Chris Brown and Unwilling Victims

09 October 2013
Serial douche Chris Brown has recently revealed he lost his virginity age 8, and has been the recipient of sympathy from some unlikely quarters. Feminist writers who previously disdained him for his perpetration of relationship abuse have come out to say that he was raped, that he was a victim here, no wonder he carries on like such a tool considering such a horrid thing happened to him as a child. (It's worth pointing out that the girl he had sex with was 14 or 15, according to his story - how would our views change if she had been 8 years old herself?) Now, it goes without saying no 8 year old should be having sex. But Chris Brown does not see himself as a victim. He describes it as a normal experience where he grew up, good preparation for later on. It's pretty icky stuff to read. And it could well be a false face of bravado slapped on to cover up deep hurt; if so, my very deepest empathy to Mr Brown and I hope he can get help to deal with what he's been through. But. But what if it isn't? What if he is not sorry, doesn't regret what happened, looks on it as just another thing that happened when he was growing up, he's kind of proud of it? Do we need him to reject what has happened to him, in order to reinforce our views of what is right and wrong in the world? Is forcing victimhood status on someone who rejects it not just another form of violation?

Several years ago I watched a 60 Minutes interview with a student, I'll call A, who began a sexual relationship with a first-year teacher, whom I'll call B, two months prior to A's 16th birthday. B was at that stage in their early twenties. By the time of the interview, A was around 19 and the couple had broken up, but remained friendly. Liz Hayes was running the interview and prodding A for the emotional breakdown, which she wasn't getting. "You are a victim of child sexual abuse", Ms Hayes said, to which A laughed "No I'm not". Ms Hayes continued undaunted, "B is a paedophile. You are a victim of a paedophile". A said not, that everything was consensual and hadn't harmed them in any way. So how could A coming to the realisation that they are in fact a victim of a paedophile (as if B has a particular sexual interest in children, rather than just this young person a few years younger than themselves) be beneficial for A?

If Chris Brown broke down in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, say, or Barbara Walters, about how this has been a traumatic experience that has shaped his whole view of the world, but he's getting help now, and he has a lot to work through, but he finally realised he's a victim of child sex abuse - is that to make us feel better, or him? There is a cultural divide between male and female victims of child sex abuse it's true, but is insisting to a victim that doesn't see themselves as one - male or female - actually helping them? (I can attest that something vaguely similar this happened to me in my early teens, and the grown ups found out, and their horrified reactions caused me a lot more trauma than anything that physically happened to me).

I don't know. We need to let young men, and women, who have been sexually abused know that what happened to them was wrong, and not okay, and we care and want to help. But is forcing someone who rejects victimhood to see themselves as a victim about helping them, or our views of ourselves? The law is pretty damn unhelpful here, too - witness the insane spectre of 13 year olds being charged with distributing child pornography for sending nude selfies - the child being themselves. Do we need Chris Brown to collapse in a sobbing heap over his abuse? In the article I linked to above, the writer states "thinking of oneself as a victim isn't a prerequisite for an act of abuse to be harmful in ways that might not fully manifest until well into adulthood". Of course not. But is thinking of oneself as a victim a prerequisite for going forward with a meaningful life?


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