As an expert on women's issues, self-defense, domestic violence, and rape and sexual assault, and October being Domestic Violence Month, I wanted to write about two people who have been in the news a great deal lately – singers Rihanna and Chris Brown. Three years after an incident where Brown assaulted Rihanna and threatened to kill her a day before the Grammys, it seems they are now back together as a couple.
In 2009, Brown pleaded guilty to felony assault. He was issued a restraining order and court-ordered community service. Over the past three years, Rihanna has expressed to the media that she still loves Brown despite his brutal attack on her. Now that they are rekindling their highly publicized romance the public has much to say about her decision to let Brown back in her life.
Now I'm not writing this article to pass judgment on Rihanna or Brown, but I do want to shed light on why women remain or return to toxic relationships. I, myself, have also been in a number of unhealthy relationships through the years, but after deep soul searching and therapy I began to understand why I gravitated to those types of relationships. To be honest, emotional demons and judgmental ghosts were locked in my mind as a result of dealing with several horrific experiences when I was younger, including rape, homelessness, drug addiction, criminal activity, prostitution, and physical and emotional abuse. Until I got therapy I struggled to maintain healthy relationships, especially with men.
All I've ever wanted was to be close to a man, love him and have him love me, too. I wanted to feel the closeness and maybe that would shield me from the ghosts. I wanted to feel close so I could stop feeling pain and loneliness. But despite being in various relationships I still felt unloved. Even the really sweet, wonderful guys who did try to love me, I just pushed them away. No matter how educated or successful I was in the back of my mind I always felt unworthy of love. Considering my past I still felt I had the stigma of a drug addict and whore etched across my forehead. So, how could any good man possibly ever love me? With this kind of mentality is it any wonder I usually ended up with men who were abusive?
So, I can truly understand what Rihanna and other women are going through. Rihanna grew up in an abusive home. During her August 2012 interview with Oprah Winfrey, she spoke about her father, Ronald Fenty, who was physically abusive towards her mother. Over the years, Rihanna learned to forgive her father, who she said, "was a good person deep down." Fenty had his own personal demons to overcome, which Rihanna recognized in the same way she said she understood Brown's demons. Despite the brutal attack, which left Rihanna seriously injured, three years later she had this to say during Winfrey's interview:
"I think he (Brown) was the love of my life. He was my first love and I see that he loved me the same way," she added. "The main thing for me is he's at peace. I'm not at peace if he's not happy or he's still lonely. I care. It actually matters that he finds that peace."
There's just one problem with Rihanna's statement. When she got away from Brown in 2009 it would have been in her best interest to stay away, get therapy and move on with her life. However, understanding what Rihanna saw as a children growing up in an abusive home may help people understand why she can't break free without help. Clinical psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere says studies have shown people who stay in situations of domestic violence can even develop post-traumatic stress. “Children are also adversely affected because they can become victims or victimizers later in life,” Gardere says.
As women we tend to give our all and try to "fix" the guy we love. We truly believe that our love will heal him of his demons. However, when you are dealing with a man who has addictions of any kind and anger issues too, no amount of love will fix him. An emotionally broken woman can't heal an emotionally broken man.
Once An Abuser…
Brian Pinero, acting director of loveisrespect.org, a forum to empower youth and young adults to prevent and end abusive relationships, says publicly that Brown has shown little remorse or evidence of serious recovery. “Chris Brown made a choice to be abusive but he has never fully admitted to this or given an apology,” Pinero says.
Not only has Brown never given a public apology that seems genuine, but his behavior since the 2009 incident proves he definitely has an anger problem. When co-anchor Robin Roberts questioned him during a Good Morning America segment, Brown got angry when the topic of Rihanna and the status of the restraining order against him. His violent behavior escalated when he threw a chair at the window, shattering glass in the room and on the sidewalk where someone could have been injured.
This year Brown got into an altercation with singer Drake's bodyguards at a NY nightclub where chairs, fists and bottles were thrown. Brown also has a history of expletive-laden Twitter posts and many drunken rants showcased on several videos.
Terrie Williams, author of Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting, says that outbursts of anger often show that healing has not taken place.
Since Brown hasn't gotten professional help to deal with his emotional demon and anger issues, it is quite possible, and most likely, that he will lash out at Rihanna in the future. Another 911 call to police may be placed to come to her aid once again.
Is It Her Fault?
People usually say if a woman is involved in an abusive relationship it's not her fault. I say, in many cases, it may be, which is often a controversial statement to make. This is why this topic must be explored and addressed in greater detail. The focus is usually on the man doing wrong, but let's look at what women are doing wrong.
The problem is this – like I mentioned before, if a woman is emotionally broken, she will latch on to men who are also emotionally broken. You will bring into your life what you are comfortable with. Many women get involved with men who are abusive because they were abused as a child or they saw their mother abused. They often think this is normal. If a woman has an addiction, e.g. gambling, she will most likely seek out a man who has an addiction, be it gambling, sex, drugs, or alcohol. If a woman has low self-esteem she will compromise and settle for a man who may be unhealthy in a number of ways. She will stick with what she knows, what's familiar to her, what she is conditioned to except even if that relationship is toxic. Dealing with an destructive relationship often means the woman has her own unresolved emotional, mental, physical or spiritual issues.
Stop The Madness
One in three teens experiences abuse in a dating relationship, according to the United States Department of Justice.
The F.B.I. states that every year in the U.S. there are over 3 million incidents of domestic violence. That means that every 9 seconds someone is being beaten by their domestic partner. The fact that more attention isn't focused on lowering these rates is horrible.
Sadly, despite these facts, many females, especially young girls, have such low self-esteem that they seek out bad boys. At this past Grammy's show in August several females responded to Brown's performance with truly sad and bizarre tweets including this one: “Call me crazy buttttttttt I would let Chris Brown beat me up anyyyy day.”
Without love and guidance from family members, especially mothers, young girls will not form the proper respect for themselves. As a result, they will most likely get involved with numerous abusive relationships throughout their lifetime.
Many women are not willing to admit they are in an abusive relationship because they aren't being hit. But abuse comes in several forms including, physical, verbal, sexual, financial, and emotional.
When a woman loves a man she will often excuse or underplay his destructive habits and behaviors and see what she wants to see. She will forgive him because deep down inside she wants to believe he is a good and loving person. To keep the relationship together, the woman will often sacrifice her needs, wants and desires to cater to what her man's needs. However, no matter how much a woman gives of herself or works tirelessly to please her husband or boyfriend if he is an abuser those acts of abuse, especially violence, will escalate and become more frequent after the first incident. Do not deny the gravity of abuse in any form. If it happens once, it will happen again.
If you have even been in an abusive relationship or you grew up in an violent household get the counseling or therapy you need to help you heal emotionally so you can enter into a truly loving relationship that you deserve. In order for a woman to have a healthy, loving, respectful, and supportive relationship she must first be purged of her own demons. She must be healthy in mind, body and spirit. She must work on self first and get the help and support she needs to be whole. If not, the cycle of abuse will continue. Remember true love doesn't hurt.