richardmcculloch2web.gifWith March’s designation as Women’s History Month, it seems almost a tragic irony that one of the predominant headlines to engage the American public recently has been the pre-Grammy award assault of R&B singer Rihanna by her boyfriend, R&B singer/actor Chris Brown.

The Grammy Awards on Feb. 8, 2009 should have been a great evening for one of entertainment’s hottest couples. Instead of surrendering to the glitz and glamour of the red carpet, however,
Chris Brown surrendered to the LAPD.  Instead of offering their talent and sharing their musical skills with viewers on the Grammy stage, on the night in question, Chris Brown and Rihanna ended up putting the issue of domestic violence onto a national stage.

Since the original assault that Sunday evening in February, all major media from news networks to supermarket tabloids have covered the various angles, innuendos and subplots of the assault.

The most universally consumed account of the incident is that a provocative text message from Chris Brown’s 40-year old manager, inviting the young performer to meet up with her later, was intercepted by Rihanna, sparking a jealous rage that led to a fiery argument, and subsequently to Brown’s assault on Rihanna with a flurry of punches and allegedly even some biting.

Variations of the assault have Rihanna supposedly initiating the violence, and Brown only reciprocating punches as a result of Rihanna’s actions.

The murky facts of the assault have led to factions developing in their support or lack thereof for Rihanna.  It is this polarization of support that leads me to question the value that we as a society have put on our women.

I grew up in a household where there was one rule to which there was no exception: You do not hit women.

Having a younger sister, who at times could push me to the brink of sibling insanity, made adherence to the rule a childhood battle within myself. But I never actually broke that rule.

In one incident, my adolescent sister wanted me out of her room, and when I refused to honor her rather reasonable wish, she decided she would help me along by hitting me in the face with a belt buckle.

Despite the rage that ran through every fiber of my being, and the pain that I felt in my rapidly swelling cheek, I collected myself and reported the incident to my father, who immediately scolded and punished my sister.

As my father got me ice, and soothed my bruised cheek and ego, he looked at me, smiled and softly said, “I’m so proud of you.  You didn’t hit her back.”

At that moment I felt that I had become a man; a real man.

Maybe I’m just old school about this, but I really don’t care what precipitated the beating dealt out by Chris Brown to the woman he supposedly loves. As far as I am concerned, Brown just added his sweetheart to the unenviable roster of statistics that offer a sobering commentary about domestic violence in this country.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. In addition, an estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.

As we close out the month dedicated to honoring the contributions of women, I can think of no better way to honor women than by reconciling as men, and a culture, that the only way we should ever lay hands on them is as a manifestation of our love for them.