What’s Love Got To Do With It?
I originally wrote this column when the whole Rhianna/Chris Brown incident blew up a couple of years ago. I'm revisiting it today because there is word that she is okay with a judge dismissing the restraining order against him. You can read those details in the Hollywood Dirt Blog.
It's long, but I hope it opens a few eyes. The phone number and website for the Center Against Family Violence is at the end.
"Chris Brown beats up Rihanna."
"Horrifying pictures of Rihanna after Chris Brown attack surface on the web. How can she be protected?"
"Questions surround Rihanna's role in weekend beating."
"Did Rihanna goad Chris Brown into attack?"
"Rihanna takes Chris Brown back."
"More Americans mad as Rihanna and Chris Brown reconcillation rumors grow."
Most of the discussions about Rihanna and Chris Brown have been done in the kind of hushed tones reserved for very serious topics. Weighty matters such as these deserve that kind of gravitas, I'm sure you'll agree.
The guy beat the crap out his girlfriend in a car that made it impossible for her to escape his fists and is now trying to salvage his career by saying she made him do it. And people are believing him. There, I've done it. I've been politically incorrect. Quit reading now unless you can handle more honesty.
Part of my job at KISS FM is to report on "The Hollywood Dirt", so I've seen or heard virtually every headline and innuendo that has been written and said about this sordid little mess. As the above headlines attest, the arc of this story is a textbook example of how most people feel about, and react to, domestic abuse. First comes the surprise at the news of the attack, followed by speculation that the victim had something to do with it, and finally, the victim gets painted with the blame brush. Here's another politically incorrect newsflash - Ladies, we're the ones responsible for slinging the most paint.
Bear with me and don't rally the villagers or hand out the pitchforks just yet.
Remember when Rihanna and Chris Brown got together, it was like Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown were happening all over again? Good girl finds love with bad boy, thinks she can tame the tiger, good girl gets Sigfried and Roy treatment from bad boy. From the beginning, women wondered why Whitney was with Bobby. He was a bigger star when they got together, but as fast as her's waxed, his waned, and then there was the whole "BobAYYYYYYYY" phase of their lives.
Women, me included, weren't exactly forecoming with the sympathy when things started heading south. "Girlfriend should've known better." "Live by the thug, die by the thug." I actually heard a woman say that. The difference, however, between Whitney and Rihanna is Whitney was a grown woman when things started getting bad. Rihanna was 19. Why does that matter? Well, you know I'm gonna tell you.
At a certain age, a woman has, either by personal experience or by personal knowledge, seen domestic violence. We figure out how to handle a sticky situation or help someone extricate themselves from one through trial and error. Rihanna is a kid. She is also the meal ticket for a lot of people - lawyers, publicists, dancers on her tours, her record company, etcetera, etcetera. To say she is under a lot of stress is a mild understatement. So along comes Chris Brown and because he isn't dependant on her money, probably didn't make the kinds of demands on her that everyone else did.
He's also a bad boy, and girls love them the bad boys. I don't know Rihanna or Chris, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what his appeal was to this very young girl.
There were rumors from the beginning that the beating in the car wasn't the first instance of abuse she suffered at his hand, and that also makes women less likely to be understanding. After all, she has money, so she doesn't need to stay with him for financial reasons. There are no kids, so no worries about a broken home. What the hell is she thinking, a lot of women were asking. But women who have, ahem, a few years under their belts, should know that answer. You have to learn to walk before you can run.
I don't mean Rihanna has to learn how to run from Chris. I mean she has to learn how to take care of herself before she can take care of herself. We teach kids how to crawl, then walk, then run. We teach them how to tie their shoe laces. We teach them not to trust the scary looking stranger or the funny uncle. Why are women not teaching girls how to not get hit? And no, I'm not saying she should learn how not to provoke him. I'm saying she should learn a few basic rules about human behavior, but more about that later. First....
Men should never hit women. Ever. There is no qualifying statement like, 'unless she does something to deserve it'. It's wrong. And if you think otherwise, you are wrong. Men have the physical ability to beat the daylights out of a woman and 99% of the time, women don't have the physical ability to prevent it. And lifting weights or knowing karate isn't going to help. Men are genetically engineered to be stronger. Deal with it. And tell your daughter that. Right now. No matter how old she is.
Watch babies play and listen to how many times someone says about a boy, "He doesn't know his own strength." Now imagine a grown man who does know his strength. He knows how much damage he can inflict on someone. That's why a man should never hit a woman. He knows his own strength. We should also teach our sons how to deal with a situation that could potentially turn into an abusive situation.
We need to tell them to walk away, no, run away. Don't push a woman away if she starts hitting first. Don't grab her shoulders or hands to keep her from hitting you. Get away from her. Otherwise be prepared to face assault charges. Ask a cop. If a woman is beaten up and you have a couple of scratches on your arm, guess who's going to be wearing the locking bracelets.
So that's my advice for the guys. What about the girls? All girls should be told that not all guys are men. Some guys are grubby little thugs who think they can beat the hell out of a girl in a car. Or at home. Or in the parking lot of a grocery store. There are warning signs that a guy could be abusive that all girls should be made aware of. They are:
#1.) He came on extremely strong from the get-go.
#2.) He's jealous . . . even of your family, friends and co-workers.
#3.) He constantly critiques what you wear . . . and says you dress like a slut, no matter what you are wearing.
#4.) He tries to control every aspect of your life . . . from what you watch on TV to how often you see your family.
#5.) Whenever anything goes wrong, he blames everyone else . . . because nothing is ever his fault.
#6.) He hit a woman in the past.
Hard to believe that we have to have lists like that, but we do, because there are girls out there who don't know the warning signs. Because they are girls. And we are women. And dammit, it's time we stopped having to have this conversation and started taking steps to prevent abuse, not just recover from it.
It's important, ladies. And it's important to you, too, gentlemen. After all, how would you like to see your daughter stumbling toward you looking like Rihanna?
If you are in an abusive relationship, or know someone who is, you can call the Center Against Family Violence at 593-1000, or log onto their website at cafv.org.