Early on in his career, in February 2006, less than a year after making his debut at age 16 with the hit "Run It!," Brown told MTV News' Sway that watching his mother endure that abuse was "an influence in me about how to treat a woman." He talked about his hatred for his stepfather and said, "I used to always feel the hate for anybody that disrespected a lady. Or called a lady the B-word ... or just disrespected her."
Based on the information she has read about the case and her 25 years of experience dealing with domestic-violence issues, Sheryl Cates, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline, said the intergenerational abusive behavior that Brown could be a part of is not unusual.
"It's a learned behavior," she said. "It can be unlearned, and I hope that he will seek some help to do that. But it's about a belief system where you think, 'I have the right to hurt someone I love.' I've seen him say a lot that he would treat women differently, but the [alleged] injuries in this case are the same tactics — emotional or physical — meant to control [Rihanna]. One of the things we can convey to people is [that] violence is not the answer and there is an ability to change if you want that."
Though police have not specifically charged Brown with domestic violence in the case, which allegedly resulted in Rihanna suffering contusions to her face and bite injuries on her arms, Cates said she would love to help Brown. She said he's at an age that if he decides he wants to have healthy relationships going forward, he can do that. Noting that any violent act in a relationship is a terrible thing, and that currently one in five teens experience dating violence, Cates said the fact that this alleged incident happened in public might actually help.
"Maybe his arrest will move him to action around standing up [about this issue]," she said. "He's in a perfect position to stand up and say, 'I'm sorry for letting America's youth down. This is a part of my past, and I want people to know this is not the answer, and I want to get some help.' "
In December 2007, just months before he was first seen with Rihanna by his side, Brown appeared on Tyra Banks' talk show and spoke of his mother's abuse. "It affected me ... especially toward women," he said. "I treat them differently. Because I don't want to go through the same thing or put a woman through the same thing that that person put my mom through." Brown told Banks that he dealt with watching the domestic abuse from ages 7 to 13.
"It changed me," he said, explaining that his outgoing stage persona is an attempt to overcome the shyness and timidity he felt as a child, which sometimes led to him wetting his bed because he was afraid to get up at night and witness the violence. Brown told Banks that he would talk to his mother about the abuse "all the time," but that "when a woman's in love ... you don't look at it like that."
Asked what advice he might give to a woman or family in that situation, Brown bit his lip and said, "That's hard. ... Try to overcome it. Pray. ... I had the Bible under the pillow. ... Talk it out."
In 2007, Brown also spoke about his family's past with Giant magazine. "He used to hit my mom," the singer told the magazine. "He made me terrified all the time, terrified like I had to pee on myself. I remember one night he made her nose bleed. I was crying and thinking, 'I'm just gonna go crazy on him one day.' ... I hate him to this day."
In that interview, Brown described how, at age 11, he vowed to his mother that he would be in jail by age 15 for killing his abusive stepfather. "I'm gonna take a baseball bat one day while you at work, and I'm gonna kill him," he said.
Emil Wilbekin, editor in chief of Giant, told MTV News on Monday that he was saddened by the news. "In the 2007 article, he talks about his abusive stepfather beating on his mother, and unfortunately, that type of behavior often becomes a pattern within families," Wilbekin said. "It's a little sad, because he is a role model for so many young men and has so many young female fans. It does send a really bad message."