I’ve noted before in this space that I lack the enviable crystal ball. But I’ll go out on a limb anyway: Chris Brown doesn’t have “anger management” issues in the way they are usually imagined. Most intimate partner abusers don’t. Indeed, they manage their anger extremely well. They incorporate it into their daily routines as a necessary adjunct of controlling, bullying and humiliating others as it suits them.
It’s a wager on my part, but frankly one I’m willing to bet very big on: Chris Brown doesn’t hit people or intimidate them because he can’t help himself. He does it because it pleases and amuses him at the time he chooses to do it. Throwing chairs through windows (where the hell were the LA DA’s office or the probation officer in April of 2012 with a motion to revoke then, by the way?) might be more indicative of rage; the tantrum of a toddler who is unhappy with being to forced to acknowledge his actions. But even an act like that- absent compelling evidence to the contrary- is something that Brown chose to do, not one that he was willed otherwise to do.
As I learned in 15 years of dealing with intimate partner violence, both sexual and physical, an “inability to maintain control” of one’s emotions is usually not the issue with domestic abusers. Instead, most use the tools of physical and emotional violence as keenly as a surgeon does a scalpel. And yet most court systems in the US and beyond continue to seek solutions to family violence under this “management” model, viewing the abuser as a somehow diseased and mostly helpless creature, trapped tragically in the claws of a relentless compulsion to beat and control weaker people around him who don’t react in ways that immediately satisfy him (or her, in same-sex relationships in particular). And worse, the management model often if unwittingly assumes some “partial responsibility” on the part of the victims who had the bad luck to land within the abuser’s sphere of influence and/or arms-reach. It’s a family problem, after all. Sure. Except that it isn’t. It’s an abuser’s problem. The family is usually relatively powerless and legally, socially paralyzed. Their only “problem” is what’s being visited on them. Violence toward them is not of their making. Ever.
The lie is that many if not most domestic disputes involve either or both 1) struggling perpetrators dealing with their “own issues,” and 2) at least “partially culpable” victims of threats, fists or worse. This might have fooled me as well had I not been bullied as a kid and tortured by older boys who I witnessed turn their predilections off switch-like were I lucky enough to have a supportive adult walk into the room. It might have made sense to me had I not been involved in the lives of hundreds of women, children and some men- both personally and professionally- who spent years in fear of perhaps emotionally damaged but still fully sentient and controlled beings who made the conscious choice to act cruelly and violently because it was what they wanted to do at the time.
I’m not claiming that Brown is not an emotionally limited individual (for whatever reasons) or that nothing can be done to assist him in becoming a less violent man. I simply believe that, from what I can gather, Chris Brown is less a helpless pawn of anger and more an impulsive, likely manipulative, abusive individual who may not respond to anything but punishment in terms of behavior modification.
And I can say with absolute certainly that Rihanna, whatever other character flaws or foibles she has borne up untill now, was utterly blameless with regard to what Brown did to her, in a car, with club-like fists and his teeth, in March of 2009. He was rightfully convicted of a serious felony, and he should be punished now with incarceration for not honoring the conditions of the remarkably lenient sentence he received for doing so. He continues to make choices, and they continue to get worse. It’s time to honor the law and limit them further.