So, I think the internet exploded sometime over the last couple of days with the speculation that Chris Brown and Rihanna had reunited. Then for Rihanna’s birthday, she and Chris Brown exchanged tweets and released new music together. I spied with mine own eyes, the entire Gen-whatever-they’re-called running rampant on twitter, and the folks who are supposedly a bit wiser than they administering their unfair assessments of the situation.
As usual, the self-proclaimed experts on relationships and issues surrounding them – including intimate partner violence – are the people who least understand certain components and variables in how complicated they truly can be. For example, I have always maintained my issues with people saying things like, “if x ever happened to me, then I would do y.” I contend that some circumstances require having experienced a situation in order to know how a person would truly act and/or react.
And then, there’s the case of Rihanna’s assault at the hands of Chris Brown. In my professional and academic experience, the case was not out-of-the-ordinary; in fact, the only major difference in this case and others was the amount of coverage and resulting opinions. Everything, from Rihanna’s rescission of the restraining order, to Christopher’s public behavior that was illustrative of someone who is abusive. In fact, if the readers of this blog are of the seemingly billions on the internet who do not understand the dynamics of why people abuse: physical violence is not the red flag or number one indicator. Abuse is about power and control, dominance over another person, and violence is just a manifestation of that controlling behavior.
In the beginning, when Christopher was charged with the crimes resulting from his violence toward Rihanna, there was a very strong division. There was the manifestation of #teamBreezy on twitter: young men and women who supported Chris Brown and pardoned his behavior. Several people radically blamed Rihanna, equating her being the primary aggressor of abusive behavior in the relationship because she’s a Bajan woman and women from the islands are (insert stereotype here). Several advocates for women’s rights rallied behind Rihanna, because..well, victim blaming only creates a world that is accepting of such behavior. Additionally, regardless of what any person does, nobody has a right to violate them in any way. Period. The photo of Rihanna and her injuries were heavily circulated throughout the internet, further victimizing her, and not long after the incident, every media outlet wanted her to speak about domestic violence – completely forgetting that she is a human being that had just endured a traumatic event.
And life went on, but it didn’t really; because, you see, every where on the internet were allegories of the incident. Christopher remained seemingly publicly unapologetic, and despite #teamBreezy being equally unapologetic, people often reminded him of the incident. This often resulted in twitter-tantrums and a career boost, except that one time where he cried on BET and danced himself back into the hearts of the CB-afficionados who were on the fence. Rihanna got flack for creating the songs “Rude Boy” and “Man Down”, and people continued to blame her apparent hypersexuality and hot-headedness for the incident(s) that occured. Every move either person made was reflective of either party being involved in intimate partner violence.
After the exchange of tweets, came the accusations, insults, minimization of the incidences of abuse. From what I observed, they were mostly directed at Rihanna being deserving of whatever may come to her in the future.
“I think it’s disgusting that @rihanna is featuring her abusive ex-boyfriend on “Cake”. She once said she wanted to be a role model. FAIL.”
“Well if Ike & Tina can always get back together as well as Bobby & Whitney, I guess its no harm @chrisbrown & @rihanna gettin back together.”
“Wow. What a message to send to victims of domestic violence. By collaborating with your abuser on your latest single. #rihanna”
“Rihanna basically is telling the world she deserved them LICKS…she was outta pocket with Chris. Smh”
“If Rihanna gets her head pucked off and you guys feel bad for her all over again you’re just as nuts as she is. Foolish!”
“Rihanna has zero self respect.. How much more desperate can u be to go back to a guy who beat you?”
“Passion marks are hickeys, bruises and scratches right? No. It’s that thing that was over Rihanna’s eye.”
Well, I will say, dear internet, that it is not uncommon for people who have been victimized at the hands of an intimate partner to return to that partner. No matter their socioeconomic or celebrity status. Despite a victim/survivor experiencing and successfully escaping a severe traumatic set of experiences (and in Rihanna’s case, much public shaming and embarrassment), there are several different reasons for returning. We could speculate all day about why Rihanna and Chris Brown are even communicating (like some on twitter are and have), but it’s unproductive. She could be communicating with him, having sex with or dating him because she misses him. That isn’t uncommon. She could also have been caving to the public pressure and judgment of whether or not her account of the incident was exaggerated, as many victims of intimate partner violence are made to feel. I’ve learned that asking “why does she stay” is an exercise in futility without addressing the real problems of intimate partner violence. Also, the public (and, perhaps, private) push for or against communicating with Christopher is not the proper route to address a victim of intimate partner violence because it takes away a person’s choice in any matter, only further victimizing them.
Moreover, the issues with the internet experts assessing the issues with Rihanna and Chris Brown fail to realize that the more important dynamic in the situation: whether or not Chris Brown has grown and learned. I know a lot about a lot, but I don’t have that answer. I’d like to think that I don’t have a personal opinion on the matter, either, because while Sir Breezy may have whined and shouted and aggravated the bejeezus out of me, I only have an opinion of his personality based on his behavior on public forums. I will say, though, that if he successfully completely the batterers intervention program that he was at one time required to go to, he may have promise. In fact, batterers intervention programs have shown some successes in eliminating re-offending, which in turn correlates with recidivism. This does not mean that Christopher will never strike another person again; however, it means that if he uses the techniques that he learned in dealing with abusive situations, he can acknowledge what behaviors are appropriate in maintaining a healthy, violence-free relationship with whomever. (I’d just like to remind the internet that they only tweeted each other and released the remix to a song, for crying out loud.)
Am I saying that we, the entertainment-fearing public, should just move on without worry for Rihanna’s safety? Well, no. Hardly. I am saying, though, that perhaps the uninformed and closed-minded should pipe down for a while. Being concerned for Rihanna’s safety without immortalizing her as a “victim” or typifying her into what you desire a true/perfect victim/survivor to be is, in my very humble opinion, the most appropriate route in dealing with whichever decision she chooses for herself. Having worked in situations with victims of intimate partner violence, I’d have been more surprised if the two never publicly addressed one another again; however, the attitudes that are being thrown around on the battleground of twitter are reflective of how people may deal with victims in “real” life. If you want to vocalize concern for Rihanna, do so and provide her with options and support without judgment and disapproval.