I tackle her to get her out of harms way, that would not be domestic violence. I think some of you are grasping for straws to show that men are as abused as women. I grew up watching my mom get beaten to the floor. I want to hear some concrete examples of men being beaten, choked, and walking around with black eyes. I am sure they exist but show me the stories. My father always said that my mom instigated his behavior. Most abusers tend to blame the victim. The instigator crap is bullshit. Interesting that many adults use that excuse at home but won’t practice that behavior in public.

      Comment by Terry — December 14, 2009 @ 6:20 am | Reply

    3. My own brother, who is passive and non aggressive was abused and beaten badly by his girlfriend – she bit the end of his nose off. So I understand fully and from personal experience that women can be the purpetrators of violence against men. But this blog post is desperately trying to prove that women are at fault and the instigators of violence by being angry, jealous, possessive and even aggressive. So the scene is she gets angry and spiteful, starts a fight and he beats her face in with his fists – so it’s her fault! I’m sorry but this sounds like it’s written by an abuser who is trying to justify his own violent behaviour towards women. I may be wrong but that’s what it looks like.

      Men and women in relationships will get angry and jealous and they will shout at each other but the moment one of them steps over the line into overwhelming the other with physical violence that leaves the person with physical injuries, it makes no difference who started it, who shouted first. This is absusive violent behaviour and there is NO excuse for it.

      Sadly in the vast majority of cases the people who cause injury in domestic situations are men.

      In my experience and from research, it also appears that the perpetrators of emotional and psychological abuse are also mainly men. Women are violent and abusive but not on the same scale as men and they can’t be as threatening as men with their fists.

      Take my brother, for example. His girlfriend was extremely violent, threatening and nasty for most of their relationship. But he was never scared because he knew that no matter what she did to him, he could overpower her. He just chose not to because he isn’t a violent person.

      His situation was bad but not as bad as a woman who is kept prisoner by the threat of violence and who ends up in hospital with regular injuries and is told that if she leaves she will be killed.

      Comment by Sue — April 12, 2011 @ 2:23 am | Reply

      • If you are so knowledgeable about domestic violence and the research that is available, why do you choose to ignore some of the most recent research?

        From Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
        Regarding perpetration of violence, more women than men (25 percent versus 11 percent) were responsible. In fact, 71 percent of the instigators in nonreciprocal partner violence were women. This finding surprised Whitaker and his colleagues, they admitted in their study report.
        As for physical injury due to intimate partner violence, it was more likely to occur when the violence was reciprocal than nonreciprocal. And while injury was more likely when violence was perpetrated by men, in relationships with reciprocal violence it was the men who were injured more often (25 percent of the time) than were women (20 percent of the time). “This is important as violence perpetrated by women is often seen as not serious,” Whitaker and his group stressed.
        Of the study’s numerous findings, Whitaker said, “I think the most important is that a great deal of interpersonal violence is reciprocally perpetrated and that when it is reciprocally perpetrated, it is much more likely to result in injury than when perpetrated by only one partner.”
        From Kansas State University:
        Kansas State University’s expert on intimate partner violence Sandra Stith. Stith, a professor of family studies and human services, said most research has looked at men as offenders and women as victims.
        “In the research on college students in particular, we’re finding both men and women can be perpetrators,” she said. “In our growing-up years, we teach boys not hit their sister, but we don’t teach girls not to hit their brother.”
        She and a K-State research team are looking at the impact that being a victim of violence has on male versus female college students in heterosexual relationships.
        “Most research shows female victims having higher levels of depression, anxiety and school problems than nonvictims,” Stith said. “Our research indicates that both male and female college students are being victims of violence, and we want to see how it affects both.”
        In 2008, Stith and her former student at Virginia Tech, Colleen Baker, published research in the Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma that found the biggest predictor of whether male and female college students would use violence against a partner was whether the partner was violent toward them.
        “It’s a dramatically more important factor than anything else,” Stith said. “If your girlfriend hits you, that dramatically increases the likelihood that you’re going to hit her, and vice versa.”

        From the American Public Health Association’s 135th Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.:

        The study, which looked at data from the 2005 National Youth Risk Behavior Study, also found that contrary to common general perception, males and females equally report being victims of PDV. The researchers found that in their study population of 6,951 male and 6,807 female students in grades 9 through 12, 9 percent of boys and 9.2 percent of girls responded yes to the question “during the past 12 months, did your boyfriend or girlfriend ever hit, slap, or physically hurt you on purpose.”

        Boston University

        Research on high school dating violence. Proportionately more girls than boys (27 percent versus 10 percent) reported they’d abused dating partners.

        University of New Hampshire

        A recent 32-nation study by the University of New Hampshire found women are as violent and as controlling as men in dating relationships worldwide, in both rich and poor nations.

        You make the ignorant claim that, “Sadly in the vast majority of cases the people who cause injury in domestic situations are men.” The truth is, injury has no bearing on who the abuser is. When a woman instigates violence against a man (as the research shows she is most likely to do as well) she is more likely to suffer the most serious injuries – if he retaliates – but SHE, not him, is the still the ABUSER. You are manipulating the facts to justify your hatred of men.
        Here is more proof that your thinking is based more in bigotry than fact:

        Annals of Emergency Medicine: Domestic Violence in an Inner-City ED:

        A study to determine hospital visits by women caused by domestic violence determined: women experience more past and present nonphysical violence but not physical violence than men.
        Conclusion: Men experience more injuries than women.

