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She Pop-Behold the Face of Abuse, and Its Ridiculous Sweater: How Chris Brown Coverage Is Bad For Understanding Abuse

Say! HERE'S something I can't not talk about: Chris Brown, domestic abuser, bow tie enthusiast, Oprah nemesis, and soon-to-be dancing fiend, now on approximately Week One Million of his I'm Not Really That Bad And Also Please Forgive Me For That Unspecified Thing I Did (Did I Mention I'm Not That Bad?) Tour.

Chris Brown and his special apology sweater

Nothing says "I sincerely regret and take responsibility for my actions" like dressing as a cross between Mr. Rogers, an ice cream man, and the Virgin Mary.

 We, the people, hate Chris Brown, pretty much unilaterally. And for good reason! His recent statements are infuriating, not least because they make him seem so very much like the prototype of the abuser who claims that he just lost control, and he's really sorry, and this is not who he is, and if you'll forgive him, everything will be different from now on. But here is the thing: the fact that he abused his girlfriend is getting him more attention than anything else he has ever done. He's getting attention for his Larry King appearance. He's getting attention for his People magazine interview, in which he vows to dance away his abusive tendencies ("I will work with my counselor and hopefully channel my anger into something like dancing," quoth Brown. I think I speak for all of us when I say: the Electric Slide does not a full embrace of accountability for one's actions make). He is most DEFINITELY making headlines for criticizing Oprah for airing an anti-domestic abuse episode of her show in that same People interview, thusly:

 

     I commend Oprah on being like, "This is a problem," but it was a slap in my face. I did a lot of stuff for her, like going to Africa and performing for her school. She could have been more helpful, like, "Okay. I'm going to help both of these people out."

 

Dear Chris Brown: When a gentleman seeks to recover his reputation after being found guilty of abuse (a sticky situation which he could avoid by, say, not abusing anyone) it is generally considered inadvisable to compare an unpleasant experience to BEING SLAPPED IN THE FACE. Just a tip, there!

But, to return to the problem at hand: ever since the abuse occurred, the media has been fixating on Brown and Rihanna, intent on interpreting each and every one of their actions in light of what they say about Brown's abuse of Rihanna, or about Rihanna's recovery from said abuse, or about domestic abuse in general. Nowadays, they're less important to us as pop stars than as the means by which we have a national conversation about abuse. And that conversation is important. But centering it all on one famous couple distorts the truth, and may prevent people from understanding some key things about abusive relationships.

For starters: Chris Brown is not the only abuser in the world. He's just one of the most immediately recognizable. Abuse is widespread, and often kept secret; the odds are that you have met several abusers, and abuse survivors, without recognizing them as such. Too many people treat Chris Brown as if he is some uniquely monstrous villain; instead of recognizing that abuse is often rooted just as much in cultural norms as in individual psychology (specifically, those cultural norms that say men should be dominant, and respond to perceived threats to their dominance with aggression, and that women's bodies and lives should be subject to outside control) they make it a conversation about whether he is a bad person. He just might be! But, to minimize or eliminate abuse, we can't focus on saving each and every individual soul. We have to focus on changing the culture.

Then, there's the Rihanna coverage. It's rare to see her name without a mention of the abuse close by. And far too many people feel the need to weight in on whether her actions are "healthy" or "appropriate" or "right" for someone who has been abused – that is to say, whether she's a good abuse survivor or a bad one. Oh, yay! She's dancing in public! Clearly she has completely recovered! Oh, no! She is topless in a magazine! Is TOPLESSNESS an appropriate message for an abuse survivor to send? (Since Rihanna is personally responsible for representing all abuse survivors everywhere, her naked lady bits CLEARLY have the power to damage their cause. We don't want people thinking that all abuse survivors are capable of taking their shirts off, now do we?) Oh, yay! She might be dating someone else! Everything is all better again! Oh, no! She might be dating Chris Brown again! She's letting us all down!

The knowledge that Rihanna might be going back to her abuser is legitimately sad and scary. (Of course, with its unspecified "source" and statements about how oh-so-very-sorry Brown is, it also has the flavor of a rumor concocted by Brown's camp – look, if Rihanna believes that I'm sorry and wants to forgive me, shouldn't you?) But it points to the fact that abuse is complicated, and often occurs within a context of substantial emotional manipulation, and that the learned helplessness and dependency that abusers work to create within their victims doesn't go away overnight. Demanding that Rihanna exhibit 100% perfect judgment at all times, or holding her to a higher standard than stars we do not know to have been abused, exhibits ignorance of these truths. It's also disrespectful and potentially harmful. I'm no expert, but here's something I think abuse victims might NOT benefit from: harsh judgment every time they fail to meet someone else's expectations.

