Singers Rihanna and Chris Brown have seemingly moved on from their violent past and rekindled their relationship. The couple was photographed enjoying a Los Angeles Lakers game on Christmas Day, and both celebrities posted photos on Instagram showing them cozying up as they brought in the New Year.
While both have chided the public for critiquing their private lives, local domestic violence advocates worry that Rihanna – an international superstar who has sold millions of CDs – is sending the wrong message to her legions of young female fans.
The reunion has become a hot topic of conversation on 102 Jamz’s WildOut Wake-Up Show, according to ToshaMakia Acevedo, a domestic violence survivor and the hip hop station’s lone female morning show host.
“It’s not cool with me,” she said of the relationship. “That’s why at this moment, it’s so much more important for me as the woman on the morning show to get out there and talk to the kids and let them know this is not how you should be treated.”
Brown was roundly ridiculed in 2009 after he beat Rihanna inside of a rented Lamborghini on a Hollywood street a few days before the Grammy Awards, where they both were set to appear. Photos of the Barbados-born songstress’ bruised and swollen face made the social media rounds soon after the incident. Brown was ordered to take anger management classes and perform community service.
“It’s so funny. I remember when they first went through everything … people were very angry,” related Acevedo, a Bridgeport, Conn. native. “Now, it seems like people are like okay, more so, ‘people deserve a second chance.’”
Acevedo said she spent 15 years in a relationship that began as controlling and ultimately escalated to physical violence before she found the courage to leave.
“It’s not something that you can easily get out of once you’re in it, you’re stuck. I really believed that I was born to die with this man, and not in a good way,” she related. “It was to the point that I wanted to take myself out … I prayed to God, ‘If You get me out of this, I promise I will help other girls.’”
Kimberly Hinton-Robinson founded LIFE (Living is Finally Enjoyable, Inc.), a nonprofit organization that seeks to help and support battered women, after being a victim of a stalker.
She says a man who beats a woman once will almost certainly be a repeat offender.
“I feel like if a person violates you once, then they’ll do it again,” she said. “…I believe in forgiveness too, but that (relationship) doesn’t sit well with me.”
DeWanna Hamlin, coordinator of Prevention and Education for Family Services Inc.’s Safe Relationships Division, said Brown and Rihanna are following a pattern that is often played out within abusive relationships.
“It’s concerning to me when any abusive relationship goes through the cycle of violence,” said Hamlin. “It is not uncommon for the victim to take seven to 10 attempts before they can completely extricate themselves from the domestic violence relationship. There’s a lot of leaving and going back.”
Victims of domestic violence return to abusive relationships for a variety of reasons, Hamlin said. Many victims cite love, children and not wanting their relationship to be a failure. Too often, Hamlin said, the focus is on the victim who returns to the relationship, and not the abuser who continues to lure him or her back.
“We’re much quicker to judge the victims and why they stay than we are to look at the perpetrator and why it is acceptable to do violence to people that we love,” she remarked. “I think that’s the deeper issue.”
Arlene Crump-Peebles, founder of Alabaster Place, Inc., a domestic violence training and advocacy center, said it is important that not only victims of domestic violence get help, but perpetrators as well.
“It provokes me to really just speak with the advocates and those who we have trained to remind them how serious this is and how important this is. In spite of the media saying that this is okay, it’s not,” said Crump-Peebles, who is also a domestic violence survivor. “…If you are the abuser, you need to be held accountable. If you’re the victim, you need to know life has so much more to offer you.”
Acevedo, a mother of three, has made it her mission to help as many women as she can escape the horrors of domestic abuse, primarily by speaking out against domestic violence at every opportunity given to her.
Today, “I’m free; I’m strong; I’m confident,” she said, “I have a story to share, but most importantly, I have a job to do. I believe that God has brought me to radio … to be the voice of women that don’t even know they’re in (an unhealthy relationship). I swear on my last breath that nothing fills me up more than helping somebody get out of this because I swear I was lost.”
Though unfortunate, the Rihanna-Chris Brown relationship can serve as a teaching tool to educate people – especially women – about the dangers of domestic violence and the importance of avoiding such relationships, Hamlin said.
“I use her as an example a lot in my training or education because it’s something people can relate to. It opens up a great conversation for people who don’t think they know somebody that’s experiencing domestic violence,” she said of Rihanna. “…I think this is a great time to have conversations with our youth about what is healthy.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please contact Family Services’ confidential, 24-hour crisis line, 336-723-8125.