Chris Brown and Rihanna – Together Again?

So I guess now it’s official – Rihanna and Chris Brown are back together again.  The two made their first public appearance together as a couple on Christmas Day at the Lakers – Knicks game in Los Angeles.  Although the two are rumored to have reconciled months ago, this was the first time they have appeared in public since Chris Brown savagely beat Rihanna in the early morning hours of February 11, 2009.

Public reaction has not been positive, to say the least.  Here are a few of the choice comments that appeared on TMZ’s website after their story about the Christmas Day date:

 This chick is sick in the head and a mental case to be back with him. . It’s going to happen again


If she get’s the **** beat outta her again, I don’t wanna hear a ****in’ word.


Lovely couple….Rhianna and Chris are going to grow old together. Opps. I mean….Rhianna is going to grow black and blue with Chris.’


Rhianna’s message to domestic violence victims You deserve it . You love it. Disgusting. SHAME on Rhianna. He made HORNS on her head. How can she take him back. Her message to abusers We victims love it. SICK!

If this girl gets her a** kicked again, She better not say a word. In fact if she gets her a** kicked again and says something, the judge in the case should kick her a$$ to just to top her off

 Everyone, it seems, thinks this reconciliation is a bad idea.  Is it?  Who knows? 

What we do know is that Chris Brown has been held accountable for his actions.  He stands convicted of felony assault.  Many batterers are never charged, much less convicted, of more than a misdemeanor.  He completed a court ordered 52 week domestic violence program.  Many offenders are not sentenced to any treatment.  He has completed 1400 hours of “labor oriented” community service.  He was placed on probation for five years.  In addition to the penalties imposed by the court, Brown has been held accountable in other ways.  In June, 2010, he was denied entry into Great Britain due to his assault conviction.  This past fall, copies of his new album were mysteriously slapped with stickers that read “Do Not Buy This Album, This Man Beats Women.”  Last month Brown was forced to cancel a planned concert in Guyana after protests from women’s rights groups. 

In the world of domestic violence prevention and intervention, we look for offender accountability.  We believe that domestic violence is learned behavior; if it can be learned, it can be unlearned.  That is why we plead with judges every day to send batterers to treatment programs that will help them unlearn the power and control tactics that they use in their relationships.  We believe these men can learn to be better husbands, boyfriends, partners and fathers, but only when there is treatment and accountability. 

Has Chris Brown unlearned the behaviors that led him to assault Rihanna in February, 2009?  Rihanna probably believes he has changed.  She’s waited nearly four years to reconcile with him – until after he finished his treatment program and his community service.  Perhaps if she believes he’s changed and wants to give him another chance, the public should cut her some slack instead of spewing vitriol at her as though she were the convicted felon.  If she is wrong, she will likely be the one to pay the heaviest price. 

Of course, we have no way of knowing if Chris Brown has changed.  We only know that he’s done everything the court asked him to do and he’s done much more that most batterers are asked to do.  He’s had what we can only hope was meaningful intervention and treatment.   Has he changed?  Only time will tell. 

Many are talking about the negative message this reconciliation sends to young people about domestic violence.  But maybe, just maybe, the message will turn out to be a positive one.  Maybe Chris Brown won’t hit Rihanna, or any other woman, ever again.  Maybe this story will prove what we’ve been saying for years – offender accountability and treatment can work to stop domestic violence. 




Are We Finally Getting It?

The murder of Kasandra Perkins and the suicide of Kansas City Chiefs’ linebacker Jovan Belcher shocked the sports world over the weekend.  While initially Belcher’s actions were portrayed as those of someone who “snapped”, new details are emerging that are beginning to show that the relationship between Perkins and Belcher bore an alarming similarity to many other domestic violence cases that end in homicide.  Friends of Ms. Perkins report that the couple had been arguing since the birth of their child some three months ago.  We know that pregnancy and the period after the birth of a child are dangerous times for victims, as abuse often escalates during these periods.  Sometimes abusers feel that they are losing control over their intimate partner because she is too focused on the pregnancy or the new baby.  Abusers often will use a victim’s relationship with a new baby to control her movements and activities.  Reports indicate that on Saturday morning the couple was arguing over  Ms. Perkins’ decision to attend a concert on Friday, Nov. 30.  At least one friend of Ms. Perkins has said that the victim went to the concert against  Mr. Belcher’s wishes, saying he did not want her to leave the baby at home.

