Warning: This post contains discussions of  physical assault/domestic abuse. Stay safe and skip this post if you need to.

By now Chris Brown’s appearance at The Grammy Awards last Sunday is lukewarm news. Before the issue cools off entirely I’m going to throw my hat into the ring of opinions.

Chris Brown beat up his girlfriend. That makes me ill. This man used his fists to hit a woman he purported to love, a fact which literally nauseates me and gives me a headache to boot.

The powers that be at The Grammys and the music industry in general don’t seem to have the same feeling of revulsion in the face of physical abuse. Apparently putting your girlfriend in the hospital is no big deal.  They have kept Brown away from The Big Music Awards for three whole years and that’s been a tough row for Team Grammy to hoe.  To quote Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich

It may have taken us a while to kind of get over the fact that we were the victim of what happened.

It may take me awhile to get over the fact that Ken Ehrlich has the fucking gall to co-opt the term “victim” for his own self-serving media soundbites.

Every time I read that quote or something similiar wherein an industry insider tries to dismiss domestic abuse as a random incident that just happened to Chris Brown I am once again made bilious with anger and bewilderment!

Oh, Grammys! Oh, music industry! One of your sexy money making machines violently assaulted a woman. The past couple of years must have been so hard, what with all the pressure of kind of sort of pretending that beating the shit out of someone is kind of sort of wrong. You poor babies!  Wait…not that. This:

Go fuck yourselves, you misogynistic apologists!

Which brings me back to Brown. Last week in the immediate aftermath of the Grammys (which I did not watch)my social media networks were abuzz with discussions about the rightness or wrongness of how it all went down.  Some, like me were incensed. Others were more forgiving.  As I blast-bombed vitrol across Twitter and Facebook, more than one person made the point that Brown has been charged, sentenced and has served his time.  He’s also had some therapy. And if what I’ve read in the media is accurate, he has said some apologetic things during various interviews and online.

There’s a time to forgive, to be compassionate. People can change, I was reminded.

Last week I was in no mood for forgiveness or compassion. I cannot abide relationship violence. I am deeply disturbed by the revisionist narrative that has cast Chris Brown as the reformed prodigal son. I don’t like it. I don’t like him. And until today, my compassion has eluded me.

I found it again when I asked myself, what if Chris Brown were my son?

My son is a little boy.  A little boy who trusts his father and I to take care of him. A little boy who needs a safe, stable environment to thrive. A little boy who loves me and loves his father beyond reason. A little boy who’s soul would be devastated if we didn’t love him back.

Last week I read that when Chris Brown was a little boy he was terrified by a man who beat his mother. He was so frightened he wouldn’t come out of his room. He witnessed his mother’s abuse for years. She couldn’t stop it. He couldn’t stop it. He simply had to watch helplessly as the woman that he loved beyond reason was hurt over and over and over.

I think about what that would do to a little boy. I think about what it would do to my little boy to be alone in a dark room, listening to the sounds of my screams. It doesn’t make me ill. It makes me weep.

It makes me see Chris Brown not as an evil monster, but as someone who’s been damaged by horrifying circumstances that were beyond his control. The mere thought of his childhood breaks my heart.  A frightened child who wasn’t given a chance, has grown into an angry, damaged man.

And there’s the compassion.

But sick stomach anger is still there. I agree with those that say people can change, that damage can be healed. But not this way.

Chris Brown has a right to be angry. But that anger does not excuse what happened. In fact, it makes his assault all the more troubling. This is not an otherwise docile man pushed to extreme violence under extenuating circumstances. This is history repeating. There’s a lot of compelling research that show that when children experience or are exposed to abuse, it adversely affects the way their brains develop.

I’m not a doctor, nor I am a psychologist, but common sense tells me that Chris Brown is many shades of fucked up. And I hope my friend is right. I hope he can change. I hope he can heal. It sounds like the guy’s had enough misery for a few lifetimes.

