Will Chris Brown's Apology Stick?

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
July 21 2009 11:23 AM

Will Chris Brown's Apology Stick?

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Chris Brown has a thing or two to teach Mark Sanford and John Ensign about how to say you're sorry. In his taped apology to Rihanna , for punching her in February, the singer sounds forthright and sincere. He's straightforward and direct. He invokes his mother, more than once. He says he's getting help and he promises not to do it again. All the boxes checked, including remorse.

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Should we believe him? For me this raises all kinds of questions about how sunny I feel about the human capacity for change. I want to think Brown can reform, control his anger, yell at women instead of smacking them around when he does get mad. But he's got some deep-seated history to contend with. According to Spin , "Brown was raised surrounded by domestic violence; his stepfather allegedly abused his mother." Brown told MTV in 2006 that watching his stepfather was "an influence in me about how to treat a woman." He also said, "I used to always feel the hate for anybody that disrespected a lady."

So which way will Brown go - toward repeating the pattern he saw as a child, or toward his gut reaction that batterers are loathsome? I'm not sure the odds are in his favor. Still, for now, you gotta root for him. And hope he has a good therapist.

Photograph of Chris Brown in court by Lori Shepler/AFP/Getty Images.

Emily Bazelon is a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine and the author of Sticks and Stones

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