On Friday night, Rihanna was interviewed for the first time about her assault by former boyfriend Chris Brown. The police report describes the assault in detail, but I’ll do my best to summarize. The assault occurred in the car after the couple left the Grammy’s last February, when Rihanna noticed a message on Brown’s cell phone from a former girlfriend. When she confronted him about it, he became angry and an argument ensued. Brown, who was driving, pulled the car over and tried to force Rihanna out, but she was wearing her seatbelt. He pushed her, causing her to hit her head on the window. Brown then continued driving while punching Rihanna repeatedly in with his right hand. She made several attempts to use her cell phone to contact her personal assistant, but Brown would not let her and tossed it out the window. The assault lasted for several minutes, while Brown continued punching her, put her in a headlock, and at some point even bit her. He finally stopped the car in front of Rihanna’s house and she grabbed the key from the ignition and sat on it. He continued the assault until police arrived after being called by a neighbor who heard Rihanna’s screams.
According to a CNN article, Brown was sentenced last week to serve five years probation and to spend more than 1,400 hours in “labor-oriented service”. He will also be required to complete Domestic Violence counseling and cannot come within 50 yards of Rihanna (10 yards at industry events) until 2014.
I have to say I admire Rihanna’s bravery in speaking out so publicly about this assault and how it has affected her. Soon after the assault, a police photo of her swollen face was released by TMZ . In the 20/20 interview, Rihanna talks about how embarrassing it is for her to see that photo. Having something like this become public so quickly must be difficult to handle, but it also forced this incident to be talked about. Rihanna describes the relationship between her and Brown as being almost obsessive at times. They were so young at the time that they feel in love, they fell hard and fast. When this assault occurred, it was a major wake up call for her, but after the wounds healed, she gave him another chance. The couple got back together just weeks after the assault, but it didn’t last long. Rihanna describes being annoyed by everything he during this time because she was so angry. She discusses the history of abuse in her own family, and describes watching her father beat her mother. This type of behavior was so normal to her, that when it began happening in her own relationship, she hardly recognized how wrong it was. Once she realized that her actions influenced young women around the world, her attitude changed. By speaking publicly about something that no woman wants to admit happened to her, she hopes to help others see the importance of leaving, and I believe that she has.
Several of the comments Rihanna made rang true to me in regards to my own experience with domestic violence. Women who are in abusive relationships often have a hard time understanding the situation they are in. The emotional abuse that many women experience makes them feel so worthless that when violence occurs, a common response is to sit back and take it. Rihanna described not wanting to fight back because she didn’t wan to hurt Brown. This is a feeling I can relate to all to well, and it makes me realize how the dynamics of domestic violence differ from many other types of violence. Choosing to fight back against someone who you loves abd trust is a difficult decision, especially if the person being abused doesn’t see themselves as worth fighting for.
Rihanna’s ends the interview by explaining that sometimes it takes stepping away from a situation to see it for what it really is. She will likely be remembered for this quote, “f love. Love is so blind.”
Brown has come out on multiple occasions to publicly apologize for his actions, citing his own history of abuse and saying he wishes he could have acted differently. Rihanna admits that she believes he is sorry, but doesn’t think he truly understands the severity of the situation and how much it has affected her emotionally. The frequency of domestic violence saddens me terribly, but I think one of the best things we can do is talk about it and I’m glad that Rihanna chose to do just that.