But you don’t fix the Chris Brown kind of broke with a few hours of mandatory therapy and some community service. The multi-million dollar record deals won’t make it better. Grammy-love won’t quell his rage. Dismissing his crime as an unfortunate, but isolated incident won’t help him.

Or his next partner.

Or…god-forbid…his children.

What if Chris Brown were my son? I wouldn’t want his wounds plastered over by the empty ministrations of distant fans and industry insiders using him to make a dollar.  I wouldn’t want empty apologies meant to appease critics.

I wouldn’t want people to hate him.

If Chris Brown were my son, I would want him to get help. Real help. I don’t know Chris Brown, but his behaviour still seems to be steeped in arrogance, anger and defensiveness. I feel reasonably confident that this man is anything but healed. He is NOT okay.  And no one around him seems to give a shit.

Chris Brown beat up his girlfriend. He used his fists to punch a woman in the face. And despite what Team Grammy and the Brown Boosters might have us believe it’s not over. Chris Brown is NOT okay.  And while I’ve finally found some compassion for him, my most fervent prayers are for the next woman who inadvertantly prods his angry wounded soul.


  1. Jes Lacasse says:

    Thank you for once again being able to write the words that, when I try to write them, just come out as thoughtless spew.

    • nadinethornhill says:

      For days, I was also mired in thoughtless (and angry) spew which is why it took me so long to write this.

  2. Kate says:

    Wow, Nadine. Thanks for this.

  3. alexis says:

    Fantastic post, Nadine.

  4. Bianca Spence says:

    “…more than one person made the point that Brown has been charged, sentenced and has served his time.”

    The thing is, he hasn’t finished serving his time. As far as I understand it, he accepted a plea bargain of community service, five years’ formal probation and domestic violence counselling. His probation isn’t up until 2014. I honestly wish that the Grammys had at least waited until then before welcoming him back on stage.

    Because so far, his tantrum at Good Morning America, and his “I got a Grammy, so F*ck all the haterz” tweet isn’t selling me on his contrition.

    • nadinethornhill says:

      For me “time served” is irrelevant. Community service is not going to fix a damaged man. Even it’s a whole lot of community service.

      I feel the same way in light of his tweet. He’s not contrite. He’s still pissed off and running on rage. Apparently because Chris Brown in pretty and sings well, everyone around him is content to sweep his crime under the rug. It super-pisses me off, because while all these people are claiming to support him, dismissing what he did is also dismissing the fact that dude is SERIOUSLY FUCKED UP. That’s not support. That’s making excuses for him, not to mention enabling more violence in the future.

  5. Ditto what Jes said…

  6. neeroc says:

    Given the follow up Rihanna/Chris Brown activities since the Grammys – the twitter feud, the rumours, the remix, what are you feeling towards Rihanna?

    • nadinethornhill says:

      I really struggle with my perception of Rihanna now.

      I think news of their collaboration on a song came out the day after I wrote this post. My initial reactions was, “Shit! No! Woman, what are you DOING?” I thought about this high-profile woman at the centre of this high-profile domestic abuse case, comisserating with her abuser and I was so upset. I was angry that her actions legtimized the position of those who were/are to give Chris Brown a free pass on what he did. And I was super-pissed about the message being put forth to young, impressionable fans about what type of treatment is and isn’t acceptable in a relationship.

      But then there’s the other part of it. And that other part is – I don’t know. I don’t know this woman. I don’t know what she’s been through in her life prior to becoming Rihanna: Pop Superstar. And even now that she’s in the limelight, I still don’t know anything about *her* as a person. I know that I think what Chris Brown did to her was awful. I know I would feel a million times better if she told him to fuck off, turned her back on him and strode confidently into a future of even greater success and fabulousity. But maybe that’s not fair. A lot of women stay or return to abusive situations, which seems so absurd from the outside but I also know that it doesn’t always seem so cut and dried when you’re in it. So maybe I shouldn’t judge. But…

      Then I read something *else* about this cock up of a situation and I’m back to “Shit! No! Woman what are you DOING?”


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