In conversations about abuse, personal virtue – heck, personality in general – is beside the point. But it keeps getting introduced, and undermining the points at hand. Recently, Tila Tequila - a woman who is substantially less beloved than Rihanna - was allegedly assaulted by her boyfriend, NFL player Shawne Merriman. And, partially because Tequila doesn't fit our ideas of a "good," "undeserving" abuse victim – people don't like her personality, her sexuality, her public actions – most coverage is neither as substantial nor as outraged. The fact is that abuse is abuse is abuse: even if you are the least likable person in the entire world, it is still wrong for your partner to beat you up. Even if you spend your weekends giving away free puppies and hugs to sad orphans, beating your partner up is still wrong. So, here's my suggestion: why don't we stop talking about whether Chris Brown is good or bad, stop talking about whether Rihanna is good or bad, and start talking about abuse itself? Because that's really bad. And its badness is not mitigated in any way by who does it to whom.

This doesn't mean that I recommend letting Chris Brown off the hook. Far from it. It's also not to say that expressing concern or sympathy for Rihanna is wrong. But making them the faces of abuse does a disservice to the conversation. To get anything done, we need to talk, not about Chris Brown, but about the culture of abuse.

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Comments

23 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Great post!

You are right Sady, I have barely heard anything on the Tila Tequila abuse situation as compared to the coverage of Rihanna. The conversation should most definitely be about abuse, and not about who is cool or not cool.

Speaking of not cool though, Chris Brown totally looks like Tucker Carlson in that picture.

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Thank you for this. And good

Thank you for this. And good point about Tila Tequila vs. Rhianna. I didn't notice that. But it's a good point to make.

Get the facts before you

Get the facts before you start bashing Shawne Merriman. They are not dating. She is not his girlfriend. According to him, she tried to drive home drunk from a party at his house and he tried to stop her. She flipped out and made a citizen's arrest on him, called the cops and an ambulance... she was then taken to the hospital and they said that she was unharmed. I believe him because I have seen things like this happen A LOT, and not necessarily because of who is accusing him. And another reason why people are having a hard time believing her is because she basically lied, saying she's allergic to alcohol, when she's gotten drunk more than once on her reality show, and the hospital said she was unharmed and released her two hours after she was admitted.

Please, consider the possibility that women file false abuse reports just like they file false rape reports.

And the reason why there hasn't been that much coverage on the Tila Tequila situation is because there is zero proof he even touched her. She filed a citizen's arrest and he hasn't been charged with anything, and was released that morning.

And then there's that.

And then there's that. Although seemingly designed to defend Shawme Merriman for reasons I'm not clear on, your comment I think does bring up another thing about the Chris Brown and Rihanna case that is fascinating. Chris Brown and Rihanna fit very neatly into our idea about what domestic violence is: a man punching a defenseless woman in the face.

Is domestic violence less bad if women fight back? Is it not domestic violence if women instigate the situation through some aggressive action on their part? If I slap my boyfriend, and then he pummels me, did I deserve that? I think all of those dynamics of guilt and innocence and false accusation matter most when we think of men as abusers or not abusers. Seemingly, Chris Brown is now our poster boy abuser. That’s what an abuser looks like, bow tie and all. I think the point is, unfortunately, that we’re giving our selves a vacation from thinking about violence that happens within families or between couples that doesn't conform to that scenario.

Why are you so quick to jump

Why are you so quick to jump to conclusions instead of looking at the evidence? Just because a woman says that a man abused her, doesn't mean it's true. I'm defending him because so far, there is zero evidence he touched her. If there was, then I wouldn't be defending him. Could it possibly be that she's crazy?

I'm also not really sure what your comments mean or what you're trying to say or how to respond.

Really? So you are saying

Really? So you are saying she beat herself up? And you are discounting police reports that indicate this is not the first time their relationship has turned violent? What further evidence do you need? Does he need to beat her up right in front of you?

