In the spirit of National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month (yeah I didn’t know that this was a thing until today) I feel the need to write something about the celebrity news that Rihanna and Chris Brown have released a few new collaborations. Normally the actions of people I don’t know don’t bother me, especially celebrities as they seem to live in their own world with an unique set of rules. However, this particular story strikes a chord with me.
I remember in 2009 watching the news and seeing the story of the young couple begin to unfold, only to be climaxed with the visualization of the horrific act of violence that occurred that February evening. I remember thinking how young they were, and how angry and psychologically damaged this successful and talented little boy must be. More than that I was aware of the fact they were so like so many young couples. There were so many different opinions on what happened that night, some of which stated that RiRi may have “deserved it”. In fact I heard a mother say those very words to her young son as he sang along to a Chris Brown song on the radio.
Without getting into the philosophical debate over whether a woman can ever truly deserve being choked out and having her face pounded in by her significant other (I think you know where I stand on that), I am pretty pissed off that these two are now working together. Not because I particularly care about either of them, but because I feel this further perpetuates the notion that what men do to women doesn’t really matter. The laws are already skewed in cases involving domestic violence, rape and sexual assault. The average sentence for a rapist is 11.8 years with most being set free in 5.4 years. Up until 1993 spousal rape was still legal in North Carolina (the last state to outlaw it). In the United States 5.3 million women over the age of 18 are domestically abused each year and each day 4 women in this country die as a result of domestic violence. Even with these statistics the most common punishment for an individual convicted of DV is bond, with the average prison term ranging from 4.6 to 12.8 months. One more disturbing statistic, one in 10 high school students nationwide reported they were physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend, and still more experienced verbal or emotional abuse like shaming, bullying, or threats. Of course these are only statistics of reported cases, so who knows what the scenario truly looks like. I only provide these statistics to help paint a picture. Abuse of anybody, but specifically for my point, women, is a serious problem. I am not sure what the message is to the young women out there when such a public case of violence is swept under the rug after a few hours of community service and some singing and dancing. I am all about forgiveness, as I generally feel that forgiveness serves more of a benefit to the person holding on to the hurt, however, is there a difference between forgiveness and acceptance or tolerance.
Rihanna and Chris Brown seem to be friends now, with twitter banter going on between the two of them, showing love through b-day shout-outs and and exchange of hypeness over their new songs. Has she forgotten what he did? Perhaps he has changed. I hope that he has, but based on the disturbing tweets after his Grammy performance, I don’t think people care if he has changed or not. In case you missed it here are few highlights “call me crazy but I’d let Chris Brown beat me up any day” ; “everyone shutup about CB being a woman beater, he can beat me up all night if he wants”; “I don’t know why Rihanna complained, CB can be beat me up anytime” and so on and so on. What are we saying as a society, as a culture? Women have made so much progress over the last 50 years but here we are still victims of violent crime at the hands of the men who supposedly love us.
Rihanna could have used this incident to guide the young women who love and admire her. She could have used it to empower herself and others, but rather she chose to ignore it. Her lack of consciousness for the larger picture is going to have young girls questioning walking away from their abuser. In fact I would not be surprised if we are one step away from seeing these two rekindle their relationship all together; and I imagine that trailing behind them will be a swarm teenage girls doing the same. As a society we have to acknowledge that this happens, and then address it. We can’t pretend that healed wounds equal a healed soul. As a society we should be better then this and we should expect more then this. We should acknowledge and address the impact of violence lasts long after the last scar has healed. If we don’t we will continue to raise men who abuse women and raise women who lack the self-worth needed to end the abuse.