Are Rihanna and Chris Brown a parent's worst nightmare?
Chris Brown and Rihanna are once again courting controversy following reports that the duo has reconciled — at least professionally — by working together on two new songs. In fact, the Internet has been buzzing with chatter regarding Rihanna’s willingness to collaborate with Brown, despite the fact that he was convicted of brutally assaulting her three years ago this month.
Amid ongoing speculation that the couple has secretly rekindled their tumultuous romance, a recurring theme is the message that this sends to young fans. But also, how do parents, who have teens who look up to either of these stars, broach the Chris Brown and Rihanna issue?
Clinical psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere says you need to be brutally honest with your children about the situation and explain you’d be uncomfortable if your child “remained in or drifted back” into that “kind of dangerous relationship”, especially without adequate “counseling or therapy.”
WATCH MSBNC COVERAGE OF THE CONTROVERSY SWIRLING AROUND RIHANNA AND CHRIS:
[MSNBCMSN video=”http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640″ w=”592″ h=”346″ launch_id=”46482883^10^244610″ id=”msnbce2d4f”]
Still, parents might pay a little more attention if they read some of the disturbing tweets posted during Brown’s performance and win at this month’s Grammy Awards. Overzealous female fans tweeted bizarre things like: “Call me crazy buttttttttt I would let Chris Brown beat me up anyyyy day.”
“When the incident first happened we talked about it extensively because they [her teenage sons] were so disturbed any man could inflict that amount of physical damage on a woman,” says Sidmel Estes, an Atlanta journalist and university lecturer, who has two teenage sons.
Showbiz aside, their highly publicized altercation has remained in the limelight because it raises many, sometimes uncomfortable, issues about unhealthy and abusive relationships, especially among the young.
Stephanie Nilva, executive director of Day One, a New York organization solely devoted to teen violence, says the celebrity couple’s high profile domestic relationship “is an opportunity for parents to open a dialogue about abusive relationships before or as their children are dating and make sure teenagers understand the importance of safe and respectful partnerships.”
Indeed, statistics show that an alarming number of teens and young people have experienced abusive, even dangerous, romantic relationships. One in three teens experiences abuse in a dating relationship, according to the United States Department of Justice.
“The best thing a parent can do is to ensure that if their child goes through something like this they have open lines of communication to talk to their parents,” adds Nilva.
Estes believes Brown and Rihanna “haven’t redeemed themselves because there never was a sincere apology from both parties” and “now it seems they might even get back together, perhaps even for commercial reasons.”
Brian Pinero, acting director of loveisrespect.org, a forum to empower youth and young adults to prevent and end abusive relationships, says publicly that Brown has shown little remorse or evidence of serious recovery. “Chris Brown made a choice to be abusive but he has never fully admitted to this or given an apology,” Pinero says.
Last year, for instance, Brown threw a chair at a dressing room window after a Good Morning America appearance because co-anchor Robin Roberts asked him about the status of the restraining order against him after his attack on Rihanna. Brown also has a history of expletive-laden Twitter posts.
Dr. Gardere says studies have shown people who stay in situations of domestic violence can even develop post-traumatic stress. He says that they live in constant fear of the threat of physical and psychological injury, or even death. “Children are also adversely affected because they can become victims or victimizers later in life,” Gardere says.
Pinero agrees that the long-term effects of domestic violence are wide ranging. He says that just because the photo of Rihanna’s battered face has disappeared, it does not mean that she is not scarred.
Still, Terrie Williams, author of Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting, says that outbursts of anger often show that healing has not taken place.
“I am not condoning violence but you never know what type of pain people are in,” says Williams. “That’s why you see flashes of anger like that. When we don’t deal with childhood stuff it comes out in a myriad of ways and anger is one of them.”
Others point out that Brown, an immensely talented artist, is still young and at the time of the domestic violence incident was only 19 years old. They say that everyone deserves a second chance, and if Rihanna can find it in her heart to forgive her former abuser, then everyone else should “leave Chris alone.”
Time will tell if the R&B singer still needs to address his anger issues or if he has learned from his past mistakes.
Follow Kunbi Tinuoye on Twitter at @Kunbiti