What Chris Brown and Karrueche Tran Teach Us About Cycles of Violence

by Anna Gibson

A recent article on TMZ described another incident involving Chris Brown and his ex-girlfriend Karrueche Tran. Their relationship has a history of being rocky. Brown has been involved in a number of court cases involving domestic violence disputes and it would seem he’s in the spotlight once again.

The most recent dispute began at a nightclub where—after a heated exchange—Brown followed Karrueche into her SUV and eventually back to her home. In the video, you can see him repeatedly attempting to engage her in conversation, even though Tran’s body language seems to indicate she doesn’t want to speak to him. It appears that she’s not just avoiding the paparazzi, but also attempting to quickly walk away from Brown. She seems to completely shut him out with her body language. Even though her security tries to block him from entering the SUV, Brown pushes his way into the car anyway. Later that morning at 3am, sources say Brown was spotted shouting and banging on Karrueche’s door. This is textbook stalker behavior.

However, a deeper problem needs to be addressed here: the perpetuating cycles of violence in abusive relationships. No one was born with this behavior. Brown wasn’t born dealing with anger issues and Tran wasn’t born being attracted to men who have these problems. So how did they get to this place? Why is their relationship so toxic and why do they keep coming back to each other?

To help us shed light on this, Brown has been completely transparent in his interviews about the domestic violence he witnessed between his mother and stepfather and the sexual assault he experienced when he was eight years old.

At one point, he even gave some advice to former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice after a violent incident Rice had in an elevator with his wife. Brown states, “With me, I deal with a lot of anger issues from my past—not knowing how to express myself verbally and, at the same time, not knowing how to cope with my emotions and deal with them and understand what they are.” He continues, “It’s [Rice’s anger] not supposed to stay there…You’re not supposed to keep it inside because it’ll bottle up and you’ll become a monster.”

It’s clear that Brown knows his behavior is unacceptable; yet somehow he can’t stop perpetuating these patterns of violence. According to an article in the journal of the Human Behavior and Evolutionary Society, there’s a psychological process that occurs in developmental stages of childhood called ‘imprinting.’

According to the HBES, “Humans have been shown to display phenomena resembling sexual imprinting, whereby adults are attracted to features in potential mates which resemble their opposite sex parent…the data supports the suggestion that imprinting-like phenomena in humans may arise through associative learning.”

In other words, at a very young age we subconsciously learn both how to pick our partners and how to relate to them based on what we’ve seen from our parents. This may be one of the reasons why Brown may hate his stepfather for what he did to his mother, but he can’t help but behave like him when he grew up. As this is the case, he is just as abusive towards Tran as his stepfather was to his mother. This is how generations of violence and toxic relationships are passed down.

From this, one could infer that Tran is attracted to Brown for the same reason. As with many women, there are a number of factors that may cause them to stay in such a relationship. The most common reason is that the abused woman feels as if their partner still loves them.

Part of this misconception is caused by what occurs in the beginning of the relationship. At the beginning, the abuser is often at their most charming. As the relationship begins to degrade into something more toxic, the woman may hold onto to these memories. This is further exacerbated the by apologetic gestures, intended to show her that the abuser won’t hurt her again. Of course this is never the case. Tension rises and a heated argument can turn into physical and emotional violence or in Brown’s case, stalker behavior.

The key to this misconception is that the ideal relationship that the abuser witnessed as a child is inherently toxic. If your model of ‘love’ was created from seeing one of your parents hurt the other, then naturally your sense of love is bound to be maladaptive and distorted. This is also true of the abused party, who more than likely grew up seeing the same thing from the opposite perspective. Because of this, neither party can love in a way that’s considered “normal” without extensive therapy and self-work.

This article isn’t meant to denigrate Chris Brown and Karrueche Tran, nor is it meant to cast judgment on their relationship troubles. However, it’s important we look back at the causes of domestic violence to determine how it’s passed down from generation to generation. By seeing its causes and facing the reality of abuse head on, we can begin to heal ourselves and our relationships in a much fuller way.

Photo: Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images

Anna Gibson is a student at Wayne State University and freelance journalist residing in Detroit Michigan. She seeks to create a safe space for the marginalized to tell their stories. If you want to get in touch, you can reach her on Twitter @TheRealSankofa or on Facebook where she’s totally not hiding under the name Anna Gibson.

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