Don’t react off of love. F love.” Such was superstar Rihanna’s advice to young girls on the heels of what she had suffered at the hands of her then boyfriend R&B star Chris Brown in 2009. Those who had expected Brown’s career to plummet as a consequence of his conviction soon had good cause to think again.
Never truly comfortable as the poster girl for domestic violence, Rihanna soon was telling the world via the Oprah Winfrey Show Next Chapter: “I just felt he made that mistake because he needed help. And I wondered, who’s going to help him?”
The new attitude appeared to pave the way for reconciliation, finally confirmed in a 2013 Rolling Stone interview, in the course of which she said: “I decided it was more important for me to be happy. I wasn’t going to let anybody’s opinion get in the way of that. Even if it’s a mistake, it’s my mistake. After being tormented for so many years, being angry and dark, I’d rather just live my truth and take the backlash. I can handle it.”
And handle it she did. The two made their debut at a Christmas Day Lakers game and appeared cozily at the Grammys. Ri Ri even made a supportive appearance at Brown’s probation hearing, where he was accused of failing to complete community service stemming from their battery case.
And just in case anyone dared cast aspersions on the state of the reunion, well, please refer to track ten on her seventh studio album Unapologetic: ‘Nobody’s Business’.
Actually Rihanna is the norm. In an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, the singer acknowledged that it takes “eight or nine” incidents of domestic violence before one leaves an abusive relationship. Just this week it was reported that a popular, young local media personality was herself the victim of abuse. Like so many before her, she turned out not to be interested in pursuing legal action.
What is it, then, that keeps women and men from removing themselves from toxic domestic situations?
There are several reasons, of course, the most obvious of which is socio-economic. It could be tied to financial status, or the subsequent lack thereof. What if there are kids in the picture? What then? How do I provide for them? Can I risk getting cut off from support?
Then there is the fear of not getting enough protection from the judicial system. If you’re not going to be safe after your court hearing, then what’s the point?
These are just a few of the thoughts racing through the mind of the average victim facing the tough choices associated with economic struggles.
But what about people like Rihanna and other professionals who have the means to move? What keeps them coming back? According to Faith St Catherine, a counselor at the Crisis Center, the situation is not as cut and dried as it seems.
“Circumstances differ,” she told me. “A lot of people grow up in abusive situations. The person who is supposed to love them abuses them. Or they may be emotionally tied to their batterer. When he or she says ‘I will change’ you want to believe it. Not all persons who abuse are always abusive. Sometimes they can be quite nice. So you have to look at the situation in totality.”
St Catherine also touched on an issue that affects many around the world.
“A lot of persons have low self-esteem. If you grew up being beaten by someone you love, then that’s what you know. Some people accept certain things, while others don’t. It’s a very complex situation.”