Being assaulted by a loved one is one of the worst indignities anyone can face in their lifetime. To have it happen repeatedly is the ultimate nightmare. Imagine. The person you thought you knew inside and out, the person you believed was decent and kind and protective of you turns out, in reality, to be your malicious captor.
I’ve been lucky. I’ve never been in an abusive relationship and hope never to be. But I’ve known and dated women who have. Their stories of abuse are so heartwrenching you wonder how in the hell they were ever able to find their smile again.
The pop singer, Rihanna, knows firsthand how scary a dysfunctional romance can be. Her boyfriend, singer Chris Brown, is under indictment regarding a horrifying incident that took place in his vehicle sometime after midnight on February 8, the night before The Grammy Awards. The harrowing account was completely recounted to the Los Angeles Police Department and later leaked online. An awful photo of Rihanna’s battered face also surfaced on the Internet. (The basic gist is that the couple got into an argument after Rihanna discovered a sexy text message send to Brown by another woman.)
Not only is the 21-year-old Barbados native needlessly suffering from this humiliating episode in her private life (it has since been reported that this wasn’t an isolated incident), she has to put up with uncontrolled public speculation of her alleged actions and nasty, unfair criticisms, as well. Donald Trump, the obnoxious real estate tycoon, said that if she remained Chris Brown’s girlfriend, “she’s a loser, and she doesn’t deserve to have any future success.”
The truth of the matter is regardless of what Rihanna does in her personal life (the latest reports suggest a temporary break-up but who knows for sure), she’s not a loser and has the right to continue to be a successful recording star as long as audiences connect with her music. What outsiders don’t understand is that ending an abusive relationship is one of the hardest things any victim can do. Abusers put the fear of God into their partners to the point where maintaining the status quo is a less bad option than fleeing where the threat of being caught and possibly being killed is an even scarier possibility.
If Trump’s cold-heartedness wasn’t bad enough, there are other reports, like this one in The New York Times, noting that some members of Rihanna’s female audience have even less sympathy for her plight. To those foolish, deluded teenagers who are so quick to scorn someone they view unrealistically as a threat to their romantic lives (like Chris Brown would give them the time of day), try placing yourself in Rihanna’s position. Imagine worrying constantly about upsetting your boyfriend over the slightest thing or you’ll be beaten. Imagine watching what you say, what you do, what you wear, what you eat, what you cook, where you go, who you hang out with and what you text or post on your Facebook page or Twitter account, or you’ll be beaten. Imagine being under the consistently hypercritical glare of someone who views you with eyes of suspicion to the point where they’ll break your spirit physically and mentally if you don’t toe the line. Maybe then you’ll wake up from your stupid daydreams and understand.
It doesn’t help that this People magazine article offers “Rebuilding Her Image” as a sub-heading. That’s right. Her image. How screwed up is our society, particularly our overly powerful and dimwittedly destructive mass media, that Rihanna is the one who has to change, not her abuser. It’s sickening.
As far as I can tell, it’s up to Rihanna to decide what she wants to do about all of this. My wishes are that she seek counselling and confide in a trusting professional in order to heal, that she seek comfort in her friends and family, the people that care about her the most, that she throw herself into her music which will keep her busy and that she will come to the realizations, if she hasn’t already, that not only did she not deserve any abuse from her boyfriend, she deserves a better guy in a safer, happier, more trusting relationship. Rihanna is luckier than most. Because of her prominence and large circle of support, she can truly escape her hell and move on.
As for Chris Brown, you’re an asshole. You have no right to hurt another person the way that you did. I hope you’re ashamed of your behaviour and you do time for it. I also hope you realize that you blew it. You had a lovely lady on your arm, a well respected musician and person, and you treated her like a punching bag. You have no one to blame but yourself. Your supporters can have you. They’re just as scummy as you are.
As for the rest of us, Rihanna deserves our support, not scorn. If she reconciles with Brown, she’s not a loser. She wouldn’t have put up with his criminal behaviour if she didn’t love the guy and care about the relationship enough to try to make it work. I know that doesn’t sound reasonable to an outsider but that is the reality. As Bryan O’Connor of the non-profit Family Violence Prevention Fund put it to The New York Times, “There’s love and loyalty there…It’s not that she wants the relationship to end. She wants the violence to stop.”
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, March 21, 2009
CORRECTION: It’s Rihanna, not Rhianna, as I erroneously noted numerous times in this piece. The correct spelling has been added in all the appropriate places, except, unfortunately, the permanent link to this entry. My apologies for this terrible mistake.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, February 25, 2012