        And this myth is still being perpetuated: “Domestic violence is the number one reason women go to the emergency room.” The Centers for Disease Control has even released a specific memo informing domestic violence groups that this is not true. The original fact came from a very small study that concluded that domestic violence may be a common reason for emergency room visits, but in fact chest pain and abdominal pain are the two most common reasons for emergency medical care.

        So why does society believe that women are more often the victims? Because of sexism and ignorance towards men and their needs.

        From the Violence Against Women Act
        “The survey found that female victims of intimate partner violence were significantly more likely than their male counterparts to obtain a protective or restraining order against their assailant. Specifically, 17.1 percent of the women but only 3.5 percent of the men who were physically assaulted by an intimate obtained a restraining order against their assailant after their most recent victimization.” (National Violence Against Women Survey)
        This study and many others have found males are less likely to report themselves as victims, seek help for their injuries, as well as utilize legal means to protect themselves, which leaves the false impression that men are rarely victims and rarely suffer at the hands of women.

        Your contempt and hypocrisy for male domestic violence victims is even more disturbing in your own words:
        Take my brother, for example. His girlfriend was extremely violent, threatening and nasty for most of their relationship. But he was never scared because he knew that no matter what she did to him, he could overpower her. He just chose not to because he isn’t a violent person.
        His situation was bad but not as bad as a woman who is kept prisoner by the threat of violence and who ends up in hospital with regular injuries and is told that if she leaves she will be killed.

        What a contradiction from your statement in the previous paragraph:

        Men and women in relationships will get angry and jealous and they will shout at each other but the moment one of them steps over the line into overwhelming the other with physical violence that leaves the person with physical injuries, it makes no difference who started it, who shouted first. This is absusive violent behaviour and there is NO excuse for it.

        What is your point? You claim any violence is wrong in a relationship, but then claim your brother’s extremely violent girlfriend and her violence towards him is OK? You effectively EXCUSED her behavior! You claim your brother is a non-violent person, yet he is attracted to a violent woman, and he ACCEPTS her violence and having to use forms of violence to “control her”? What is your concept and meaning of violence? Nothing you are claiming is making sense. Violence is an unwarranted, unwanted, and unjustifiable action. The law does not ask how you “feel” about someones actions. The law states your brother’s girlfriend committed a criminal act regardless about how he “feels” about it. If you really believe that a criminal act should be based effectively upon how one feels, then you must also believe that if an adult male has sex with an under aged girl, and she doesn’t “feel” violated afterwards, then no crime was committed. I’m sure you don’t believe that, but I feel your hate and contempt for men is causing you to contradict yourself – that’s what hatred and ignorance does.

        To take it one step further; did your brother report his girlfriend to the police? Did he have her arrested? No, because men/your brother are conditioned not look weak, scared, or intimidated by a woman’s violence, even though they maybe. Your brother’s story is exactly what research on male domestic violence victims conclude. And that is why they rarely report it, and consequently, why they are ignored. But it begs the question, with all your “knowledge and experience” you KNEW her actions were criminal domestic violence, so did you call the police for him? Did you make sure she got arrested? Did you take him to a shelter to get help? Did you encourage him to leave? Did you help him get a restraining order against her? Most of all, with all your “knowledge, experience, and research” did you explain to him he was a victim of domestic violence and that most victims are reluctant to admit it and leave the abuser – whether male or female – and let him know that her violence will only get worse, and that research shows that at some point she will most likely use a weapon on him to even out the physical disparity you mentioned?

        I’ll bet you didn’t do any of that, yet you claim you are concerned about domestic violence victims. At least admit the truth: you are only concerned about FEMALE victims of domestic violence. If your brother was a female family member or friend you wouldn’t have hesitated to do the things mentioned above. But since he is your brother – a male – you felt no need to do so. Instead you resort to laying the groundwork to blame your brother should he become a statistic of domestic violence. After all, you claim he can “control her” which by default says that if he can’t – and she seriously hurts him/ kills him – it’s his fault because he failed to “control her”. You have effectively removed her from any responsibility for her violent behavior and put it squarely on the back of your brother – making him carry the burden of responsibility for her violence. How caring and compassionate.

        So please do not write to me and make these accusations; “sorry but this sounds like it’s written by an abuser who is trying to justify his own violent behaviour towards women”. But since you did, it is only fair that I can now make some assumptions about you;
        — You’re quick to excuse violent behavior by women but not men, even though you claim any violence between the genders is wrong
        — Your own brother was a victim of domestic violence and you went along with it and willfully excused her violence towards your brother while at the same time laying the responsibility for her violence on him – effectively re-victimizing male victims (blaming the victim)
        — You are completely ignore the facts concerning domestic violence if they do not match your personal beliefs (sexist belief: men are bad, women are good), so you feel eager to perpetuate false claims that MEN that are the real problem, and rarely do they suffer from relationship violence, which contradicts a vast amount of research
        — And even though you’ve experienced a close male relative who was the victim of female-on-male domestic violence, you still are not willing to allow me or others to give these male victims any voice, or allow us raise awareness to the unique challenges they face without you feeling the need to respond with ignorance, gender bigotry, and vile personal attacks.

        To take a page from your book: I’m not saying it’s true, but it sure sounds like you have more serious issues than I do.

        Comment by J. Soltys — April 12, 2011 @ 11:58 am | Reply

    4. Chris brown is really one of the best singers that i have ever known. ^

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      Comment by Derick Mozee — December 2, 2012 @ 9:38 pm | Reply


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