"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Dangerous Message

I have an opinion about stardom and fame that I think a great deal of people agree with, but some may not. I think that once a person finds themselves in the limelight, a known name, or famous--either through Hollywood or the NBA--they then have a responsibility. All of the money, recognition, and opportunity gives you an audience, and nine times out of ten, that audience- the most attentive part of it- is younger and impressionable.

Now, certainly, children and teens should see role models in their home and community; but when they look at someone famous, who is making millions of dollars, who has achieved-in their mind--success, they are searching to replicate the actions that got that person there.

Many of the famous have succeeded in doing this-- Michael Jordan comes to mind--but sports stars today leave much to be desired in their message to youth, on and off the court.

I am writing about this topic because of the recent abuse suffered by Rihanna at the hands of her boyfriend, Chris Brown. At first, I didn't write about this, because I am not a fan of either of their music, and didn't feel I knew enough about either one of them to comment. But then, I realized, this isn't about music, it is about domestic violence--period.

When the news first broke, I wasn't sure what the attack entailed. Then, when I read the details, my stomach turned. This was not some overheated-in-the-moment minor incident; this was full on beating, pummeling--with blood spatter and a chilling photograph documenting the aftermath. My fellow blogger, Lydia, wrote a beautiful "open letter" to Rihanna on her blog.

Now that Rihanna and Chris have reunited (and are supposedly penning a love song to perform soon) I am saddened for Rihanna, for her decision, and for the millions of little girls, teenagers, and even women out there watching her and receiving a very dangerous message.

Domestic violence is already a dirty little secret. Women hide in shame from their own friends and family, afraid to tell anyone what is really happening. They often blame themselves, and this shame lengthens their time in the relationship. It is also hard to find the strength to leave someone you fear so terribly.

But I am angry, also. So many women out there who are in these horrible, violent relationships don't have money or job skills and feel so hopeless about the prospect of leaving even though they desperately want to. But Rihanna does not have that dilemma. She has money, resources--more options than almost any woman in this situation.

So many other celebrities and specialists have spoken out about this situation including Oprah. We all know that this is not a one time thing. He will hit her again, the "I'm sorry" bit will also repeat itself, and every time Rihanna will lose more of herself to a man who does not deserve her.

My worst fear is that those looking to her as a role model will see in her actions that this is "love"--staying with someone at all costs, and putting yourself last--and even in danger. It is a dangerous message, and one I can only hope Rihanna wakes up to before it is too late.

Commentary: Brown-Rihanna case's dangerous message

By Jane Velez-Mitchell HLN

Jane Velez-Mitchell says the Chris Brown-Rihanna relationship sends a bad message to young people.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Pop star Chris Brown has been charged with two felonies -- including assault -- in the Rihanna beating case. If convicted, Brown could face more than four years behind bars.

The charges stem from the early morning of February 8, when he and his girlfriend Rihanna reportedly got into a heated argument in his car hours before they were scheduled to appear at the Grammy's. What police say happened next shook the entertainment world.
A Los Angeles County affidavit says Brown gave Rihanna a vicious and continuous beating. He allegedly started by shoving Rihanna's head against the passenger window, then punched her in the face numerous times while still driving. The beating reportedly splattered blood on Rihanna's clothing and the car interior.

The report goes on to say that in between barrages of punches, Brown placed Rihanna in a headlock and bit her ear -- still driving, mind you. After stopping the car, Rihanna says Brown again put her in a headlock. She said she began losing consciousness and as she fought back, he bit her finger.

Days later, a gruesome police photo of Rihanna leaked to the media and it showed her with a bruised, scratched face and a split lip. It was clear evidence of a continuous pummeling, not some impassioned slap in the heat of the moment.
Perhaps even more shocking than these grisly details are reports that this may not have been Brown's first time abusing
Rihanna. According to TMZ, Rihanna told the LAPD that Brown had attacked her several times in the past, and the assaults were gradually becoming more violent.

Yet less than a month after this ordeal, Rihanna has apparently forgiven him. Amazingly, according to an unidentified source quoted by People magazine, Brown called Rihanna on her 21st birthday and the two then reunited for some time together at Sean "Diddy" Combs' Miami, Florida, mansion.
Through her lawyer, Rihanna asked a judge Thursday not to prohibit Brown from having contact with her while he faces the felony charges of assaulting her.

Before the reported reconciliation, Brown attended anger management classes, according to the New York Daily News, even though legally he didn't have to. Sure, it's a positive step, but come on, Rihanna! Nobody can change that quickly.
Rihanna and Brown's punch drunk love is sending a dangerous message to their young fans. And don't tell me children aren't paying attention, because they are both up for Kid's Choice Awards on March 28.

Rihanna's apparent quick forgiveness for the alleged pummeling sends the worst possible signal -- namely, that this sort of behavior is just par for the course when it comes to male-female relationships.

When you look at the numbers, it is certainly more prevalent than we'd like to admit. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control, 5.3 million women are abused annually in the United States. An American Bar Association survey found that about one out of four American women are raped or physically assaulted by a current or former partner at some point in their lifetime.

But there is some progress. The Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics found that intimate partner abuse rates in America have steadily declined since 1993.
Yet the Rihanna beating shows just how much ground we still must cover. As much as I sympathize with her, I think Rihanna herself may have to go to classes. Her reported reunion with Brown enables his allegedly abusive behavior and is, in my opinion, a classic case of battered woman's syndrome.

If she is going back to Chris Brown so soon, Rihanna is putting herself at risk and seems to be falling into the brutal cycle of powerlessness, fear and low self esteem that often accompanies abusive relationships. And it sends a message to Brown that he doesn't have to change. iReport.com: Chris Brown fans: Share your reaction

If the reconciliation is real, Rihanna is also setting a dangerous example for other abused women. Unfortunately, despite her incredible looks and talent, I think she is now the poster child for battered woman's syndrome.
Our society must stop this cycle of helplessness that traps abused women. We must give them the help they need to escape the abusive spiral. But women must begin holding their loved ones to a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to violence.


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