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What if O.J.'s Sentence Had Been Like Chris's?

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Dr. Wendy Walsh: Two decades ago, when Nicole Brown Simpson was found by police in her bra, cowering behind her Mercedes while O.J. Simpson was holding a baseball bat, domestic violence used to be treated with a slap on the wrist. As a news anchor in Los Angeles in the early 1990s, I covered every second of the O.J. Simpson trial, and from my memory, despite numerous police visits to his home, his sentencing never got more severe than some anger management counseling -- which O.J. was given special permission to complete over the phone.

O.J. Simpson, Nicole Brown Simpson, Chris Brown
On Tuesday, Chris Brown was sentenced to 1,400 hours of community service, one year of anger management classes, and five years of probation. He's also not allowed to be near his victim, pop singer Rihanna, until 2014. If only Nicole Brown Simpson had been given that gift.

The truth is that domestic violence is a complex crime that is pervasive in our culture. Recent studies suggest that one in four American women have suffered rape or physical assault at the hands of an intimate partner.

Learned patterns of violence can be undone. But it takes work. Anger is such a primal emotion, and one of the few emotions that we often encourage young boys to express. How often have you heard sports coaches use violent language to encourage aggression on the field? Anger and violence are impulses that are inside all of us, designed to help us protect ourselves when challenged. The piece that Chris Brown is undoubtedly attempting to work out is why Rihanna was perceived by his brain as a threat on that fateful night.

But there are no miracle cures. To be effective, anger management programs must last a minimum of one year, with ongoing "maintenance therapy" for life. The offender has to want to change and be there on his own accord. Court-mandated programs don't have as high a success rate because of this factor.

The fact that our society has taken the first steps to stop Chris Brown is a good sign. Laying such a stern sentence on a celebrity is our culture's way of sending a clear message to the public that this crime will no longer be tolerated. Now it's up to Chris and the many other offenders out there to WANT to change, and to do the ongoing work to ensure this tragedy never happens in their lives again.

As for Rihanna, she now has to do the hard work of turning her back on a love relationship that was probably "mostly good" in order to protect her body from future harm. Her loss is a double one: the loss of trust, and the loss of the lover whom she might otherwise have run to if she were in pain. Be well, Rihanna.

next: Mom In Disney World Kidnap Hoax Gets Jail Time
2 comments so far | Post a comment now
Diane November 16, 2009, 11:39 AM

I am so happy that we are talking about domestic violence. Although I feel terrible for both Rihanna and Nicole, neither suffered “battered wife syndrome”. Anytime you have the kind of cash that they had or can pick up the telephone and call rich friends, their batterers should only get ONE time to strike them. They can separate themselves from their batterers by an ocean if they choose. I was trapped. My husband worked for Verizon, the bloodiest, deadliest and most corrupt corporation in the world. A supervisor traced my family’s lines and tracked me down like dog. I was beat unmercifully for leaving. My husband committed suicide and beat me and my children out of his pension because of my mental state. The money ended up in the bloody bank account of Mr. Raymond W. Smith, then head of Verizon. Ladies beware of men who will batter you and especially of men like Raymond W. Smith

Ten Tees January 9, 2011, 12:16 PM

Interesting article. Nice and fun reading. I just have a point to make about funny t-shirts.

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