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Rihanna, Chris Brown sending “dreadful” message
Even if whispers of a romantic reunion between Rihanna and Chris Brown are false, the fact relations have normalized while Brown is serving his five-year probation sentence for felony assault is the kind of slippery slope experts could have predicted.
Lucas Jackson/REUTERS file photo
Rihanna and Chris Brown did more than just flirt on Twitter or release new duets this week. They also sent a dangerous message to the world.
Three years after a horrifying incident, in which he savagely punched her, bit her, put her in a headlock and threatened to kill her, all seems to be forgiven and forgotten. In the glitzy melodrama of their willfully entangled lives, both are eager to scrub the ugly past from their shared history.
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On Monday, the ex-couple unleashed remixes of two songs: Brown’s “Turn Up The Volume” and Rihanna’s “Birthday Cake.” The marketing-driven collaborations arrived in the wake of the Grammy Awards, during which Brown performed and won a trophy, suggesting the besieged music industry is also eager to forgive and forget.
But for fans of the stars, including some young women who tweeted unsettling proclamations while Brown was gyrating on the Grammy stage — “chris brown can punch me whenever he wants!” — this rekindled spark has created a harmful blind spot to the issue of domestic violence.
“The message that they are sending is that abusive men have changed when they say they are better,” says Norman Quantz, an Alberta therapist and author of It’s All About Power and Control. “And that’s a lie believed by many women.”
Or as Steven Stosny, author of Love Without Hurt, observes: “Because of their public image, it sends a dreadful message that without any kind of intervention, battering can get better. We know from a lot of research that without massive intervention it gets worse.”
Even if the whispers of a romantic reunion are false, the fact relations have normalized while Brown is serving his five-year probation sentence for felony assault is precisely the kind of slippery slope experts could have predicted.
“What we are seeing played out here is something that happens in a number of abusive relationships,” says Nancy Salamone, the founder and chief executive of The Business of Me, a program that teaches financial self-sufficiency to women trapped in violent relationships. “It takes about seven or eight times for a woman to make that break for good.”
This “rubber band effect,” as some psychologists refer to it, always triggers the same question: “Why is the woman going back?”
Walter DeKeseredy, a professor of criminology at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, has been researching domestic violence for 25 years. He says that deceptively simple question often distorts the psychological complexities churning underneath a turbulent relationship.
“We can never ignore the fact that many abused women actually love the men who hit them because the men who hit them don’t always hit them,” says DeKeseredy.
While there can be situational reasons for a woman’s return, adds Stosny, affection and guilt often play a greater role: “When you talk to the women who go back, they rarely will cite fear, finances or social pressures. They will just say that they still love him.”
A misplaced feeling of remorse can also cloud judgment.
“I call this the pendulum of pain,” says Stosny. “I’m sure Rihanna’s feeling, irrationally, of course, that he suffered so much in his career because of this. (Victims of abuse) feel irrational guilt, shame and anxiety that drives them back.”
But as experts also note, domestic violence is rarely an anomalous event. Even if an abuser is able to keep his physical rage in check, the possibility of emotional abuse remains high.
DeKeseredy tells a story about a man who once viciously beat his wife with a coat hanger and then photographed her swollen and bruised back. It was the only time he was physically violent. But for years, whenever he felt the woman needed to be “kept in line,” he would stick the photo to the fridge in an act of coercive control.
Is Brown a changed man, as his handlers and family contend? Has he truly taken responsibility for his actions and received sufficient treatment over the past years? Or is he still saddled with impulse control problems, as some of his quickly deleted tweets suggest? Recall last March when he reportedly lost his cool, screamed at a TV producer and shattered a window in the green room after the assault was raised during an interview on Good Morning America.
And what about reports from 2009 indicating the assault was not the first time Brown had Rihanna had a fight?
“I would hypothesize that while he may have only hit her once, he was likely to have engaged in other forms of controlling or abusive behaviour,” says DeKeseredy. “Put it this way: The signs are always there. It just doesn’t come out of the blue.”
The grim irony is all of this Rihanna and Brown news arrives during Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. It also comes as jurors on Wednesday found former University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely V guilty of second-degree murder in the 2010 death of his ex-girlfriend. Meanwhile, earlier this month, the 21-year-old son of Playboy tycoon Hugh Hefner was arrested after allegedly beating his girlfriend.
“We really believe there is an epidemic of violence and abuse in teen dating relationships,” says Beverley Wybrow, president and chief executive of the Canadian Women’s Foundation. “The research shows that one in four relationships have abuse in them.”
The challenge for educators is reaching young people before it’s too late.
“Teenagers are really inundated with media messages that glorify violence,” says Wybrow. “And then they hear about celebrities like Chris Brown who is publicly forgiven for the violence. It tends to normalize it and send a message that abuse is okay.”
Given their youth, fame and global appeal, Rihanna and Brown may be doing more than normalizing abuse.
“Are we glamorizing this issue?” asks Salamone. “Are these people saying, ‘Look at me, I’m rich, I’m gorgeous and I’m getting away with this?”
http://www.thestar.com/living/article/1 ... s-say?bn=1