Oh damn, that's what I get

Oh damn, that's what I get for opening my big mouth without reading carefully. You were referring to Tila Tequila; I was referring to Rihanna. Sorry about that.

@Whitney: I don't know why

@Whitney:

I don't know why but you seem to like to be contrary just for the sake of being contrary, since I've seen you on many blog entries spewing incoherently about your own personal opinions, most of which are completely irrelevant to the subject matter.

It concerns me that you claim women file false abuse and rape reports, especially since, as an avid reader of this site, you kind of should be one of the more informed people in our world on issues of sexism and misogyny. False abuse reports, and ESPECIALLY false rape reports, are EXTREMELY rare, contrary to what our society seems to think. Studies have shown that less than 2% of rape claims are unsubstantiated, and this makes sense; why WOULD women put themselves through that hell if nothing happened? Unfortunately, in our culture, rape victims are stigmatized, so crying wolf in these situations is completely undesirable and often detrimental for women. It is so sad that the victims often deal with more stigmatization and ostracism than the actual victims, and you are one of the many who try to keep women in disadvantaged positions by suggesting that they're making it up. Keep portraying us as rash, vengeful, reckless creatures who choose to get have a little fun by crying rape whenever we need a little excitement in our lives. Yay feminism.

If I slap my boyfriend, and then he pummels me, did I deserve th

Just a quick reply, and I don't mean it to come across as snarky. But if you HIT someone, even if you are a woman, and your victim is a man, and it was just a slap, are you not the abuser? I'm NOT saying that the man has a right to hit you back then! I just get a little tired of seeing girls slap boys, and that not being considered abuse too. People should not be hitting other people, period, right?

I'm not a slapping people

I'm not a slapping people advocate or an apologist for women who assault men. What I'm suggesting is that there is a pretty good chance that not all domestic violence happens between men and completely innocent women. You know, "innocent" as in sitting meekly in the corner and taking all kinds of intimidation and verbal abuse without being drawn into it.

We had neighbors at our old apartment who fought loudly and often. Although both participated, and believe me this girl could get into it, I really started to feel that this is what an abusive male partner is like. He was an angry person. He had a serious aggression and control problem. It didn't have anything to do with the extra money she spent that month (a common argument topic between them). Nothing she said, or did, mattered. It wasn't about the money. He didn't want her to spend less money, he wanted to intimidate and control her. So if this girl would have slapped this guy across the face during one of his intimidation sessions, and then he would have beaten her senseless because she threatened his authority, I posit that this is still domestic violence for which he is culpable.

I'm with you on this. I was

I'm with you on this. I was in an abusive relationship for several years, and for much of that time, I fought back. It's really difficult to sit and there and let someone call you a whore and a cunt, break your shit, then tackle you and sit on your chest and try to choke you without fighting back. It's practically a biological impulse that tells you to fight back when you are being attacked like that. Then of course, he turned it around on me, saying that he couldn't be an abuser because I was just as responsible as he was for what had happened.

It worked out well for him in three ways. One, he didn't have to feel quite so guilty about leaving me covered in bruises because I was fighting, too. Two, it made me feel extremely guilty, like I was a bad person who deserved nothing more out of my relationships than what I got. And third, after a while I was just so tired and so afraid of him that I quit putting up a fight, and I just sat there and took it and felt like the most sorry-ass excuse for a person in the world.

But then this is the thing - if I had truly been an abusive person, I would have brought these behaviors into my next relationships, right? But I didn't. In fact, I rarely even get angry anymore. My behavior almost entirely consisted of reactions to his controlling, violent behavior. It wasn't who I was; it was the situation I was in. Yes, I should have left, but I was young and kind of stupid and way too proud for my own good. I know better now.

So I do think there is a lot of validity to the idea that, just because both people are involved in the fighting doesn't mean both people are abusive. Sure, they both very well could be, but odds are just as likely that one person is the source of the abuse and violence in the relationship.

Why hello, Person Who Is

Why hello, Person Who Is Strangely Defensive About Alleged Abuse!

Two things: Not knowing either Tila Tequila or Shawne Merriman (I know, it's a big void in my life) I can't state with 100% accuracy what their relationship might be. These things are complicated! BUT, she has been called his "girlfriend" in various reports on the incident, such as noted scandal-mongering tabloid rag the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/07/AR200909...

