Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fists of fury and faded memories

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When the hands that hurt finally pull themselves off of your body, there is a heartbeat of time where you realize you can't-won't-don't want to tell anybody. Because you're afraid people won't believe you. Because you're afraid that if they do, they'll hate the person those hands belong to.

That is all I want to say about heartbeats, and silence.

When singer Chris Brown announced four Canadian concert dates, including one in Winnipeg slated for Aug. 29, online petitions sprang up demanding the concerts' cancellation. Almost 1,500 people signed the Winnipeg version, and laid out in uncertain terms what they were rejecting. "Anyone charged with assault especially any man assaulting a woman should not be recognized, rewarded or adored," one signee wrote.

Oh, it's been 41/2 years, and we have not forgotten how he hit her. We have not forgotten that picture, the visual evidence of how he poured his rage into the very shape of her. We have not forgotten how he released a statement about how "saddened" he was by "what transpired," as if these things just happen. As if his fist hurtled towards flesh of its own accord.

That is all I want to say about Chris Brown's violence.

Back in the here and now: On Aug. 9, Brown had a seizure, which his publicist said was caused in part by "unfounded legal matters and the nonstop negativity," and on Monday they pulled the plug on the Canadian shows. Because of his "personal and health-related issues," they said, though according to Twitter he was partying in Vegas that same week. That part doesn't matter, though. What matters is there won't be a show.

It's instructive, because this isn't usually how the story goes. Usually, the public forgets, or just never really knows.

For instance: in 1987, Sean Penn struck Madonna with a baseball bat. A year later, shortly before their divorce, he reportedly beat her again, this time for hours. He went on to an acclaimed film career, Academy Awards and praise for his humanitarian work. His temper has flared in confrontations with paparazzi since, but few now remember his propensity for domestic violence.

Charlie Sheen once shot Kelly Preston in the arm; pleaded no contest to battering another girlfriend; was accused of violence by several others; threatened now ex-wife Denise Richards; and was charged with assaulting his next wife Brooke Mueller after multiple alleged attacks. In spite of all of that, he remained the highest-paid actor on television until his very public 2011 meltdown, which fans gobbled up with a voyeuristic laugh.


Actor Terrence Howard has been charged multiple times for beating women, and his ex-wife recently took out a restraining order against him after he allegedly punched her in the face. He denies this, but appears nonplussed by the concept: When Chris Brown attacked Rihanna, Howard said it was "just life," and that Brown was "a great guy" who would "be alright, and Rihanna knows he loves her."

Howard is currently starring in The Butler, the latest venture in his wildly successful Hollywood life.

Mike Tyson has lengthy rap sheet of raping and abusing women. His career was indeed derailed by his constant violence and substance-abuse problems, but since sobering up he has been rehabilitated as a kitschy pop-culture icon. Like him in The Hangover, anyone?

The list goes on, but we will stop there, while there is still space to ask a question: for all the determination to hold Chris Brown to account, why are memories of other celebrities' abuse mostly relegated to footnotes on Wikipedia? Perhaps it is simply because we saw that picture, saw the swollen evidence of his rage marking another famous face, and could not look away.

A worse thought: how many other people we celebrate have abused the same, but we don't and never will know, because their victims live in silence -- fearing they won't be believed, fearing they'll be blamed for what their abuser will lose if they are.

Let's end with something better to think about.

This Thursday evening, Aug. 29, the same night as the Chris Brown concert was supposed to go down, all sorts of Winnipeggers are getting together for Loving Hands Don't Hit, a bowling and music night at Academy Lanes to raise money for victims of domestic violence. All proceeds will go to the Osborne House women's shelter. You can also chip in at GoFundMe.Com/LovingHandsDontHit.

As of late Tuesday night, they'd raised $875 already. That's not celebrity money, but it's something we can feel good about celebrating.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 24, 2013 D2


Updated on Saturday, August 24, 2013 at 9:08 AM CDT: adds photos

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