In the UK, 45% of women have experienced some form of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. At least 80,000 women are raped every year. On average, two women per week are killed by a violent partner or ex-partner, making up an enormous 40% of all female homicides.
In the US in 2005, three women every day on average were murdered by an intimate partner. One third of all female homicides were perpetrated by an intimate partner. The National Crime Victimization Survey suggested that 232,960 women were raped or sexually assaulted in 2006.
Globally, at least one third of all women are beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused by an intimate partner in the course of their lifetime. And several global surveys suggest that half of all women who die in homicide cases are killed by their current or former partners.
Singer Chris Brown is famous for being charged with assault after he attacked his then-girlfriend, singer Rihanna, leaving her face battered and bruised and her lips split. This month, he unveiled a new tattoo extremely prominently located on his neck - visible to everybody in almost any outfit.
It is a tattoo of a woman's face. One eye is considerably blacker than the other, with a clear dark circle drawn widely around it and the lid squeezed shut. Black smudges and lines around the rest of the face are extremely reminiscent of bruises and wounds, though it is not clear whether this is what they are meant to represent. Across the lips of the face are three sharp, clearly drawn lines resembling splits, or animalistic claw marks.
After his conviction, Brown's lawyer spoke publicly in his defence. He said "He has always wanted to take responsibility... He wanted to put out the message that domestic violence is not acceptable."
Yet Brown's behaviour since the assault has sent anything but a message of contrition. First he posted a public video attacking those who had criticised him, saying "Everybody that's haters, they just been haters" and claiming "I ain't a monster". Then, in February this year, US Weekly published a report from a woman who claimed Brown approached her at an awards show using the pick-up line "Can I get your number? I promise I won't beat you." After he won two awards at this year's Grammys, he tweeted "HATE ALL U WANT BECUZ I GOT A GRAMMY Now! That's the ultimate F**** OFF!" He swiftly followed this with ""IM BACK SO WATCH MY BaCK as I walk away from all this negativity".
With this tattoo, he has surely surpassed his self-proclaimed "ultimate F*** OFF" by unashamedly emerging in public with an enormous, clear brand of the crime he committed proudly splashed across his body for all to see. If ever there was a screaming message of utter disdain for the severity of his actions, the seriousness of his conviction or the impact of his influence, this is it.
It is almost impossible to believe that Brown could have failed to notice the obvious correlations when he chose the tattoo, though his rep (unsurprisingly) claims it is based on a "sugar skull" and a MAC cosmetics advert, not an abused woman or an image of Rihanna.
But whether or not Brown intended these implications when he chose the tattoo; whether it was 'supposed' to come out as such a close likeness to a bruised and battered female face is almost irrelevant. The important fact is that given its overwhelmingly clear resemblance to the picture of the woman he assaulted, Brown has felt confident enough flaunting utter disrespect in the face of the crime he was convicted of to appear in public with it blazoned across his body.
It is critical to note that no minder, manager, PR advisor or other member of Brown's entourage felt concerned enough about the public reaction to advise covering the tattoo or wearing concealing clothing. In a world in which celebrity dress, appearance and speech are policed and manipulated ad infinitum, nobody in Brown's publicity team was worried that this public glorification of a crime that affects hundreds of thousands of women globally; a crime of which Brown has actually been convicted, could cause sufficient public anger to damage his reputation.
But really, it is no surprise that Brown feels so confident. Why would he be concerned that reminders of the assault would harm his career, when it has gone from strength to strength in the wake of his conviction? Kristen Stewart has been forced 'into hiding' by the severity of the vitriolic public backlash after her brief liaison with a married director. Emma Watson sparked thousands of outraged and salacious reports across the web this week when a sliver of her (covered) nipple was visible for a moment at the edge of her red carpet dress. Britney Spears's career plummeted into a crash landing after she publically shaved her head. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan faced international outrage and claims she was "letting her fans down" when she chose to lose weight slowly after the birth of her daughter.
Yet whilst Stewart has reportedly been dropped from the sequel of the movie directed by the man with whom she had a liaison, actor Charlie Sheen, who has been convicted of assaulting his wife, has just started starring in a new TV show (the ironically named Anger Management). While Spears nosedived off the map after her public meltdown, Brown's album hit number one in the UK charts on Sunday.
Singers like Brown are entirely dependent on public opinion, the support of their fans and sales of their music to maintain their celebrity and popularity. If he feels confident appearing in public with an image of a woman's beaten face tattooed into his neck it is because all evidence has taught him that public concern about domestic violence simply isn't strong enough to outweigh celebrity adulation. That whilst female celebrities are endlessly scrutinised, criticised and made to pay over and over for their mistakes, male celebrities seem able to act with near impunity. That domestic violence and sexual assault just don't sit high enough on our list of priorities even to stop Radio 1 from starting to play his songs again just two years after his conviction.
And perhaps it is not only the general public that needs to take a tougher stance on domestic violence and assault:
The police report from Brown's attack on Rihanna describes how he "shoved her head against the passenger window... causing an approximate one inch raised circular contusion" and how "he punched her in the left eye with his right hand. He then... continued to punch her in the face with his right hand. The assault caused [her] mouth to fill with blood and blood to spatter all over her clothing and the interior of the vehicle." After he began to punch her for a third time, the report describes how she bent over in an "attempt to protect her face and head from the barrage of punches being levied upon her". Next, he "placed her in a head lock... and bit her on her left ear". After yet another bout of punching, he put pressure on her carotid arteries "causing her to be unable to breathe and she began to lose consciousness".
After Brown's hearing, the judge said "I want Mr. Brown to be treated the same as any other defendant who would come into this court. That means something like graffiti removal and a two-week domestic violence program."
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