Second: there's always a possibility that the report is false, because there's always a possibility that ANY report is false, and that is why I used the word "alleged" in describing the incident, like so: "Tila Tequila - a woman who is substantially less beloved than Rihanna - was allegedly assaulted by her boyfriend."

Third, the fact that you're so eager to posit Tila Tequila (or, I guess, Tila Nguyen, as that's the name on the report) as a lying liar who must be lying about EVERY LAST LITTLE DETAIL, and ACCORDING TO HIM IT WAS FOR HER OWN GOOD, and also since her behavior is not 100% what you approve of at all times it is IMPOSSIBLE FOR HER TO HAVE BEEN ASSAULTED, so she must be JUST LIKE ALL THOSE WOMEN THAT GO AND FILE FALSE RAPE REPORTS FOR THE HELL OF IT leads me to suspect that you're... um... not too well versed in the whole "feminism" thing?

This is 101 stuff, Whitney. It doesn't matter who a woman is: if she alleges that an assault has taken place, given the common and underreported nature of assault, we listen. And we don't take her public persona into account as evidence either for or against her, since assault happens to both "good girls" and "bad girls" and every kind of girl in between.

It's entirely possible that she was drunk, and that she lied about being drunk. It's also entirely possible that she did this because she knows that "bad girls" (like, say, girls who drink and party a lot) are considered more or less un-assaultable, and that she is trying to defend herself from the sort of "she must have deserved it" thing that your comment, like plenty of early comments on the Brown/Rihanna case, exhibits. Women routinely have to twist themselves into pretzels proving that they're virtuous enough not to have deserved the violence that's been inflicted upon them. They may even feel that they have to lie in order to seem "undeserving" of violence, which is a damn shame, since when they DO lie, and are found out, that's presented as one more reason why they couldn't have been assaulted. The fact is, drunk or not, if he did what she alleges that he did, he is in the wrong.

He said himself that she is

He said himself that she is not his girlfriend. I tend to believe the person involved, and not the media. Maybe you should read his statement.

And maybe you shouldn't compare it to the Chris Brown situation because he was charged and convicted of abuse. He admitted it. And maybe people are skeptical of it not because of her, but because there is ZERO evidence other than her word and the word of him and several witnesses.

I think you need to calm down and be less defensive about it. All I am saying is that it is possible that she is lying, and of course you didn't mention that. You only mentioned that Merriman allegedly assaulted her, and not gave the flip side, that sometimes women fabricate abuse stories.

"ACCORDING TO HIM IT WAS FOR HER OWN GOOD"

What was for her own good? He said he didn't touch her. And I think trying to prevent someone from driving home drunk is for their own good. If she was drunk, and if she did drive drunk and if she hit someone and killed them, HE could be held liable because she was drinking at his house. I have had to physically restrain one of my friends from driving home drunk before, but they were thankful the next morning, and didn't do a citizen's arrest on me.

"also since her behavior is not 100% what you approve of at all times"

When the fuck did I say that?

"IMPOSSIBLE FOR HER TO HAVE BEEN ASSAULTED"

When the fuck did I say that? All I said is that it's possible she's lying, NOT that it's impossible she was assaulted.

"she must be JUST LIKE ALL THOSE WOMEN THAT GO AND FILE FALSE RAPE REPORTS FOR THE HELL OF IT"

All I said is that it's possible she's lying. Women do file false rape reports, why, I don't know. Women also accuse their ex-husbands of abuse during divorce proceedings. It happens. You need to recognize that it unfortunately happens and it paints men like monsters. After a false accusation like that, their lives are ruined.

Why I am so skeptical is because Shawne Merriman has everything to lose. He's already been in trouble for steroids back in 2006. He knows that if he does anything and goes to jail, his NFL career will be over, and his contract is up for renewal with the Chargers at the end of the season, and I honestly don't think he'd be that stupid.

"leads me to suspect that you're... um... not too well versed in the whole "feminism" thing?"

Yeah, no. I'm a college graduate, 24, been well versed in this whole "feminism" thing since high school, but thanks for being patronizing.

"It doesn't matter who a woman is"

I never said it did.

"if she alleges that an assault has taken place, given the common and underreported nature of assault, we listen"

And the difference between me and you is that I listen to the man. I give him a chance to tell his side of the story. With Chris Brown, there was physical evidence. there is ZERO physical evidence with this case. None. If he choked her like she said he did, there would be visible signs of choking. So far, there is zero physical evidence. And a guy his size, 250 pounds, would definitely leave physical evidence. He's huge, and she's tiny.

