Do Rihanna and Chris Brown have a responsibility to their fans?
The rumors of a Rihanna and Chris Brown song collaboration are true. The former couple released two remixed tracks that are sure to lead to many questions about whether Rihanna has forgiven Chris Brown for punching, kicking, choking and biting her in 2009, leaving her bloody, bruised and unconscious on the side of the road the night before the Grammy Awards.
For those who need their memories refreshed or who have never taken the time to read the police report, after an argument over Rihanna discovering a text message from another woman on Chris Brown’s cell phone the following happened (Warning: Graphic content):
[Rihanna is referred to in the police report as Robyn F.] Robyn F. turned to face Brown and he punched her in the left eye with his right hand. He then drove away in the vehicle and continued to punch her in the face with his right hand while steering the vehicle with his left hand. The assault caused Robyn F.’s mouth to fill with blood and blood to splatter all over her clothing and the interior of the vehicle. Brown looked at Robyn F. and stated, ‘I’m going to beat the sh*t out of you when we get home! You wait and see!’
WATCH MSNBC’s COVERAGE OF THE RIHANNA/CHRIS BROWN DEBATE BELOW:
[MSNBCMSN video=”http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45977840″ w=”592″ h=”346″ launch_id=”46483227″ id=”msnbc4d3e01″]
After Rihanna faked a call to her personal assistant telling her what was happening and asking to call the police, Chris Brown yelled, “You just did the stupidest thing ever! Now I’m really going to kill you!”
Brown resumed punching Robyn F., and she interlocked her fingers behind her head and brought her elbows forward to protect her face. She then bent over at the waist, placing her elbows and face near her lap in [an] attempt to protect her face and head from the barrage of punches being levied upon her by Brown. Brown continued to punch Robyn F. on her left arm and hand, causing her to suffer a contusion on her left triceps (sic) that was approximately two inches in diameter and numerous contusions on her left hand.
[After Brown threw Rihanna’s phone out of the car window] Brown continued driving and Robyn F. observed his cellular telephone sitting in his lap. She picked up the cellular telephone with her left hand, and before she could make a call he placed her in a head lock with his right hand and continued to drive the vehicle with his left hand. Brown pulled Robyn F. close to him and bit her on her left ear. [Rihanna then took took the key out of the ignition and sat on them]
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.
Despite the graphic assault detailed above, Rihanna and Chris Brown seem to have moved on. The music industry and the Grammys have moved on. But does their supposed reconciliation send a dangerous message to young fans who may look to them as role models?
Does it matter at all what these two young pop stars choose to do with each other after such a public and brutal assault?
The answer varies depending whom you ask.
Jaclyn Friedman co-author of Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape told theGrio that when it comes to Rihanna, “It’s unfair to insist [that it is] Rihanna’s job now to be a [domestic violence] survivor role model. She didn’t ask to get beat up by her partner, so she didn’t ask to be a symbol. I don’t judge how she lives her life based on whether or not she’s being a good ‘survivor,’ because she didn’t ask to be one in the first place. I worry about her because Brown certainly has shown no real remorse or transformation, but we know that domestic violence victims go back to their partners an average of 7-13 times before they leave for good.
“It’s unfair to expect Rihanna to be superhuman just because she’s famous. On the other hand, it absolutely is sending an awful message to their fans. But I hold Brown responsible for that and not Rihanna, since he’s the one who did the abusing in the first place. It’s on him to be a role model now, not her.”Asia D. Smith founder of Purple Reign Social Services, a domestic violence advocacy organization based in New Jersey, agrees that it’s not Rihanna’s job to send a message but that even still she is in fact sending one anyway.
Smith told theGrio, ”[Rihanna perhaps] doesn’t realize the impact of the example she’s setting [for her fans] but more importantly Rihanna needs to pay attention to the [personal] ramifications of her actions. As a batterer Chris Brown is a master manipulator and he’s going to pretend everything is great in order to pull her back in. This type of behavior doesn’t just go away with the passing of time.”
Smith who started Purple Reign Social Services after overcoming her own abusive relationship said, “I was the Rihanna [in my relationship]. I believed he changed too. And he just got better at it. He got better at hiding it.”
It’s also true that Chris Brown is a victim. As a child, after allegedly witnessing his stepfather physically abuse his mother, Brown admitted to wetting the bed out of fear. Smith says, “This is a cycle of violence. Both of them need to look into the seriousness of this.”
And the subject of their new collaboration being sex is another alarming factor, particularly for the young fans who will be listening to it. Smith says this is also typical, “this is what domestic abusers do.They get the woman back with sex. Not ‘I’m so sorry that I hurt you and that I miss you, I want to make love to you.’ No, it’s ‘I want to [blank] you,’” which is the first line Chris Brown sings in Rihanna’s remix of “Birthday Cake.”
Some have said that Chris Brown deserves a second chance. This week on ABC’s The View, co-host Sherri Shepherd said, “People have been talking about Chris Brown like he has a history of beating women, and he doesn’t. This is a boy — he has apologized so many times, he has done what the court ordered him to do. Do we not believe that somebody can rehabilitate themselves [sic], and that they can go on and create a better life. I mean, do we — do we not believe in second chances?”
As far as advice to Chris Brown on what more he can do Smith adds, “Why doesn’t Chris Brown tell his young female fans who want him to beat them that what he did to Rihanna was completely wrong and that it shouldn’t be tolerated? Perhaps even taking the time to work with a domestic violence organization. That alone would send a valuable message to his young fans. Girls ages 16-24 are at the greatest risk [of being domestically abused by a partner]. Those are who Chris Brown’s fans are. I will start to look at Chris Brown differently when Chris Brown starts to look at what he did [to Rihanna] differently.”
Asia Smith has some final words for Rihanna and a warning to her young fans, ”[Rihanna might think] that she can avoid what happened before if she behaves a certain way but since [Chris Brown] hasn’t properly dealt with his own past and his own issues it a gamble. She could really lose her life. Domestic violence is a serious issue. It’s not worth it to gamble with life.”
Follow Zerlina Maxwell on Twitter at @zerlinamaxwell