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SALT LAKE CITY — Chris Brown's performance on the Grammy Awards Sunday night has drawn the ire of some who say he should not be "rewarded" with such attention after he assaulted Rihanna three years ago.
Following the public backlash, the entertainer fired back on Twitter saying his 2008 incident of domestic assault was a "big mistake" and that he has changed since then.
Some young women started lending him their support with tweets such as "Chris Brown can beat me any day." But Katie McMinn, violence prevention specialist with the Utah Department of Health, says domestic abuse is no laughing matter.
"If we're showing any type of joking or comic thing about that, people aren't going to be taking the abuse seriously; and it really is a serious issue that needs to be addressed," McMinn said.
Even though the Twitter comments probably weren't entirely serious, the flippant attitude contrasts with the very real numbers: one-third of teenage girls report having experienced physical violence at the hands of a dating partner; and last year, nearly 12 percent of Utah high school students said their boyfriend or girlfriend physically abused them in 2011.
AshLee Bambrough was 19 years old when she entered an abusive relationship. "He tried to control what I did who I hung out with, what I wore, how I did my hair," she said. "He wouldn't let me see my family that often."
Utah Domestic Violence Link Line
Rape & Sexual Assault Crisis Line
Bambrough said she put on blinders to ignore the problem. But it became painfully obvious six months ago, when she says her boyfriend beat her until she became unconscious and then pushed her out of a moving car.
Now, Bambrough is on a mission to stop the abuse.
"Don't be scared to get the help," Bambrough said. "If you feel like you are being abused, go to a parent, go to a teacher, go to someone you trust and talk to them."
Bambrough and McKinn both say speaking out can help end the cycle of silence.
The Utah Department of Health is hosting a free concert Feb 21 at Murray High School to promote healthy relationships for teens.