Rihanna’s album is entitled ‘Unapologetic.’
After releasing her new album, Unapologetic, and spending Thanksgiving with him, there are rumors that Rihanna may have rekindled a romance with Chris Brown, who pled guilty to assaulting her in February 2009.
Several songs on the album suggest that Rihanna is drawn to danger, and she alludes to the night of the abuse, singing in one song that it “felt like love struck me in the night.” In a duet with Brown titled Nobody’s Business, Rihanna sings to him, “I want to be your baby. You’ll always be my baby. Tell me what you want now.”
The relationship begs the question that experts say is often asked in situations of domestic violence — why did she go back, whether it be friendship or romance? The answer, they say, is not that simple.
“I think there’s a serious problem in the collegiate generation in terms of their attitude toward victimization,” said Joan Meier, a professor of clinical law at the George Washington University who focuses on domestic violence. “They seem to think that it’s all the woman’s fault and that women who go back deserve what they get. They need to learn that victimization is traumatic.”
Meier said that mentality exists because if we can blame the victim, we can ensure ourselves that it would never happen to us. It’s a way of feeling more secure, which is actually very dangerous because it could happen to anyone.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Those between the ages of 20 and 24 are at the greatest risk.
“High school and college students have a high risk for intimate partner violence,” said Dr. Jill Murray, a licensed marriage and family therapist and author of three books on the subject of domestic and dating violence. “College-aged students are among the highest, having just left home and being on their own for the first time. They have no parental supervision and they’re sort of desperate to fit in.”
Some of the warning signs include isolation from family and friends, controlling behavior — such as being told how to dress, criticism and name-calling — jealousy and constant texting to check up on you and always know where you are, Murray said. It becomes easier to simply agree with the person than fight, and behaviors that in the beginning seemed flattering or romantic begin to feel suffocating.
“The important thing that I think we have to address is that it always, without exception, starts with emotional and verbal abuse,” said Carolyn Hennecy, a survivor of domestic violence, speaker and author of Orange Blossom Wishes: Child Molested, Woman Abused — Her Victorious Journey to Freedom. Hennecy said a lot of people believe domestic violence is an anger and aggression problem when it is really about power and control.
Oftentimes, abusers might have been abused as children themselves or, in the case of Chris Brown, may have witnessed abuse, Murray said.
“Even when you’re famous and rich and powerful, all these things stay with you,” she said. “It all goes somewhere.”
Murray said women go back because they are brainwashed and isolated and made completely emotionally dependent on their partners. Even when family and friends come back, they feel as if the one person who understands them is gone.
“It doesn’t just go away,” said Brenda Clubine, a domestic violence speaker and survivor who was released from prison in 2008 after serving 26 years for killing her husband, whom she said was abusive and threatened to kill her. “You get involved with someone because you love them, and you’re taught from the time you’re a little girl that you get married and things are good.”
It’s almost like a reverse brainwashing has to take place to begin recovering, Murray said. It’s important for survivors to reconnect with the person they were before they met their abusers and to try to understand what it is in themselves and in their partners that allowed them to be so swayed and controlled.
“The mental and emotional effects of being in an abusive relationship are horrendous,” Clubine said. “You can carry that for a lifetime unless you have some kind of intervention.”
Murray said Rihanna had a very good opportunity to be the role model that she set herself up to be for young women. If she were a betting person, she said, she would bet that violence will happen again.
“She was the face of a cosmetics company and he inflicted bruises upon her face and throat,” she said. “Her two ways of making a living were her face and her voice, and I think it was very calculated.”
In an interview with Vogue for the magazine’s November issue, Rihanna defended her decision to reconcile with Brown: “The world hasn’t let go. They haven’t seen any progress in our friendship, because they don’t see anything,” she said. “But they’re not on the inside. They can’t see what I see, unless they’re sitting in my point of view. I guess I’ll learn to accept that.”
It’s a hard line to walk, said Brian Bodansky, a law student at Fordham University and president of the Fordham Domestic Violence Action Center.
“On the one side, you don’t want to teach kids that it’s OK to abuse somebody or that if they want to live dangerously, that’s the way to do it,” he said. “On the other hand, she is an adult and she’s welcome to make decisions that she sees fit for herself, and it’s not our place to tell her how to live her life.”
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