Given the now infamous violent encounter between Chris Brown and Rihanna shortly after Clive Davis’s pre-Grammy Awards party in L.A. in February 2009, which left Rihanna brutally battered and bruised, it’s understandable why such a mundane and routine act as Rihanna following Brown on Twitter has attracted widespread media attention. Ever since the picture of Rihanna’s scarred face following the much-publicized incident surfaced, the two chart-toppers have reluctantly become poster children for intimate partner violence, usually referenced as domestic violence. This is a position that neither Rihanna nor Brown have encouraged or embraced.
Both children of abuse, the gravity of the incident has been lost on them. Two years later, both have publicly expressed their desire to make that night disappear. In November 2010, Rihanna tweeted: “People won’t stop askin abt it! Its f**kin annoying! Nobody wants to relive that, but some ppl can’t respect that!” [sic]
In March, Brown made headlines when he reportedly exploded following a Good Morning America interview where Robin Roberts pressed him about that night despite his insistence that their conversation concentrate on his album F.A.M.E. Exhibiting flashes of the violence manifested that unfortunate night, Brown, who exited the studios shirtless, reportedly shattered a window, raising concerns regarding just how well his therapy had gone and if his road to redemption was just for show.
Because we live in a culture where abusers are seen as men only, more has been demanded of Brown than of Rihanna. It’s no secret that he was ostracized following the incident and only recently found himself back in music’s inner circle, not to mention some of the public’s good graces. As part of his five-year probation, Brown has been required to undergo counseling. Rihanna, on the other hand, has not been forced to do the same. Unfortunately, there was very little talk regarding Rihanna’s mental health needs. As is customary these days, more attention is placed on the acts themselves and almost never on what happens afterwards.
Even worse, in the Caribbean culture Rihanna grew up in as well as within many other African-descended cultures, those who survive egregious acts shun therapy. Months following the incident, Rihanna, who was promoting her album Rated R, told the New York Times that “everyone wanted me to see a therapist to just talk about it, and I refused.” She explained that, “In Barbados we don’t do that. We keep it in our family, and figure it out and move on. I just put my game face on and went on with my life.” When a fan tweeted “I never thought you would go back to him! You better not, it’s your life but you do have (people) that look up to you. e.g. young girls” in response to Rihanna following Brown, Rihanna shot back, “its fu—in twitter, not the altar! calm down.”
Fans and others who want Rihanna to serve as the face of intimate partner violence overlook the fact that she never willingly left Brown. The restraining order against Brown was the judge’s doing and not Rihanna’s. In fact, Rihanna did not press charges against Brown. Instead, she simply co-operated with the investigation and, had the assault case gone to trial, Rihanna would have testified only because the law required her to do so.
On Twitter months after the incident, Brown made it no secret that he missed Rihanna, even posting a video collage of the two in happier times. Most recently, “She Ain’t You,” which many speculate is about Rihanna, is getting heavy radio play plus Brown just released the video, which is coincidentally dedicated to Michael Jackson and contains a “Human Nature” sample. In it, Brown croons “I never wanted us to break up, no not this way/But you don’t understand it girl/When she touches me/I’m wishing that they were your hands.” On top of that, “she ain’t you” is a constant refrain throughout the song.
Based on the fact that shortly after the assault Rihanna and Brown did reconcile, it is quite possible that both of them long to reunite now, which is common in relationships such as these. And, to be honest, the restraining order is perhaps the biggest reason they remained apart. If the two of them could have been together, more than likely they would have been. It’s not a stretch to say that, because both of them grew up in abusive households and rose to superstardom at such young ages, they feel connected in ways that other people cannot even begin to fathom. Is it unhealthy for them to feel this way given their violent history? Absolutely. Will it matter in the future? Maybe not.
At the end of the day, Rihanna and Brown are grown and will make their own decisions. Let’s just hope that both of them will realize that, regardless of whether they reunite or not, they should seek counseling for themselves, not because a court has ordered it in Brown’s case or that others believe it is wise in Rihanna’s case.
Unfortunately, what we witness as children carries forth into our adulthoods. As badly as we may long not to reduplicate the bad behavior we suffered in our youth, we often find that, as adults, it’s so ingrained in us that, without thinking, we find ourselves in similar situations as our parents. Only when we consciously make an effort to break the cycle, oftentimes through counseling, can we become the adults we promised ourselves as children we would be.
Right now, both Brown and Rihanna are so in the moment that they really can’t see the forest for the trees. Here’s wishing they will cut down some of those trees.