The rumors have been flying.
Rhianna and Chris Brown are back together, or at least, they are talking, reports People. Those who blamed Rhianna from the beginning are basking in the idea that she made it all up to begin with while those who went on the attack against Chris are left feeling betrayed and embittered about rising to her defense. Many of us are saddened or confused, and worried about the “message” her behavior is sending to other young people who have been hurt in their dating relationships.
As a long-time advocate against domestic violence, I am all too well aware about the data that tells us it usually takes a woman multiple attempts to leave her abusive partner, and that leaving is often the most dangerous thing she can do. It is easy for those on the outside to tell women they should leave and judge them when they don’t, but what these women know all too well, is that leaving can put their life in even more danger.
This is what also makes it hard to be around someone in an abusive relationship. It is hard to stand by their side when they return, when they choose to stay. It is hard to see the signs of abuse and not be able to make someone you care about safe.
Rhianna and Chris Brown are living out the reality of domestic violence in front of all our eyes, in front of the world. Being famous or rich or beautiful doesn’t make domestic violence less real or easier to escape.
Elizabeth Méndez Berry lays out the hard facts in her article, Chris Brown, Rhianna and Reality, for New American Media:
For black women ages 15 to 29 —Rihanna’s demographic— homicide is the second leading cause of death, after accidents, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A woman’s most likely murderer is her current or former romantic partner.
The problem is widespread: the U.S. Department of Justice recently reported that in 2007 intimate partner assaults on women were up 42 percent. Sadly, the response to Brown and Rihanna reveals why this goes unchecked: more time is spent attacking the individuals than tackling the problem.
The Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF) reminds us that this incident “is a stark reminder of the urgent need for education and prevention.” And what we need is exactly what we are missing: public voices willing to use this teachable moment to take a stand for the following principles laid out by the FVPF:
Violence is never acceptable. Nothing a victim does, and nothing in a perpetrator’s background, ever justifies violence. Those who commit violence must be held accountable. Victims of violence need and deserve protection, support and privacy.
In her article Brown V Monkey on the Huffington Post, Jehmu Greene takes it a step further and laments:
The beating Rihanna experienced at the hands of Chris Brown was tragic, but definitely not uncommon. .. black men are killing young black women in such high numbers it beats out accidents and every illness you can imagine. Where is the outrage? Where is the boycott? Where is the speech? I have never received a call to action email on behalf of black women affected by domestic abuse – at a rate 35% higher than our white counterparts.
Even celebrities like Kanye West who was one of the first to step up and take a stand for Rhianna is quoted as saying “can’t we give Chris a break?.. I know I make mistakes in life” on unaired footage of his VHI’s Storytellers.
Unfortunately, as Méndez Berry points out in her article:
whether a case involves celebrities or civilians, too many demonize one person instead of humanizing both.
We can humanize both. We don’t have to boycott or hate or blame. We must understand, support and love. This is how we end violence.
Most importantly, Yes Means Yes reminds that even if these rumors are true, there are still many things that remain untrue. Rhianna reuniting with Chris does not mean the following:
1. It doesn’t mean she is stupid.
2. It doesn’t mean we should forgive him.
3. It doesn’t mean what he’s alleged to have done is any less horrible.
4. It doesn’t mean she has betrayed any kind of sisterhood.
5. It doesn’t mean that if he hurts her again, she deserves it.
There may seem to her to be a million reasons for her to take him back. Not one of them means that she deserves to be hurt again. No one deserves to be beaten or abused. Ever. By anyone. Period.