Chris Brown's Return to the Grammys: The Other Public Health Story

Sunday's Grammys were a mixture of high and low notes (pun intended), as the joy was often overshadowed by the death of Whitney Houston.  As someone who grew up in the 80's singing her songs, I too was quite shocked and saddened.  Despite broad speculation of an overdose, I'll wait to post on Whitney until we have a confirmed cause of death.

However, there was a second public health story on Sunday night.  It was the three year anniversary of Chris Brown assaulting Rihanna...and he made his return to the stage.  While Grammy executive producer Ken Ehrlich has defended the decision to bring Brown back and believes that he deserves a second chance, the warm sentiment was certainly not felt by all.  I personally turned the TV off when he began his performance.  My facebook and twitter feed blew up with comments from friends and colleagues like, "I'm no math wiz, but I'm pretty sure domestic abuser + 2 years= still a domestic abuser".  Many celebrities (both Grammy attendees and beyond) voiced the same sentiments on twitter.  For example, Wil Wheaton said simply, "everyone who apparently forgot what Chris Brown did to Rihanna should read the police report on exactly what he did."

Do you think that Chris Brown was worthy of a second chance at the Grammys? 

In addition to a discussion of giving second chances, remembering, or forgetting what he did...we must also discuss those who actually encourage what he did.  While there were outraged tweets during his performance, there were also those providing support.  The tweets that I found most disturbing were those from young women poking fun at the assault and saying that they would be happy to have it happen to them anytime.  For example, one woman said, "chris brown could beat me all he wants, he is flawless."

One of the biggest problems in our society is that we have a culture of violence where intimate partner violence is acceptable and abusers are not held responsible for their actions.     

What do you think we can do to stop the culture of violence?

In my opinion, Chris Brown is still the same angry and aggressive person that he was 3 years ago.  For example, instead of rising above and ignoring any negativity, he continues to lash out.  He took to his twitter after the ceremony to address his "haters".  He said, "HATE ALL YOU WANT BECUZ I GOT A GRAMMY Now! That's the ultimate F*** OFF!"  The tweet has since been deleted and he tried again with a slightly less offensive message.  But I don't buy it.  

For those of you interested in a more in-depth analysis of the original media coverage of the assault, I'll offer a publication.  This article was written by some fantastic colleagues at Boston University School of Public Health:

Rothman, EF, Nageswaran, A, Johnson RM, Adams, KM, Scrivens, J, Baughman, A. (in press).  U.S. tabloid magazine coverage of a celebrity dating abuse incident: Rihanna and Chris Brown.  Journal of Health Communication. Available online ahead of print.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at:  1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
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