Accountability in the digital age

After a long week of tests, projects and homework, all I wanted to do is shove the textbooks aside and catch up on some mindless television or celebrity gossip. This week, fortunately, was full of shenanigans. Sadly, the scuttlebutt revolved around a tumultuous couple that recently came under fire for a publicized case of domestic violence.

Singer Chris Brown received massive negative publicity when, in 2009, he brutally beat his then-girlfriend, singer Rihanna. Brown pled guilty to felony charges, but spent no time in jail. Many domestic violence groups criticized his sentencing, saying that community service wasn’t an appropriate sanction or punishment.

Recently, the two were seen together by the paparazzi and have publicly communicated over Twitter. They also collaborated on two songs together.

Many fans and casual observers expressed outrage, and media and news outlets can’t seem to get enough of the story. The overall sentiment is that Brown is a bad guy and that Rihanna needs a friend or honest mentor to get her to snap out of it.

Is this reconnection unfortunate? Absolutely. Is this anyone else’s business? I’m not sure.

Since Brown and Rihanna have used Twitter as their means of communication (Chris tweeted, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ROBYN!” to Rihanna on Tuesday), they inadvertently invited the public into their private lives. Considering how sensitive the issue of domestic violence is, combined with the anonymity of Internet commenters, Brown has been receiving a lot of hate mail.

One such response came from WWE wrestler CM Punk, who tweeted, “I would like @chrisbrown (to) fight somebody that can defend themselves. Me curb stomping that turd would be a #wrestlemaniamoment.” He then recorded a two-minute video, in which he speaks about his respect for women and disappointment in Brown’s actions. The video ends with a challenge to fight Brown in the ring.

Although violence isn’t a solution to violence, CM Punk’s video and tweets send a message: The stigma connected to speaking about domestic disputes needs to be eliminated. The Internet is not only a place to advocate for your passions, but is becoming a place to hold others accountable for their actions and mistakes.

One unfortunate repercussion of this phenomenon, however, is victim shaming. Rihanna is an adult and free to make her own decisions, but she’s being ridiculed for her choice to reunite and collaborate with Brown. There is no trajectory that victims of abuse to recover. However, we all need to ask ourselves: Has Chris Brown really changed?

For now, Twitter remains a venue to voice your thoughts, but the social media platform is beginning to carry a bit more weight.

Reach the columnist at aamentze@asu.edu or hold her accountable via Twitter by following @soupsnake

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