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Can We Please Stop Rewarding Known Abusers?

Being a trauma survivor in today’s culture feels a lot like navigating a minefield. Every day you wake up and the media feeds you a steady diet of potentially triggering news. While I am grateful that society is getting “woke” about the issues of sexual and physical violence against women, it’s also becoming so common a topic that people are growing anesthetized to it. 

A perfect example of the dismissive culture we live in is the announcement of the Grammy nominations, in which Chris Brown was nominated for Best R&B Song. Brown was arrested and served five years probation after assaulting his then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009. Rihanna was hospitalized for her injuries and, according to a police report, there were two earlier unreported incidents of domestic abuse. In the years following, more incidents of Brown’s violence against women have been reported.

It’s incomprehensible to me how people continue to prop up known abusers and glorify them. Chris Brown is only one example. Does a person’s behavior get trumped by their celebrity? Does it give them a free pass? At what point do we as a society say, “What you did and how you conduct yourself is not OK and we will not spend another dime enabling you to become even richer and more powerful.” 

With lyrics like, “Only wanna f**k the black b**ches with the nice hair,” Brown continues to perpetuate the kind of patriarchal toxic masculinity that encourages and normalizes the objectification of and violence toward women. While he earns Grammy nominations and continued notoriety, it can leave trauma survivors like me wondering if we’ve been forgotten. His momentary transgressions could be a life sentence for the survivors of his behavior. But perhaps they don’t matter because we wouldn’t want to ruin “his” life for just a few minutes of making poor choices. He’s “too talented, too special, too worthy” to be held accountable for his actions and ruin his life. 

What about us survivors? Aren’t we “talented, special and worthy” too? Don’t we deserve to live in a world where we don’t have to feel as though at any moment we will be triggered into a flashback or panic attack? Don’t we deserve to live in a world where we say enough is enough, we will not accept any violence no matter how short in duration or how seemingly innocuous it was? The answer is yes, we do. So it’s up to us to remind the world that we are still here, fighting to survive and fighting for the Chris Brown’s of the world to be held accountable for their actions so the future can be brighter for us all. 

To those individuals who have never experienced sexual or physical trauma, I’m so grateful that you don’t understand what it’s like. For others, like myself, I hear you, I feel you and I am with you. It’s not easy feeling constantly hypervigilant and living with a perpetual sense of dis-ease. It’s not easy when known abusers continued to get rewarded. Hang in there — you’re not alone.