Back in November, right around Thanksgiving, Chris Brown and Rihanna were spotted together at a club in Berlin. It was Thanksgiving and they were both in the same city in Germany, but neither one was willing to say that they were there together.
I thought it was a little ridiculous at that point that neither RiRi or Breezy would just come out and admit they were a couple again, but apparently they knew something about you people that I had not yet realized. You have lost your collective minds.
We all saw what Brown did to Rihanna, thanks to TMZ, and, yes, it was horrifying. And I’m not saying I endorse the couple’s reunion, but like the song says, it’s none of your business and it’s really just time for you to accept it and move on with life.
After the two appeared together at the Grammys – finally making it clear to those who had been living a blissfully ignorant existence where Rihanna never takes the abuser back and Ross and Rachel make it work forever and ever, that they were a couple again and they weren’t even going to pretend to hide it anymore – people started attacking…Rihanna?
Both figuratively and literally the beauty from Barbados has been under siege since Grammy Sunday, so much so that she had to hire extrajudicial security provided by the Secret Service. Please read that sentence again.
GlobalGrind.com reported that following her appearance with Chris at the awards death threats against Rihanna had tripled.
The backlash against Rihanna is coming from two places. The first is craziness. Because obviously only a crazy person would threaten a 25-year-old woman’s life in response to her choice of boyfriend. The second seems to be this strange entitlement American media consumers have developed in recent years that gives us the impression we have a right to tell people, particularly public people, how they can and cannot live their lives.
We can all probably agree that Chris Brown isn’t the ideal boyfriend and I certainly wouldn’t want my daughter or sister or friend to date him, I mean the guy got in a fight with a bisexual R&B singer over a parking space, but Rihanna isn’t my daughter or my sister or my friend.
But more to the point, RIhanna isn’t doing anything different than what many victims of domestic abuse do. They blame themselves and they go back to their abuser.
“I was more concerned about him,” the singer told Oprah in an interview last year.
Abuse victims will “leave out of either fear, anger or resentment,” said Steven Stosny, counselor and founder of the anger and violence management program CompassionPower, in an interview with CNN. “But then, after the fear, anger or resentment begins to subside, they feel guilt, shame, anxiety, and that takes them back.”
It’s unfortunate, but that’s how the cycle works and the fact that Rihanna has “Thug Life” tattooed on her knuckles doesn’t mean she’s immune to the pitfalls of being a victim of domestic abuse or the pitfalls of being 25 and in love with an a-hole.
But Rihanna also said something during the interview that not a lot of people took note of and the fact that she said it and the fact that most people either missed it or chose not to acknowledge it speaks to a great deal of the lethargic simplicity of our modern day media discourse.
“I felt like, ‘the only person they hate right now is him.’ It was a weird, confusing space to be in, because, as angry as I was – as angry and hurt and betrayed – I just felt like he made that mistake because he needed help,” she said. “And who’s going to help him? Nobody’s going to say he needs help, everybody’s going to say he’s a monster.”
The whole Chris Brown-Rihanna incident could have led to a really adult and mature conversation about domestic abuse and why it happens, how it affects people and what factors cause men to be abusive and women to stay in abusive relationships. Instead there was some stupid war between #TeamBreezy and #TeamWeHateChrisBrown.
Rihanna was right. No one – at least no large, influencing national figure I’m aware of – thought to discuss or even throw tacit acknowledgement to the idea that maybe Chris Brown wasn’t just an awful person, instead maybe he was someone who needed (and still needs) help.
When country singer Mindy McCready was found dead in February, likely the victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, rather than feeling sadness about the fact that another person had likely lost a battle with drug and alcohol addiction, people’s reaction was to blame “Celebrity Rehab” and Dr. Drew.
The talking point went that McCready was the fifth cast member from the show to wind up dead and that the show was obviously not helping anyone. But the truth is, most people who go to rehab to deal with their addiction aren’t successful and either end up in treatment again or they end up like McCready. The fact that someone has had a successful album, reality show or an affair with a famous person doesn’t change that.
“What we have in this country is a washing-machine model of addiction treatment,” A. Thomas McClellan, chief executive of the nonprofit Treatment Research Institute, told the New York Times. “You go to Shady Acres for 30 days, or to some clinic for 60 visits or 60 doses, whatever it is. And then you’re discharged and everyone’s crying and hugging and feeling proud — and you’re supposed to be cured.”
He added: “It doesn’t really matter if you’re a movie star going to some resort by the sea or a homeless person. The system doesn’t work well for what for many people is a chronic, recurring problem.”
The same thing is true for people in abusive relationships. We don’t often think of abusive men as victims or people who need help, but that’s really what they are.
In fact, most men who are abusive suffer from some sort of mental illness. One study found that about 80 percent of “both court-referred and self-referred men in domestic violence studies exhibited diagnosable psychopathology, typically personality disorders.
“The estimate of personality disorders in the general population would be more in the 15–20 percent range…As violence becomes more severe and chronic in the relationship, the likelihood of psychopathology in these men approaches 100 percent,” according to a report by Donald Dutton titled, “Patriachcy and Wife Assault: The Ecological Fallacy.”
Domestic abuse is also a learned behavior. Studies have found that nearly one half of abusive men grew up in homes where their father or step father was an abuser.
At the end of the day, it’s easy to dismiss what Chris Brown did as just a mistake and just as easy to vilify him for life as a monster. But really, like all of us, he’s a complicated individual who has issues that we don’t understand.
The same is true of Rihanna and, really, threatening her life or saying mean things to her on Twitter isn’t going to help.
If you are interested in learning more about domestic violence culture and/or prevention, check out http://www.emergedv.com/ and http://www.mchenrycountyturningpoint.org/causes.html