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Are we bullying Chris Brown?

HATED: Chris Brown is an online target because of his history of domestic violence

JUST POSING the question feels like betrayal. When – if ever – is it acceptable to defend someone guilty of domestic violence?

Never – is the general consensus and with good reason. Those who have suffered at the hands of an abusive partner need society to say that loudly and clearly.

Torment

But there comes a time when condemning a person for their actions can become something that starts to feel more like torment. It is in those murky waters that a visibly troubled Chris Brown is drowning.

Persecuting the 23-year-old R&B star has become a free-for-all. Taking shots at him on Twitter is a public sport.

Last week he fought back. And after three years of goading via Twitter, comic writer Jenny Johnson got a response so ferocious that Brown deactivated his Twitter account.

After posting a picture of himself online and commenting on how old he looked, Johnson fired back: “Being a worthless piece of sh*t can really age a person.”

Brown exploded and responded with a series of incoherent and graphic tweets that would turn even the most hardened stomachs. His anger might be understandable, but his reaction was inexcusable.

But Johnson is no martyr.

Stacks of column inches have been devoted in her favour; praising her for “standing up to Chris Brown” or “surviving Chris Brown’s attack” – but just what are people virtually high-fiving her for?


LOOK OF LOVE: Rihanna pictured this week at her perfume launch wearing choker gift believed to be from Chris Brown

Bully

It seems to be part of a wider hypocritical culture that says it’s not ok to be a bully, but it is ok to bully bullies.

Some context: Johnson’s attack was one of nearly a hundred insults and unprovoked one-liners she has directed at Chris Brown over the past three years.

When he tweeted to his followers to ‘put on a happy face’, Johnson replied: “Why? So you can punch it?” On another occasion, when he asked, “What is true happiness?” Johnson said: “For you to go to prison.”

In a past interview with online publication Papermag, Johnson joked: “He [Brown] replied to a tweet once. I was proud that after six months of harassing the guy, all my hard work paid off.”

Johnson has since issued a statement – which she made clear was not an apology - via men’s magazine GQ admitting the fight was not “her finest hour” and accepting that she started it.

The Internet may give the rest of society unprecedented access to celebrities but when does someone’s past mean it is ok to verbally assault them at leisure?

Chris Brown, heavily tattooed, foulmouthed and still making money despite his violent past, makes an unlikely victim. But the signs of a very disturbed – maybe even vulnerable –individual are there.

Brown grew up watching his stepfather beat his mother which statistics show, makes him more likely to become a perpetrator of domestic violence himself.

He conformed to type when he viciously beat his girlfriend, pop princess Rihanna in 2009 with whom – for better or worse – he has recently reunited.

Sarah Green from End Violence Against Women said a more responsible approach would have been to centre the debate on issues, not individuals.

She added: “What it is always important to point out is that there is never an excuse for domestic violence or abusive behaviour and it is never your fault.

Support

“Too often we focus on the women and their choices on whether to stay with an abusive partner or not. You can’t tell someone what to do, but you can say when you are ready to leave I will support you.”

With the brutal details of Brown’s attack and the haunting images of Rihanna’s bruised face widely available on the Internet, Brown is never going to escape from his past.

But disliking him isn’t a green light to constantly throw back his worst moment in his face over and over again.

Perhaps the truth is we enjoy using him as a punching bag. After all, any attempt to fight back is only further evidence of his violent streak. To not react would be inhuman and underneath all those tattoos is still a person.

If you would like advice or support contact the freephone National Domestic Violence Helpline 0808 2000 247 run in partnership by Refuge and Women’s Aid. If you are aged between 13 and 18 and want to learn more about these issues, visit http://thisisabuse. direct.gov.uk

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