America’s Return to an Abusive Relationship

Two months ago, a young voice started singing an R&B song in the backseat of my car. It was Chris Brown’s song… and it was my seven year-old brother’s voice.

“Brian, do you know who sings that song?” I asked. “Duh Peyton, it’s Chris Brown,” he said.

I doubt that Brian knows what happened on February 8, 2009. He doesn’t know that Brown had an argument that left his girlfriend in the hospital. He didn’t see the pictures of Rihanna’s injuries. He doesn’t know that Brown pleaded guilty to a felony.

Although Brian is unaware of this domestic violence case, the rest of America is not. Images of Rihanna’s face sparked outrage and disgust, offering a national platform for discussion of domestic violence. This celebrity couple proved that domestic assault is a very real and very prevalent issue.

After the incident, Wrigley Company canceled its contract with Brown, terminating his role as spokesman. American radio refrained from playing his music, and Jay-Z threatened to pull out of the 2009 BET Awards if Brown performed.

When these decisions unfolded, it seemed that maybe, just maybe, America was going to show zero tolerance for domestic violence.

Only three years later, a battered America has returned to its abuser.

In the United States, Chris Brown’s album Fortune debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, giving Brown his second number one album in the US. Today, his single “Till I Die” sits at number eighteen on the US Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.

Since February 2009, Chris Brown has performed at three BET Awards. He has collaborated with numerous other notable artists such as Big Sean, Wiz Khalifa, and Kevin McCall.

Perhaps the most disturbing collaboration occurred earlier this year. On February 20, 2012, (Rihanna’s 24th birthday), the full length version of her single “Birthday Cake” premiered online. The featured artist was Chris Brown.

Reports in June suggested that Rihanna and Brown are back together. Celebrities and the general public were outraged and disappointed at Rihanna’s decision to reunite with Brown. How can she return to her abuser? What kind of example is she setting?

Ironically, America is blaming Rihanna for an action that America has already committed. We refuse to delete him from our iTunes playlist, because we have invested $0.99 in each song we have purchased. We refuse to leave a club if a DJ plays his songs, because we have invested an entrance fee in the club. And, let’s face it; a lot of us simply love his music.

In a three year period, our nation has retreated back to an abusive partner. There are barriers to exiting the relationship, and we can’t overcome the investments we have already made. Rihanna and thousands of other women retreat to their abusers just as Americans have retreated back to Brown. Before we judge their decisions, we must examine the factors of an abusive relationship, and how we contribute to the normalization of domestic violence.

My little brother might be nine or ten or sixteen years-old when he finds out that Brown assaulted Rihanna. I don’t know how old he will be, but the point is that someday he will find out that it happened, and I won’t be able to use Brown as an example of a person having to pay for his actions. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if a Chris Brown song is playing on the radio the day we have that conversation.


 The need to preface has become a recurring theme over the past several weeks. At New America NYC, a panel of female journalists mentioned a particular reflex in women’s writing. They said that women consistently seek credibility in written work by prefacing written pieces with anecdotal experiences. Men charge through a piece of writing, declaring points A, B, and C without offering reassurance to readers that they are credible in their points. Women write with careful research, offering prefaces A, B, and C then points A, B, and C.  The panel suggested that women are careful because if proven wrong, they are dismissed as incompetent writers.

Since attending the panel discussion, this trend continues to grab my attention. Yee’s article began with prefacing her lack of a college education. Moxie girls preface their nonprofit internships with the fact that it’s a Duke program. I preface my more conservative beliefs with the fact that I come from Texas.

The more apparent prefacing becomes, the more I realize that the panelists had a point. Women frequently tiptoe around critical points and beliefs by assembling preface safety nets. If we are ever to break down equality barriers, we must abandon the preface reflex. We must speak with authority about our areas of expertise, and not substantiate the claims we know to be true. If we speak with assertion, our ideas and arguments may be treated with a heightened respect from readers – male and female.

Do What You Love and Love Who You Love!

Earlier this week, Ada surprised us with front row tickets to see this funny woman:

Amy Poehler was a member of the SNL cast from 2001-2008, stars in NBC’s Parks & Recreation, and has earned for four Emmy nominations and one Golden Globe nominations.

It was such a treat to hear her talk, and our seats weren’t too bad either! Amy was incredibly hilarious and down-to-earth. My favorite piece of advice that she shared with the young audience members was to “do what you love.” I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that expression… and it never gets old. Working full business days has reminded me of how much time is invested at the workplace, and how important it is to find a career that I am passionate about. So, hopefully I can narrow down my passions during the next couple of months in NYC. I guess that’s what this summer is all about!

The following afternoon, the Moxies took a trip to NYC’s Gay Pride Rally. We watched in an amphitheater on the Hudson River, surrounded by rainbow flags and food booths. I had never been immersed in an environment with so much freedom to express his and her sexual orientation. It was certainly liberating, however, I couldn’t help but remember the LGBT attitudes of Duke University’s home state. A little more than a month ago, North Carolina approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman. With that recent policy decision in mind, I mourned for the suppressed LGBT community in North Carolina.

So, to add on to Ms. Poehler’s commentary on life; “do what you love and love who you love!” Both ambitions require courage, ambition, and trueness of self. But, at the end of the day, I think that it is a happy and healthy goal.


Female Protection

Peyton is a rising junior working with Sanctuary for Families, which provides shelter, advocacy and support to victims of domestic and sexual violence in NYC.

Women have empowered me for over 20 years. I grew up in an all-girls school. I was raised by female nannies. I was taught by female teachers. Despite the immeasurable empowerment I received, I never wondered why I received the encouragement I was given. After only a few days of living in New York City and working at Sanctuary for Families, I have started to consider the reasons.

Sanctuary for Families, a leading non-profit in New York State, is dedicated exclusively to serving domestic violence victims, sex trafficking victims, and their children. On Monday- my first day of work- I sat in the reception area between two mothers and their children. They didn’t work at Sanctuary. They were clients. And I couldn’t help but wonder what their stories were. Had their husbands beaten them? Had the little girl with pigtails been abused by her father? I didn’t know what their individual stories were, but I knew that they had one. These women and children embodied abuse, and I was reminded of how real and present domestic violence is today.

Boarding the subway after work, I watched businessmen push and shove through the masses of people – male and female. A Dallas native, I was raised in a community where even the most obscene men held the door for a woman. In New York City, such manners do not apply. The physical pushing and shoving and utter disregard for women on the subway reminded me of the abuse that Sanctuary’s clients encounter. Have you ever seen a woman shove a man to get ahead on a subway? How often do mothers beat fathers? Hardly ever. This compilation of observations revealed that throughout my childhood, women were preparing me for the subordination that I will ultimately face. It is inevitable and it is looming, and I’m hoping that it will not be a present phenomenon in my own household someday.

As such, my feminist identity can be placed within this category: I agree with some of the objectives of the feminist movement, but do not call myself a feminist. While I wholeheartedly disagree with the treatment of women in countless scenarios – professionally and domestically – I am not strong enough in my beliefs to declare myself a feminist.

In my opinion, Sanctuary for Family’s feminist identity is similar to my own. Sanctuary fights abuse and degradation to women, which I consider to be a feminist objective. After assisting with the Zero Tolerance Benefit, however, I observed that the donors who support Sanctuary might not support the stigma of radical feminism.

Just as I fear the judgment of my friends for being feminist, I fear the decrease in donations from conservative donors if Sanctuary was to declare itself feminist.

The summer is young, however, and although I doubt Sanctuary’s feminist position is subject to change, my mind is wide open and ready to absorb anything and everything. I can’t wait to see what lays ahead in the journey ahead!