Should a victim ever go back to a ‘Changed Man’?

OPINION - This unfortunate situation between Chris and Rihanna begs the question: Should a victim ever return to her abuser, and if she does, why?

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

By now, we are all aware that after leaving a pre-Grammy gala in Los Angeles on Feb. 8, 2009 heartthrob singer Chris Brown delivered a vicious beating in his car to his superstar girlfriend singer and model Rihanna.

Since that time, Brown has pleaded guilty to assaulting Rihanna. He has plea bargained for five years probation, 180 days of community labor and 52 weeks of domestic violence counseling and was officially sentenced today. He has given a public apology to his fans and Rihanna on YouTube, and has released a new song called “Changed Man,” in which he is presumably talking about the lessons he has learned since the domestic violence incident.

With all of Brown’s apparent penance, what has been disturbing is that, through her attorneys, Rihanna has told the courts that all that’s necessary is a level-one order of protection – that Brown not annoy, molest or harass her – instead of the original one in which he had to stay at least 50 yards away from her at all times. No stay-away order was ever requested by Rihanna, nor did she ever believe it was necessary.

And recently, a UK celebrity magazine claims that both Rihanna and Chris, coincidentally, stayed at New York’s Trump International Hotel a couple weeks back. What was not coincidental was that they actually hooked up while there. Star magazine reported that a hotel source saw them being very cozy, and that they used decoy cars to put off the media while they spent time together.

The magazine also claims exclusive quotes from Rihanna’s mom Monica Fenty, who, in response to rumors of Chris and Rihanna’s reconciliation states, “I’m devastated, but what can I do? Rihanna is her own woman with her own mind and very, very independent.”

So whether the rumors are true or not, this unfortunate situation between Chris and Rihanna begs the question: Should a victim ever return to her abuser, and if she does, why?

The quick and immediate answer is NO, she should not. If she does, she is only returning to more physical and or emotional abuse.

It’s a complex dynamic and strong pull on her to return. She may be in his thrall both emotionally and financially. In addition, he may lure her back with intense and heartfelt apologies in which they will profess their sorrow and remorse. They will promise to never abuse again and they will believe their own words. It’s not about abusers being “bad” people. They are typically emotionally scarred individuals who often have been abused themselves as children or witnessed it from their parents.

Rihanna’s mom has said, “Chris has a bizarre power over Rihanna. She still loves him, and he knows it. In her eyes he’s a god. Even after all this time, and even after what he did, it’s not diminished, no way.”

Mmmm! This is a very typical scenario for average couples in domestic violence. It’s not so much about an abuser’s Svengali power, but more about a victim’s own psychology. Does she herself come from an abusive household? Was she abused as a child? Is her self-esteem damaged to the point that she believes that this destructive relationship is all she deserves?

These are tough questions, but therapy will get her to develop and understand the tough and life-changing answers. The victim will continue to return unless she also gets her own counseling and begins to understand why she remained and allowed herself to be abused and humiliated.

Unless Rihanna does get that help, whether she goes back to Chris or starts a relationship with another flame, she may very well be at risk for falling into yet another relationship defined by domestic violence.

Bottomline, if you are in a domestic violence situation, get out now! Make like a tree and leave, make like mercury and run, and don’t look or go back unless both of you get therapeutic help. And even then – you may want to keep on stepping.

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