Mon | Oct 22, 2018

Brown, Rice and spousal abuse

Published:Monday | September 22, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Michael Abrahams, Online Columnist

By now many people have seen the security cam video of Ray Rice delivering a knockout punch to his then fiancée, Janay Palmer, in an elevator. The couple became involved in a heated confrontation, involving swearing and spitting, and as Palmer aggressively approached Rice, he floored her with a single devastating blow to her face, with her head appearing to hit the elevator wall as she fell.

The blow was bad enough, but what transpired next was just as disturbing. He dragged her unresponsive limp body out of the elevator, at one point using his left foot to push her right leg, his body language indicating little concern about the woman's physical state. Rice is a big man, weighing over 200lb, and Palmer is not exactly an Amazon, so she could have sustained some serious injuries.

The video is disturbing to watch, but what disturbed me even more is that Palmer married Rice on March 28 this year, the day after he was indicted by a grand jury on aggravated third-degree aggravated assault.
The circus continued during an interview with ESPN when Mrs Rice said, "I love my husband. I support him." and "To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his (ass) off for all his life just to gain ratings is horrific."

This incident was reminiscent of the Chris Brown-Rihanna altercation in 2009. Similar to the Rice-Palmer incident, the woman was attacked in small enclosed area, in this case a car.

According to court documents, Chris Brown threw a "barrage of punches" at Rihanna's face and arms, bit one of her ears and put her in a headlock, squeezing her neck until she could not breathe and almost lost consciousness. Her mouth filled with blood, with the body fluid splattering her clothes and the interior of the car. He also tried to push her out of the vehicle, but failed to do so because she was wearing a seat belt. Dissatisfied with that, Brown kept hitting her and said, "I'm going to beat the s**t out of you when we get home. You wait and see!"

People were later disappointed to learn that shortly after the incident, Ms Fenty (Rihanna) was seen in the company of Mr Brown, and after the restraining order was lifted, she did a song with him titled 'Nobody's Business' and posted a picture on Instagram of him shirtless, lying on her bed, with his trousers pulled down below his buttocks, exposing his underpants.

We often look at victims of domestic violence who remain in relationships or in contact with their aggressors and shake our heads and write them off as being very stupid people. But the psychopathology and interpersonal dynamics of relationships involving spousal abuse can be complex. nomic and sexual abuse may also be involved.

The violence usually occurs in cycles. Typically, tension builds and intensifies, culminating in physical violence, followed by reconciliation and peace. These cycles may continue for years, with the victim becoming psychologically affected, believing that the violence is his or her fault and is unable to place the blame on the partner. In some cases, the victim may fear for his or her life as threats may have been made.

These factors, coupled with drug use and mental disorders on the part of the victim, may contribute to persons remaining in these situations for years, even decades. The battered person syndrome is a real entity, with the effects on the victim ranging from low self esteem to death.

One of the major contributing factors to domestic violence is the occurrence of intergenerational cycles of abuse. In these scenarios, perpetrators believe that the abuse is justified and acceptable, and this attitude is passed on to the children under their care, who, in turn, are more likely to end up in abusive relationships, as they have been conditioned to accept violence as an acceptable means of settling disputes or maintaining control. For example, Chris Brown grew up seeing his mother being abused by his stepfather.

The best way to combat spousal abuse is to prevent it in the first place, and this begins with the way we socialise our children. They must be taught to respect others. Boys must be taught that girls are not just mobile vaginas put on the earth for their pleasure and to be controlled, and girls must learn to carry themselves with dignity and to not accept misogynistic behaviour from males.

Our children must be taught that at no point is it acceptable to hit another person, regardless of gender. (Yes, men are victims of spousal abuse too). We must be mindful of the ways we communicate with the mothers and fathers of our children, as they will model their behaviour off our examples.

Michael Abrahams is a gynaecologist and obstetrician,  comedian and poet. Email feedback to and, or tweet @mikeyabrahams.