Many Houstonians know (Dr.) Michael Brown from the many billboards that tote the Brown Hand Center, or the commercials in which Michael Brown promises to treat you like his own children.
Ironically, Dr. Brown doesn’t have custody or visitation with those children any longer. And he’s actually not a doctor, so I’ll stop referring to him as one. And that’s just the beginning of the Brown drama, and another post for another day.
Michael Brown was recently charged and found not guilty for assault—family violence, against his fourth wife. Prior to that violent incident, Brown’s history with hitting his wives, his cocaine problems, and his whacked-out personality were well documented by the Houston Press and other news sources.
It’s clear that Brown’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin, simply relied on victim-blaming to sway the jury. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to watch much of the trial, but I followed the live-tweeting on twitter under the #browntrial hashtag and many of the articles written by the Houston press, local news media, etc.
DeGuerin brought forth several facts that really had nothing to do with whether or not Brown committed assault against his wife. He brought out that Rachel keyed his Lamborigni with two choice words, Brown and his wife were chasing each other around the house yelling, screaming and terrorizing each other, Rachel Brown was having an affair with retired Houston Astro Jeff Bagwell, Rachel Brown went back and forth on cooperating with the police and the District Attorney’s Office, Rachel Brown signed two affidavits asking the DA not to prosecute the case, Rachel Brown didn’t want Brown convicted and sentenced to jail time, Rachel had no bruises or injuries, Rachel waited until Brown left before calling the police, and called several other people first (her parents and bodyguards).
What’s come out in testimony is that Brown chased Rachel around their home. Multiple nannies, children, and bodyguards were present. Brown threw 2 vases and a humanitarian award at Rachel. A bodyguard intervened, and pulled Brown off of Rachel after he had his hands on her. Brown pulled and twisted Rachel’s arm behind her back. No bruises, marks, or other injuries occurred. Brown repeatedly threatened to shut off utilities and stop supporting Rachel and the children unless she dropped charges.
It’s sad, because so many of my clients go through what Rachel does. This case puts the spotlight on what domestic violence victims in Houston go through from when they dial 911 until the jury in the criminal case comes back with a verdict.
In this case, the jury bought DeGuerin’s victim blaming arguments, and sent a message that domestic violence is not treated seriously if you have enough money to hire Dick DeGuerin.
Victim-blaming is when people blame the victim for something that the offender or perpetrator did. It gives communities and people the opportunity to slack in holding people accountable for their actions. This most often happens in domestic violence and sexual assault cases. People sometimes feel that the victim should have done things differently and if they did, they would not have been assaulted. The fact of the matter is that often times, even if the victim did things differently, they still would have gotten assaulted. The accountability should not rest with the victim, but with the perpetrator. Victim-blaming exists, because myths about sexual assault and domestic violence exist. Without the myths, we wouldn’t blame victims, and without victim-blaming society would hold more perpetrators accountable.
Often times, defense attorneys, juries, judges and even Assistant District Attorneys get caught up in victim-blaming. It’s the reason why Rachel has to testify and Brown didn’t have to. It’s the reason why there was a lot of testimony on all of these collateral issues—issues that have no bearing on whether or not Brown committed assault against Rachel. They are red herrings. DeGuerin is hoping that someone latches on to them—believes them. But they have nothing to do with the fact that Brown assaulted Rachel, and she cooperated with the police. If the Assisant District Attorneys office simply stuck to the fact that nothing Rachel did deserved or warranted being assaulted by Brown, it puts the case in perspective. When you start answering if/when/why she’s having an affair, or why keyed his car, or how many nannies she has, how much spousal support Brown’s paying, then you lose the premise of the case– nothing Rachel did deserved or warranted being assaulted by Brown.
Unfortunately, this sorely sends a message to victims. Even if you call the police, you’re going on trial– not the perpetrator. Even if you cooperate, they may not believe you. All those times he said they won’t believe you, he was right– they won’t. Even if you do all the things that you were supposed to, if your husband, partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, wife has money– he or she will get away with everything, just short of murder.