On August 8, Chris Brown released his documentary Chris Brown: Welcome to My Life. We get a behind-the-scenes look into his life with appearances from DJ Khaled, Jamie Foxx, Terrence Jenkins and many other famous stars. In the documentary, Chris Brown recounts the violent fight with Rihanna prior to the 2009 GRAMMY awards after eight years — but was this the apology interview we had been waiting for? Not quite. What he had to say about the altercation was fairly disappointing, though we should have expected it, considering his various incidents with other celebs, girlfriends and even random people on the street.
ICYMI, eight years ago, the world was shocked to learn that one of the most beloved R&B singers had brutally attacked his then-girlfriend, Rihanna. The fight apparently stemmed from RiRi finding out that Chris had cheated on her. The story goes that Rihanna felt that she was unable to trust her longtime boyfriend again after that and when the woman Chris cheated with appeared at the Clive Davis GRAMMY party in 2009, things went downhill… fast. The pair left the party and were reported to have gotten into a fight during the ride back home where it escalated to the two getting physical with each other. Both suffered injuries, but it was shocking to see how battered Rihanna’s face was in the released photos. Chris pleaded guilty almost immediately and was sentenced to five years’ probation, community service, and domestic violence counseling.
While the two have gotten back together and broken up again several times since the 2009 altercation, it’s clear that the relationship has always been toxic, and in his recent interview, Chris admits that the GRAMMY incident wasn’t the only time their relationship was physically abusive. As he relieves the night in question, he explains that he gave her his phone to prove that there was nothing going on, but Rihanna suspected him to be lying and began to hit and kick him.
“I remember she tried to kick me, but then I really hit her, with a closed fist, I punched her. I busted her lip. When I saw it I was in shock, like why did I hit her?”
As Brown recounts his side of the story, it seems as though he is trying to diminish his accountability by using victim-blaming language. This is a tactic that is oftentimes used by lawyers in domestic violence cases, as reported by The Guardian. It’s a situation in which the language used doesn’t fully hold the perpetrator accountable by suggesting some of the blame should be put on the victim.
Victim-blaming is not only disgusting, but it is also mentally damaging to the survivor of abuse. Even words can have severe psychological effects — and for a victim to hear that it was in part her or his fault can seriously disturb their mental recovery. As reported by U.S. News, it can cause greater distress, increased amounts of depression, complicate PTSD, and worsen symptoms of anxiety.
While it’s true that it’s also wrong for a female to attack her male partner, it’s disappointing to hear Chris Brown try to put the blame on Rihanna when he could’ve just owned up to his actions, sincerely apologized for the violence and tried to move on from there with the fans. At the end of the day he, and he alone, is responsible for his actions that night — and every day. Acting as though he brutalized his girlfriend because of her initial actions is a strategy that repeat-abusers often use to trap their partners into staying with them, as well. He needs to take full responsibility, not try to divert the blame elsewhere.
What’s also problematic in his documentary is the fact that although he claims to have been shocked by his actions and learned his lesson, he went through a strikingly similar situation with another ex, Karrueche Tran, which he doesn’t remark on.
In February of this year, the actress/model had been granted a five-year restraining order against the “Loyal” R&B singer. The two had ended their relationship in 2015 when it was revealed that he would be having a child with another woman. (Sound familiar?) She explained that she was afraid for her life because he threatened to kill her. “He said if no one else can have me, then he’s [going to] ‘take me out,’” Karrueche said.
It’s hard to gauge the sincerity of his “apology” in the film, considering this isn’t an isolated incident. His violent episodes have been well-documented in the media including a 2016 incident where a woman named Baylee Curran claimed he pulled a gun on her while they were partying together and a 2011 interview with Robin Roberts where he stormed off set and damaged property after being questioned about his violence towards women.
What’s possibly even more disturbing is that the only reason why Chris Brown: Welcome to My Life received any media coverage is because of the clips where he discussed his attack on Rihanna. So not only does he refuse to take responsibility for his actions and reactions, he’s technically capitalizing off of abusing Rihanna and sensationalizing the incident itself.
There are so many ways in which we, the audience, can learn from this scenario. The first way, of course, is to know that getting physical with your partner is never admissible — and in some ways, claiming that you did so in retaliation is even worse. Furthermore, we give celebrities their power and by consuming his documentary to hear the graphic description of what happened on that 2009 night, we are complicit in allowing him to make money off of his deplorable actions.
For more resources on domestic violence, as well as contact information for compassionate and confidential support, visit The National Domestic Violence Hotline.