But, we are able to find a bright spot, at least in the response to this horrific crime.  The news media has avoided deifying Belcher and/or excusing his behavior.  They have also avoided assassinating the character of Kassandra Perkins or blaming her for her own murder.  Most welcome to those who try to bring attention to the horrific crime that is domestic violence was moment of silence for victims of domestic abuse observed prior to the start of the Chiefs – Panthers game.  Everyone in Arrowhead Stadium, and everyone watching on TV stopped, at least for a moment, to remember the victims of this crime that has been taking our young people for generations.

Could it be that we are finally getting it?  That our awareness about the crime of domestic violence has reached the point where attitudes are actually changing?  New research shows this might be true.  A new survey has been conducted in California showing the 66% of people say they have had a friend or family member who has been the victim of domestic abuse. Why is this so important? Because it shows a shift in attitudes – people are starting to realize that we all should care about domestic violence because it is not something that just happens to “other people” – it happens to our friends, mothers, cousins, nieces, daughters,.  Less than 20 years ago, only 32 percent reported knowing someone who was a victim of domestic violence.

When a tragedy such as this happens, it is hard to find something positive.  But if this shows us that we are making progress, that we are changing the way people think about domestic abuse, that we are all starting to see that we MUST care, perhaps this type of tragedy will not have been in vain.

Collaboration and Innovation

Let’s be honest.  When you do domestic violence work, you don’t get a lot of wins.  Sometimes it seems like we take two steps forward one week, only to go three steps back the next week.

Last week, in Louisville, we had a BIG win.  Marta Miranda, President and CEO of the Center for Women and Families, announced a collaborative, innovative effort with the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) called the Lethality Assessment Project.  This project has significantly reduced domestic violence homicides in every community where it exists.  It is already connecting Louisville’s most high risk domestic violence victims with services at the time they most need them – when they are in crisis.

First, a little background on how this program came to Louisville.  At the Mary Byron Project, we believe that one of the keys to ending domestic violence is finding innovative programs in communities across the country that are making an impact.  We believe that if these programs can be replicated in other communities, real change will take place.  Through our Celebrating Solutions Program, we find these innovations, reward them with a cash grant, and encourage replication in other communities.

In 2010, one of our Celebrating Solutions award winners was the Maryland Lethality Assessment Program.  This program trains police officers responding to domestic violence crisis calls to give victims at the scene and 11 question lethality risk assessment.  Those that score high on the assessment (meaning they are high risk of serious assault or death), are connected with the local shelter through the police officer immediately.  Research shows the 96% of domestic violence homicide victims have NEVER had contact with services.  Finding a way to connect these high risk victims with services is a key to reducing homicides.  Since its inception, the Maryland program has seen a 40%-50% reduction in domestic violence homicides.  The 12 other communities that have replicated the Maryland program have seen similar, equally dramatic, reductions in domestic violence homicides. 

Through the dedication of the Center for Women and Families and the LMPD, this program is now in our community.  The Center has committed a 24 hour telephone line to be used only for officers to call and connect high risk victims with services.  They have also dedicated space to house these high risk victims, even when the shelter is full.  LMPD has committed to training its officers to use the lethality assessment tools to help save victims’ lives.  In the first three months of operation, officers identified over 200 victims that were at high risk of assault or death.  Of those, 175 received services from the Center for Women and Families. 

At the Mary Byron Project, we are proud that we were able to help bring this innovative program to our own community.  We’re also proud that our community partners saw this as an opportunity collaborate with one another to make a real impact in the lives of domestic violence victims.

Collaboration and innovation equals a big win for Louisville.


The Color Purple

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  It’s also Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Ask anyone the color of breast cancer awareness and they will tell you pink.  Pink is everywhere this month.  There are breast cancer walks in nearly every community with survivors, friends, family members all wearing pink.  The American Institute for Cancer Research has a website dedicated to getting “pink on purpose.”  There’s a pink store that sells pink items and even a collection of pink recipes. 

