Art and Entertainment

Evan Agostini/AP
Singers Rihanna and Chris Brown perform at the Z100 Jingle Ball 2008.

Why Did Rihanna Take Back Chris Brown?

March 02, 2009 05:14 PM
by Rachel Balik
The couple has reunited after an alleged instance of domestic violence; does their reconciliation send the wrong message to teenagers?

Rihanna and Brown Make Up

Three weeks after Chris Brown and Rihanna split over an alleged incident of domestic violence, the couple reunited at Sean “Diddy” Combs’ house in Miami. A source told People magazine that Brown felt terrible about what happened, but was “really happy to be with the woman he loves.” Brown reached out to Rihanna on her 21st birthday and the couple has been working towards reconciliation since. 

Psychologists and domestic violence experts have expressed dismay—but not surprise—at the couple’s reconciliation. The director of the domestic violence project Manhattan’s Urban Justice Center told the New York Daily News that people in a close relationship often give one another second chances.  A New York City psychologist worries that many young women who listen to Rihanna’s music regard her as a role model and as such, she is setting a poor example for them.

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Background: Brown Arrested; Falls from Favor

Singers Chris Brown and Rihanna appeared at a pre-Grammy show together, but after a domestic dispute, neither made it to the ceremony itself. Rihanna ended up in the emergency room, and Brown turned himself to the Los Angeles Police Department to face allegations of assault. Brown quickly fell from media and popular favor. He lost a sponsorship deal with Wrigley gum, and many radio stations stopped playing his songs, intending to send the message that domestic violence was unacceptable.

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Social Context: Domestic Violence in America; Impact on Teens

The media may be shocked about the couple reuniting, however the Chicago Tribune writes that many teenagers don’t see a problem with abusive relationships. High school students interviewed suggested that perhaps Rihanna had done something to deserve getting hit, and many girls were among those who did not believe Brown had done anything wrong. Some schools have implemented education programs and discussion groups about dating violence but there is no nationwide initiative to combat this problem.

But educators say there should be. According to the Chicago Tribune, approximately 10 percent of teenagers experiences domestic violence in their relationships, while a study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine found that out of a pool of 910 undergraduates, 44.7 had experienced violence in a relationship.

Guests on NPR’s talk show, “Tell Me More,” discussed the impact that the Rihanna and Brown saga has had on them. Leslie Steiner, author of a recent memoir about her physically abusive first marriage, says that people have a hard time believing that successful, beautiful people have abusive relationships; the “silver lining” of this situation is that people are finally talking about the issue.

Both Steiner and parenting expert Danette Tucker said that it’s important to practice aggressive parenting by talking about the psychological aspects of relationships and feelings that come up. Steiner acknowledges that many things about a possessive, passionate partner can be quite appealing but children need to be taught about the dangers.

Related Topic: Understanding Dating Violence

Brown has spoken out against domestic violence in the past, reported U.K. paper The Daily Telegraph. He has alluded to his stepfather’s abuse of his mother and said that some of the things he witnessed shaped him a person. But prior to the events on Grammy night, Brown has said that he was determined to have a different relationship than the kind he witnessed growing up.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to resist the influence of the attitudes experienced and the events that occur in childhood. A study released in October 2008 examined the factors that lead teen boys to violence. A range of factors including emotional distress at home and being athletes all contributed toward violence in teenage couples. But one significant contributor was a community acceptance of domestic violence.

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