"And we don't take her public persona into account as evidence either for or against her, since assault happens to both "good girls" and "bad girls" and every kind of girl in between."

And I didn't.

"the sort of "she must have deserved it" thing that your comment, like plenty of early comments on the Brown/Rihanna case, exhibit"

What the fuck!? I never said she deserved it. All I said is that it's possible that she lied, and you twist my words and say that my comment exhibits the "she deserved it" belief? Well fuck that. If I can't defend a man in case of abuse, and be accused of not knowing jack shit about being a feminist, then fuck you. You are jumping to conclusions, and in your mind, he's guilty. And that's shit.

"The fact is, drunk or not, if he did what she alleges that he did, he is in the wrong"

I know that, and I never said that he wasn't if he did do it. The fact is, if it turns out that she lied, his life is already ruined. And you don't seem to give a fuck about that.

Maybe you should also look at her Twitter page and see how "professional" she's being about it.

"Why I am so skeptical is

"Why I am so skeptical is because Shawne Merriman has everything to lose. He's already been in trouble for steroids back in 2006. He knows that if he does anything and goes to jail, his NFL career will be over, and his contract is up for renewal with the Chargers at the end of the season, and I honestly don't think he'd be that stupid."

1. I did not realize you were such close, personal friends with the man that you'd know how stupid he could be.

2. Plenty of professional athletes ARE that stupid. It's not like he's the only one who has ever been accused of abusing women. He's just getting extra attention because the woman he is accused of beating on is quasi-famous.

And I will be extremely

And I will be extremely surprised if he really did what she said he did. And if it is true, then he absolutely deserves what's coming to him, sad as it may be that he acted so stupidly and threw away a great career. And by the way, a lot of people were very surprised to learn about the abuse between Rihanna and Chris Brown. I know I was. (by the way, I think he should have gotten a harsher sentence, but that's a different discussion).

And yes, he does have everything to lose, a multi-million dollar NFL contract. If he goes to jail, his career is over. And he was already in trouble for steroids back in 2006, which is why I would be so surprised if it were true.

And I don't have to know someone personally to not think that they would act so stupidly. I just think that someone who has millions of dollars to lose wouldn't throw it all away in a second.

Whitney: Well, once you've

Whitney: Well, once you've reeled out the old "fuck you," you've effectively precluded any further discussion. But here's a try. By saying things like "maybe she's crazy" or "look at how unprofessional she's being" or "she might be lying" (paraphrasing, I know, but I don't think anyone who looks at your statements could conclude that this wasn't what you were saying) for the woman who has allegedly been abused, versus "his life could be ruined" or "I don't think he did it" or "I believe him, not the media" for the man who has allegedly abused someone, you are effectively stating a prejudice in favor of the alleged abuser and against the alleged abuse victim. Basically, it's important to BELIEVE what Merriman says, but important to DOUBT what Tila Tequila says. And if you really are well-versed in feminism, then you know that there is a history of arguing that women who report abuse, rape, etc. are aggressors (out to ruin the lives of men who might be convicted based on their statements) rather than victims. That's the particular variety of misogyny you are espousing right now, whether you want to own up to that or not, whether you are even aware of it or not. I don't know why you are invested in defending Merriman, or why you think that men who are accused of abuse are somehow without defenders, whereas women who accuse someone of abusing them have the unique power to DESTROY the people they finger as abusers. But it's an argument I'm more used to seeing on MRA boards than feminist blogs, honestly. And I really think you might want to reconsider. Because it creates an overall environment in which reporting abuse is more risky for a woman than failing to report it, and in which reporting abuse is seen as, basically, worse than abusing someone. And that's not feminist. Or good for victims of abuse.

And when you started putting

And when you started putting words into my mouth, it pissed me off. You tried to make me look like a horrible person, congratulations.

And what I am doing is giving the accused the benefit of the doubt. Whatever happened to "innocent until proven guilty"? When he is convicted of abuse, then I will believe her. But he hasn't been charged with anything. Why not listen to the other side? It seems to me that you are totally uninterested in listening to his side, which reeks of misandry.

