*Ponder, if you will, for a moment the countless number of women who could have gained needed strength to flee domestic violence situations if Rihanna would have became an ardent domestic violence advocate after she was assaulted by Chris Brown on February 8, 2009. Think of the abusers that could have been influenced to stop abusing their significant others if Chris Brown would have boldly admitted his wrong and spoke out against it. If only this was what happened since the beating of Rihanna at the hands of Brown.
Instead, the two have reportedly reunited recently…both sending messages that can be interpreted as being insensitive to the issue of domestic violence.
According to the book Health First! The Black Woman’s Wellness Guide, “every 15 seconds, a woman in the United States is beaten by her partner and one in four women has experienced some form of violence at least once in their lifetime.” Black women, as with many other factors, are impacted by domestic violence more so than White women. The consequences of the attacks by someone they love are more deadly for Black women.
Everyone’s hearts broke for singer Jennifer Hudson in 2008 when her family suffered the fatal consequences of domestic violence. As you may recall, the estranged husband of her sister killed her mother, brother and nephew due to his jealous rage. This case received a lot of national media attention because of the star power of Hudson, but there are countless other Black women in our families, churches and communities that deal with the wrath of an abuser on a daily basis. Tragically, there are far too many Black women who die due to domestic violence. Their lives being violently cut short may not garner media attention as cases in other communities. We may never know their names or faces, yet this is an issue that demands greater attention and eradication because we are all impacted by domestic violence.
Rihanna is busy promoting her latest album, Unapologetic. As with the title of her album, she seems unapologetic regarding how she has chosen to live her life. Granted she is free to love who she wants, but it seems she may be flaunting her abuse experience through her nonchalant attitude and her profanity and violence infused lyrics.
Oprah’s recent Next Chapter interview of Rihanna provided a very revealing glimpse into the complexities of her frame of mind. Rihanna admitted that she had forgiven Chris because she loves him. She also connected her experience to him to her relationship with her father, coming to terms with both. She shared how she had a strained relationship with her father because of his abuse of drugs and her mother. Interestingly, it was reported that Brown’s stepfather abused his mother as well. She felt as if she “lost (her) best friend.” Instead of feeling like a victim, she felt protective of Chris because all the bad attention he was getting. Before forgiving Chris and restoring the love, she had to get through her anger…anger that she expressed in her music, clothes and attitude. Perhaps this is what we see in her “We Found Love”, “Man Down” and other videos.
Brown pleaded guilty to hitting, biting and chocking Rihanna during an argument after they drove from a pre-Grammy party. As a result, Brown was sentenced to 180 days of community service, five years probation and domestic violence counseling. Additionally the judge issued a five-year restraining order prohibiting Brown from being within 50 yards of Rihanna…clearly this is null and void now. He seems to have expressed little public remorse, besides his two-minute YouTube in July of 2009, regarding the abuse. Brown reportedly destroyed his dressing room and broke a window following an interview with Robin Roberts on Good Morning American in March of 2011. During the interview Roberts asked Brown about Rihanna. Though he told Roberts he was past that, clearly his destructive outburst showed he had not fully come to grips with his anger issues.
Prior to reuniting with Rihanna, Brown had been in a two-year relationship with aspiring model Karrueche Tran. Thankfully, no intimate violence was reported between them. Yet, there was a lot of media attention on their relationship and rumors of reconciliation between Rihanna and Brown during the same timeframe. Rihanna and Tran were engaged in Twitter battles regarding Brown.
Brown’s level of insensitivity to domestic violence was clearly seen this past September when he got a tattoo on his neck that looks like an abused woman. His publicist reported that the tattoo was actually a Day of the Dead sugar skull, a design associated with the Mexican celebration. Yet in reality, the tattoo looks nothing like a skull. The resemblance of the tattoo to the police photos of Rihanna’s abused face is disturbing. Fortunately, Jay Z and others have reportedly expressed their displeasure with Brown’s treatment of Rihanna. Jay Z, who took the then 16-year-old Barbados born newcomer and propelled her to stardom, reportedly expressed his disappointment when the two love birds released duets (“Birthday Cake” and “Turn Up the Music”) earlier this year.
Although Brown may want his abuse of Rihanna to be swept under the rug so he can be restored to his Hip Hop golden boy image, he is still receiving backlash from domestic violence advocates around the globe as a result of the 2009 assault case. Although Rihanna may have forgiven him, many are still very angry and unforgiving.
A concert set for December 26th on the Caribbean Island nation of Guyana was canceled, no doubt as a result of heavy protest by women’s rights groups there. The cancellation came on the heels of the Irish Hip Hop group Original Rudeboys declining an offer to perform for Brown because they “don’t endorse lady beaters”. In response to the matter, the group stated that domestic violence “goes against everything we are about as a band,” said band member Sean Walsh, “and supporting Chris Brown would send out the wrong message to our fans.” Other protests included unknown individuals posting police photos of Rihanna displaying her injuries in Stockholm, Sweden to opposition to a November 19th concert.
The two were caught hugging and kissing at the 2012 MTV VMAs. Rihanna even affectionately patted Chris on the head. The couple clearly have a connection to each other that perhaps only they can understand. They reportedly spent Thanksgiving together as well.
The reunion of Rihanna and Chris may be their personal business. But domestic violence is the business of everyone.
Hopefully there will not be a repeat of the 2009 abuse between Brown and Rihanna. The opportunity for forgiveness is open to all and all have chances to change their ways. The blatant flaunting of the abuse and/or silence to it gives mixed messages to those that look up to them. Rihanna and Brown seem to be on a downward spiral of needless drama. TIME magazine has named Rihanna one of the most influential people in the world. Wouldn’t it be powerful if she used her influence to amplify awareness of domestic violence? This kind of influence would be even more powerful if Rihanna and Chris united for this purpose. They both still have time to seize the golden opportunity to be agents of change for an issue that is terrorizing our community.
Clarene Mitchell has over twenty years of print journalism and health disparities advocacy experience. Mrs. Mitchell also works as a program manager for a medical school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.Respond to her at: firstname.lastname@example.org