"I saw and heard him speak to her in ways that were demeaning and talk down to her," Robyn Crawford tells PEOPLE
When Robyn Crawford took one last look into Whitney Houston’s eyes on her wedding day in 1992, she hoped her friend would find happiness. But, as she describes in her powerful new memoir, A Song For You: My Life With Whitney Houston, excerpted in PEOPLE, the years that followed with Bobby Brown were years of chaos and isolation.
In her book, Crawford describes the friend she loved, looked out for, and grew concerned for — for nearly three decades.
After Whitney married Bobby Brown, Crawford writes, she heard of problems during their honeymoon cruise.
“A few days into the honeymoon, I heard talk around the office about an altercation between Whitney and Bobby,” writes Crawford, Houston’s longtime friend and onetime love. “Someone on the yacht had placed a call to [Whitney’s father] John Houston telling him that something had gone down, and when the lovebirds returned, Whitney had a visible scar on the side of her face. The cut was at least three inches, running in a straight line from the top of her cheek down to the jaw.”
Crawford continues: “I asked [Whitney] to tell me what happened, and [she said]: ‘We had a disagreement. I threw a glass, the glass hit the wall, shattered, and that’s how the cut happened. Couples argue all the time and it’s never a big deal. Except when it’s me.'”
Crawford says she had doubts about Houston’s explanation from the beginning.
“I did not believe her because it was a straight line and it took forever for Roxanna Floyd, who was her makeup artist at that time, to cover it up,” Crawford says. “And that scar stayed with her. So no, I didn’t believe that.”
The story is yet another haunting detail in the life of the singer who died in 2012. (Houston struggled with drug use and died at the age of 48.)
Whitney grew isolated during her marriage, Crawford recounts. “I saw and heard him speak to her in ways that were demeaning and talk down to her,” she says. “That [would] not make me feel good if someone was talking to me that way.”
Brown denied that he was violent towards Houston in 2018. However, in his 2016 memoir, Every Little Step, Brown recounted an incident where he hit Houston. Brown also told Robin Roberts during a 20/20 interview promoting the book that he struck the singer during a time while he was “trying to maintain sobriety.”
Brown said, however, that reports of him being a “woman beater” or overall “violent toward her,” were false.
“I’ve never been a violent man toward a woman ever,” Brown told Roberts.
Despite his claims, Crawford’s memoir also recounts a story told to her by Houston’s longtime employee and assistant, Silvia Vejar.
For the full interview, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.
Crawford writes that Vejar had traveled with Houston to see Brown, who was then performing with New Edition in Atlanta. Houston knocked on the door to her husband’s suite in the Ritz-Carlton, but he didn’t answer. Only after Houston had purchased a room on the same floor and knocked again did Brown answer, according to A Song For You.
According to Vejar’s account, he told her he “didn’t want” her there and when Whitney asked why he has not opened the door, he spit in her face.
As Crawford writes, “She took off down the hall in tears, Silvia by her side, Bobby following, cursing.”
According to the book, Brown threw a glass at Houston, but missed her. Vejar had pushed her out of the way.
“Whitney grabbed the hotel phone to dial her father, but before she could finish dialing, Bobby snatched the receiver out of her hand, striking her on the head with it,” writes Crawford, recounting what Vejar told her. “She screamed before sinking to the floor, head in her hands.”
At the same time, she says, Houston was also worn down — by the demands of supporting an extended family, an exhausting tour schedule, the constant speculation about her sexuality and a drug addiction that was spiraling out of control.
“It was like a big machine and it never stopped,” she says of the constant pressure on the singer.
Despite the tragic end to her life, Crawford hopes people will see a fuller, more nuanced portrait of her friend in her book.
“I believe it is my duty to honor my friend and to clarify the many inaccuracies about myself and about who Whitney was,” she writes. “I feel compelled to remind people of her greatness, to lift her remarkable legacy.”
A Song For You is on sale now.