And what you are doing is stating a prejudice in favor of the alleged victim. I am willing to stick up for men (or the accused), you are not. By only listening to the alleged victim, you are exhibiting misandry. Yes, people are sticking up for Merriman, and people are sticking up for Tila Tequila. I am a firm believer in innocent until proven guilty, and apparently, you aren't.

And what makes it more risky to report domestic abuse is false allegations of domestic abuse. When false allegations happen, people are less likely to believe an actual victim. That's why it's so important to weigh both sides, listen to each party, and make your decisions based on the behaviors of both parties involved, and the evidence. So far, there is zero evidence, yet you're automatically believing the alleged victim.

And women falsely accusing men of rape or abuse happens. For you to ignore it or call it misogyny when I call it out is simply unbelievable.

"whereas women who accuse someone of abusing them have the unique power to DESTROY the people they finger as abusers"

And that is precisely why it's important to listen to the other side, especially when someone's career is on the line. When a man is falsely accused of rape, his life is already ruined. There is no erasing that. Why women falsely accuse men of rape or abuse, I don't know. I can't answer that. But I know it happens, and I know better than to ignore it or to dismiss it.

And tell me, how on earth are women who make false allegations of rape or abuse victims instead of perpetrators?

I agree with the majority of

I agree with the majority of Sady's arguments, but wanted to make the slightly more juvenile but necessary point that nobody cares about Shawne Merriman. By that I mean, that we care about him as a human being, but beyond that have no particular stake in his guilt or innocence. I have nothing against Shawne Merriman, and I don't think the original post was a vailed attempt to proclaim is guilt.

The way I understood it, the case was brought up in the orignial post to raise a question about how society and media handle instances of domestic violence. In particular, would Tequila v. Merriman play out differently in the court of public opinion than Brown v. Rihanna because Tila Tequila is a bisexual, MySpace, Playboy celebrity. I would add to that speculation, will the case play out differently because Merriman is a professional athlete? People identify with him, may have a stake in his career or his team, and that may affect whether they want to believe he is an abuser or want to forgive him if he is found guilty. The point I made earlier was that the cases may play out differently because Brown's resulted in a more clear cut, visible form of domestic violence. I speculate that a woman might be in a relationship with a man who physically threatens her, intimdates her, maybe even manages to never leave a mark. She's still a victim of domestic violence. What's really going on here is that because I have no stake in Merriman as a person or as a professional athelete, I can speculate about the nature of his case and what that tells us about public perception of domestic violence with a relative degree of detachment. But, again, I think the hope is to talk about domestic violence, not Shawne Merriman.

And does anyone care about

And does anyone care about Chris Brown?

"In particular, would Tequila v. Merriman play out differently in the court of public opinion than Brown v. Rihanna because Tila Tequila is a bisexual, MySpace, Playboy celebrity"

You honestly think that? My objection to the comparison between the cases is that one is alleged, and is being reviewed by the San Diego DA's office, and the other, he was convicted of it. The reason why it would play out differently is because there is a lack of evidence on her part regarding the alleged abuse. Some people don't like her, sure. But what the public thinks doesn't matter. What a judge thinks matters. What the DA's office thinks matters. You also have to consider that Tila Tequila is very popular, she got famous on Myspace for having the most friends. She's had two popular reality shows, thousands following her on Twitter. I would say she definitely has more people supporting her than Merriman has him. The average person doesn't even know who she is. So yes, she is bisexual and has posed for Playboy, but remember when Paris Hilton was allegedly abused by then-boyfriend Nick Carter? She never pressed charges, but people were definitely behind her, despite her public persona of being less than likable.

I think one of the reasons why people are skeptical of Tila Tequila are because of her actions post-incident, namely going on a Twitter rampage against the Chargers, when before, she kept going on about how much she loved the team. She also Twittered (now deleted) that she wasn't drunk that night because she can't drink, citing an allergy to alcohol, yet she had previous Tweets about how drunk she was that weekend, and there is also videographic evidence of her drinking in the past. Also, we have yet to see physical evidence. Rihanna and Paris Hilton had visible injuries. Merriman is roughly three times the size of Tila, and if she was injured like she said she was, then the hospital would have kept her longer for 2 hours. The guy is massive, and she's tiny. That's why people are skeptical, not because she's a bisexual nudie model.

"I would add to that speculation, will the case play out differently because Merriman is a professional athlete?"