October is a month awash in pink, and, rightly so.  Everyone knows someone, a friend, relative, co-worker, or acquaintance, which has battled breast cancer.  That is why we care so much, why we walk to raise awareness and why we fund prevention and treatment.  Breast cancer is a horrific disease, affecting one in eight women.  Hopefully, awareness, funding, and research will eliminate this monster before the next generation suffers.

 Domestic violence affects twice as many women as breast cancer.  One in four women will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime.  Homicide is the number one cause of death for women on the job and, far too often, it is the result of intimate partner violence.  Whether we realize it or not, we all know someone who has been a victim of domestic violence.  One in four.  Take any group of four women – at your workplace, in your family, at your church, in the supermarket.  One of them has been a victim of violence at the hands of a person she loved and trusted.  Like breast cancer, domestic violence causes immeasurable suffering for the victim and her family and, like breast cancer, all too often it causes death.

 The color for domestic violence awareness month is purple.  Why don’t we see domestic violence awareness walks in every community this month, with survivors and their loved ones all wearing purple?  Why is there no purple store or a collection of purple recipes?  Is it because we care less?  Is it because we don’t know what to do?  Is it because violence against women has been accepted, even sanctioned, for generations?  Is it because victims still feel shame and embarrassment?  There’s no shame in getting breast cancer; such a diagnosis is a viewed as a random act of fate.  But we still blame victims of domestic violence, for causing the violence and for staying in the relationship.  If we can give domestic violence survivors the same support we give to breast cancer survivors, this scourge that injures and kills one in four of our sisters, mothers, nieces, aunts, and friends can be eradicated before it takes yet another generation of people we love.

 So what can you do?  First, give.  Give to shelters, and then, stretch and give to  programs that make it their mission to end this crime in our lifetime.  Why isn’t it enough to give to shelters?   Shelters do terrific work and they always need money.  Their mission is crisis intervention.  But we know that intimate partner violence is a generational crime, one learned at home.  If all we do is intervene, what will change?  How will this crime be ended?  Giving only to shelters is the same as giving only to fund breast cancer treatment and not also supporting prevention.  Organizations like the Mary Byron Project are dedicated to ending domestic violence so that crisis intervention will no longer be necessary. 

Second, start the conversation about domestic violence with friends, loved ones, co-workers, anyone you meet.  Understand that each and every day you are coming in contact with victims of domestic violence and the attitudes you express can and will impact whether or not they seek help.  If victims hear other victims being blamed, how do they think they will be treated if they come forward to try and escape the violence in their own lives?  Domestic violence affects all of us, whether we know it or not.  What we say and do impacts victims each and every day.

 And, at least for the month of October, put a little more purple in your life.


Marcia Roth: Changing the Conversation on Domestic Violence


The Mary Byron Project, fostering innovations and strategies to end domestic violence, needs your help.  We can only accomplish our lofty goal if we change society’s view of victims of domestic violence as the ones responsible for ending the abuse on their own, or of needing to prove that they didn’t ‘cause’ the violence to happen.

Each day I receive stories of horrific violence in our community and throughout the country.  I wonder why this continues—seemingly unabated—and then I read the articles.  Time after time, the reporter quotes the bystanders and family members who state that they are shocked by what happened, that they seemed so happy, that the couple may have had a tempestuous relationship but that things like this don’t happen on the street where they live.  Time after time, I read headlines like “Man accused of killing wife and 3 kids in a domestic dispute” and I wonder how, in anyone’s classification table, this can be called merely a ‘dispute.’ 

When can we change the conversation?  When can we ask why we need to make excuses for perpetrators of violence, abuse, and yes, many times torture, when the object of their abuse is someone they at one time professed to love.  When will our courts treat abusers in the home in the same way they would treat a person who threatened or inflicted harm in a non-domestic situation? Is there a time that we can stop blaming the victim for not leaving…  even though we know of all the reasons she is unable to leave? 

It is incumbent on all of us to try to change that conversation.  Prevention begins with small steps, and not becoming party to a conversation that is victim blaming or dismissive would be a great start.

If you would like to know more about us or the work we do, please visit our web site or follow us on twitter.