On Turning To Rihanna For Guidance On Domestic Abuse
In an episode of Oprah’s new show that will be aired this Sunday, Rihanna tells the talk show host that she and Chris Brown have “maintained a very close friendship since the restraining order has been dropped,” and that “he was the love of my life.”
In light of these statements, the public is divided. Half smile with delight at the fairytale ending, and wait with bated breath for the pair to officially announce their reconciliation. The other half ridicule Rihanna for her naivety, and label her a bad role model.
Domestic violence is a highly complex issue, yet we tend to hold black and white opinions of it. It’s easy to cast Chris Brown as the pantomime villain. It’s also easy to criticise Rihanna for failing to address the situation in the way we would have liked her to have done.
We pass all kinds of judgements on the two celebrities, but it doesn’t change the fact that one assaulted the other. Rihanna is part of the one in four women who will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. It’s a crime that transcends the barriers of class, race and sex, with men also being victims.
Chris Brown’s actions were awful to behold, but it would be misleading to call them shocking. Domestic violence is an issue that is yet to be adequately addressed, and cases of the crime are tragically frequent. What was shocking was the public’s initial reaction. Fans of Chris Brown viciously attacked Rihanna online. In Boston, almost 50% of teens blamed Rihanna for the assault. Tabloids and magazines published gratuitous pictures of Rihanna’s bruised and swollen face, under the guise of expressing concern. People were enthralled and fascinated by the situation, but very few were sympathetic.
Those who did understand the seriousness of the assault placed dauntingly high expectations on the young singer. They expected her actions to set an example. Her most recent interview has been perceived as yet another blow towards victims of domestic violence.
At the end of the day, we place too much value on celebrity culture. Rihanna does not owe us anything. The situation that she is in was not one that she chose, but instead one that was imposed on her. Society should be helping people in Rihanna’s situation, instead of expecting them to know what to do.
Having said that, it is highly important that other victims of domestic violence do not feel that Rihanna’s choices are necessarily the right ones. Returning to an abusive partner can be highly damaging, and forgiving ones attacker is not necessary for the healing process.
Unsurprisingly, children who have abusive parents are twice as likely to go on to abuse their partners compared to their peers. This leads to a vicious cycle that will never end until we offer help for the abusers as well the abused. It is uncomfortable truth, but one that must be explored in further detail.
In the meanwhile, we must be aware that the lives of celebrities can not be leaned on too heavily when searching for guidance in how to deal with domestic violence.
What do you think of the way this media storm has played out? Should celebrities be held to higher standards than “normal people” when it comes to their personal lives? Feel free to join the discussion in the comments below.
Written by Phoebe Eccles