I don't think so, and if anything, I would think that he would receive a harsher sentence because athletes are expected to be role models. Kids look up to them, they are being paid millions and millions of dollars. Look what happened to Michael Vick.

"People identify with him, may have a stake in his career or his team, and that may affect whether they want to believe he is an abuser or want to forgive him if he is found guilty."

But what the public thinks doesn't matter, because they aren't the ones deciding if he's guilty or not in court. Personally for me, if he's charged and found guilty, that's it. There is no forgiveness, and I hope he gets suspended or removed from the NFL.

"The point I made earlier was that the cases may play out differently because Brown's resulted in a more clear cut, visible form of domestic violence."

The only thing I can think of is that they were dating, and there was physical evidence. In the other case, neither is apparent.

You're right in that if a woman is threatened by a man or a partner that she is a victim of domestic violence, but that's not the case in either cases in this discussion. Tila didn't say that Merriman threatened her, she said he choked her and threw her to the ground. I personally can't stand Meriman, I think he's a great player but off the field.... he's just an idiot.

The relevance of the presumption of innocence

Whitney: “I am a firm believer in innocent until proven guilty, and apparently, you aren't.”

I hate to be pedantic, but the presumption of innocence is a procedural principle that places the burden of proof in criminal trials on the prosecution, with the final intention of only convicting if the accused is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt. It places no restraint on the individual member of the public to refrain from forming opinions of guilt before the final judgement is pronounced (although, I have to add, I did not read Sady’s text as having attempted any such condemnation – she merely referred to an alleged crime, which is exactly what the Tila Tequila case is.)

The public generally doesn’t sit wait for the final verdict to form an opinion on high profile cases – its makes up its mind pretty much as soon as the news hits the street. And, the way I understood it, what Sady intended to contemplate is what direction the public is likely to go in this *alleged* case of abuse in comparison to the Rihanna/Brown one, i.e. to what extent does the image and persona presented by the alleged victim influence the outcome of a case in the court of public opinion, long before any judge is given a say on the matter. Obviously trial by media is a phenomenon that should be curtailed, but again here we enter murky legal territory where the rights of the accused (including the right to privacy, as well as that of a free trial) have to be balanced against the principles of free press and freedom of expression – generally free press wins, although specific instances of unlawful behaviour or behaviour that goes against the principles of journalistic ethics on behalf of a member of the press may fail to receive protection. Such instances however will not strip either the media or individuals from the right to freely hold and express opinions on the issue.

“Personally for me, if he's charged and found guilty, that's it. There is no forgiveness, and I hope he gets suspended or removed from the NFL.”

Ok, I’m sorry, but this isn’t the right attitude either – judges aren’t infallible. There is such a thing as miscarriage of justice and when it happens it is tragic (witness the Sally Clark case in the UK).

Well the DA decided not to

Well the DA decided not to press charges. Whether or not she'll be filing civil charges.

But you know, regarding the punishment factor, sometimes I feel like I have to say something like that because people get too personal about stuff like this. Sure, judges aren't infallible, but the situation in and of itself, is such bad publicity. Also, if I don't say something like that, then people think I'm a bad feminist or something like that, and apparently also believing him over her also makes me a bad feminist (because apparently in order to be a true feminist, you have to blindly believe any time a woman makes a claim that a man hit her). Weighing the sides evenly, looking at the evidence is the way to go, instead of just taking everything at point blank.

Whitney, you are so hell bent

Whitney, you are so hell bent on defending this one guy who you have and will never meet, supposedly after "weighing both sides, listening to each party, and making your decisions based on the behaviors of both parties involved." Yet for some reason you still find it acceptable to make sweeping generalizations about people whose cases and experiences you have never even heard of, arguing that women file false rape and abuse reports all the time. You don't have to listen to these women across the country, and world, tell their stories, much less listen to the stories of the alleged abusers, to be able to state with confidence that many of them are lying? I mean, I realize these women are unseen and shamed into silence (not to mention those in third world countries, etc.) instead of being huge celebrities in the public eye, but I thought you were such a good sleuth. Come on, Nancy Drew.

unfortunate but true

I was recently privy to my ex-girlfriend dealing with this same situation, and I was unfortunately unable to do anything about it. It continues to this day and it's kind of hard to see that this is a common problem. Recognize your issues people! We are human beings capable of reasoning and ADVANCED COMMUNICATION. Use words, don't resort to primitive behavior. Thanks!