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Health, Media

What to Make of Rihanna and Chris Brown’s New Collaborations

Anyone who knows me knows I have a strange – some might say stalkerish – infatuation with Rihanna.  Between searching for 2nd and 3rd level connections on Linked In to finding out a few hours too late that she was doing karaoke two blocks away from my apartment, I have always been in search for that one moment when her eyes would meet mine and my favorite Lionel Richie song would start playing in my life’s soundtrack.  And yet, while it never happened, I can always say that I was never rejected.  You can’t miss the game winning shot if you’re sitting on the bench after all.

All that being said, I wonder if my infatuation is over.  Done.  I don’t know her personally, and I’ve never been in a relationship that was abusive, so I pause when making this statement…but my dream woman just seems damaged. How else to explain that she’s back to collaborating on songs with Chris Brown, nearly three years to the day that he brutally attacked her.  It just feels so wrong.

And the reason it feels so wrong, is quite obvious.  All it takes is to have heard what happened in their car three years ago.  Which, by the way, if you haven’t seen already the full court documents were released recently and, while hard to believe, they are even more harrowing than what was originally rumored to be the case.  You can read the entire thing here, but here’s an excerpt (but you should definitely skip if you get squeemish about this type of stuff):

“Brown pulled Robyn F. close to him and bit her on her left ear. She was able to feel the vehicle swerving from right to left as Brown sped away. He stopped the vehicle in front of 333 North June Street and Robyn F. turned off the car, removed the key from the ignition and sat on it.

“Brown did not know what she did with the key and began punching her in the face and arms. He then placed her in a head lock positioning the front of her throat between his bicep and forearm. Brown began applying pressure to Robyn F.’s left and right carotid arteries, causing her to be unable to breathe and she began to lose consciousness.

There are no jokes here.  None.  It’s just really disgusting all around.

I don’t mean to belabor the point about a relationship between two celebrities, and in many ways it is their private business to which none of us are privy to the details.  However, unfortunately, while I feel sad for Rihanna for making this seemingly misguided decision, the real reason to even continue to talk about this is because of its potential impact on millions of young women and men who adore both Ri Ri and Chris Brown.  While we can go back and forth about whether they should be adoring them in the first place (they probably shouldn’t, but who am I to talk as a grown man with an infatuation), the fact is they do.  And because of this, there is an increasing likelihood that they will come to the conclusion that beating a woman is acceptable.  There’s already disturbing evidence of this taking place. For instance, take these women saying they would love for Chris Brown to beat them.

In some respects, this may not even be Brown’s or Rihanna’s fault.  Everybody deserves to be forgiven if they have bettered themselves.  Adulterers.  Murderers.  Even abusers.  And it’s not for me or any of us to judge him (or her), especially from afar.  He may have done the work necessary to be a better person.  That doesn’t mean that all should be forgotten and his record expunged in the court of public opinion like he seems to want it to be.  But if he’s sought help and is now a better man (he wasn’t actually a man before so scratch the better), more power to him.  It’s not necessarily fair to blame them for the fact that their fans will choose not to see whatever they’ve done to overcome their demons (assuming they’ve done the work and actually overcome them).  That doesn’t necessarily let them off the hook though since they could both do a lot for the issue of domestic abuse by discussing how they’ve addressed it.  Clearly this would be brave and courageous for Rihanna to do.  On the other hand, it’s somewhat cowardly for Brown not to.

So, because of all of this, my feelings have shifted somewhat.  I used to say that Chris Brown should be made an example, be blacklisted.  I was appalled that he was collaborating with Kanye West and Andre 3000, was more appalled to see him performing at the Grammy’s and never ever ever wanted to see Rihanna with him again.  But that’s all personal.  And that’s not really that productive.  Instead, now, the bigger picture feels like it is calling. And all I can hope for is that this very public relationship can be used by parents, educators, caregivers, counselors and the rest of us that care about the safety and welfare of women, young and old, as an opportunity to highlight how domestic abuse works.  How it starts, how it manifests itself, how it is hard to escape…and hopefully, if Brown really has rehabilitated himself, how it can be stopped.

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