I couldn't even begin to get my head around the coverage of the Rihanna/Chris Brown beating, photos, police report, and alleged reconcillation. Fortunately, Mad Lux stepped in with some wisdom from the Yes Means Yes Blog.
What it doesn’t mean.
So, reports are everywhere that Chris Brown and Rihanna are getting back together, or at the very least spent the weekend together at Diddy’s mansion in Miami.
Who knows what’s true about these rumors? Hardly anyone. But for argument’s sake, and because many people are already assuming this is true, let’s discuss what it doesn’t mean if Rihanna takes Chris back:
1. It doesn’t mean she is stupid. Leaving an abusive partner is hard - really, really hard. Some studies have shown that it takes an average woman 4-7 tries before she can leave her abuser for good. Why? Because abusers aren’t transparent assholes all of the time. They can be very manipulative, and most of the time will wear down their partner’s self-esteem quite thoroughly long before they start with the physical violence. They’re also often charming and can be very loving and doting and romantic when they’re not being violent. They can talk real pretty about what they’ve learned, how sorry they are, how they’re going to change, how they can’t change without the help of their wo/man. And of course, we want to believe that we haven’t been so blind in choosing a partner for ourselves. We want to believe we can help. We want to believe that the good in them outweighs the bad. It’s a hard, hard situation. This is a good post about all of these dynamics.
2. It doesn’t mean we should forgive him. Because of all this, even if she does take him back, even if they seem happier than ever together, we shouldn’t forget. We shouldn’t shame her for her choices - when we think we can tell a woman what she should do, we’re not much better than a controlling boyfriend ourselves. But we can still call for justice to be served. He can still be prosecuted even if she doesn’t press charges. We can also continue to hold the media accountable for what they say about this case, to ensure that blame is placed on the proper party - the abuser.
3. It doesn’t mean what he’s alleged to have done is any less horrible. Again, see above. There are a lot of psychological reasons that victims take their abusers back. It doesn’t mean the abuse was any kind of “no big deal.” In fact, it often means it’s an even bigger deal than we thought, and involves psychological abuse as well, which leaves a victim vulnerable when the abuser comes back and tries to make nice.
4. It doesn’t mean she has betrayed any kind of sisterhood. OK, let’s get real clear on this one. Rihanna did not sign up to be any kind of spokesmodel for dating violence. The fact that we even know it was Rihanna is due to her name, and then her photo, being leaked and exploited. Rihanna is a young woman in a really hard situation, trying to figure it out the best she can. She owes us nothing. Her decisions are hers to make, and none of us know what we would do in her shoes - even if we have been through similar things, we haven’t been through her actual life. If we start judging her or blaming her for being a bad role model, the sisterhood has failed her, not the other way around. Got it?
5. It doesn’t mean that if he hurts her again, she deserves it. See number 1 - she is likely in a psychological state that’s hard to understand from the outside. There may seem to her to be a million reasons for her to take him back. Not one of them means that she deserves to be hurt again. No one deserves to be beaten or abused. Ever. By anyone. Period.