My Story of Domestic Violence
As the sad saga of Rihanna and Chris Brown continues …
When people talk about domestic abuse, it’s inevitable that one of the first things out of anyone’s mouth will be, “why doesn’t she just leave?”
The answer: It’s not that simple.
In case you’ve been living under a rock (or somewhere without internet access), just three weeks after he was arrested for bashing her about the face, choking her until she lost consciousness, and running off into the night, leaving her bruised and bloody, Chris Brown has managed to convince Rihanna to forgive him. According to People Magazine, the two are currently reconciling at one of P. Diddy’s homes on Miami Beach’s Star Island. A friend of the singer’s told Us magazine, “She’s not listening to anyone. And of course Puff got involved in this.”
When people condemn battered women as stupid or weak-willed, they don’t get how the whole thing gets started. Nobody slaps you on the first date. Certainly my abusive boyfriend – who was also my first-ever boyfriend – waited until he knew I was madly in love with him before he tried anything.
Abusers are insidious. They begin with a subtle campaign of undermining, designed to break you down emotionally before they begin slapping you around physically. I already came from a background where my mom beat me up fairly regularly. In fact, my little sister’s first memory is of her kicking my then-three-year-old ass. So I suppose I was easy prey.
Sorry seems to be the hardest word . . .
I’m not surprised that Rihanna returned to Brown. Do you have any idea how humiliating it is to admit that the man you love beats you up? She’s probably searching for an explanation and I’m betting she’s blaming herself. After all, people she considered friends have come out defending her batterer. Their pal Diddy didn’t offer to pay for therapy (that we know of), he just gave Brown a secluded place to start up the cycle of abuse again.
Isolation is one of the key elements to domestic abuse.
Another friend of theirs said, “Chris is all right. He’s a good kid. He feels very bad that something like this has happened.”
Something like this has happened?!?!? Oopsie! You’d think he spilled wine on her sofa!
Brown’s spokesperson used similarly ambiguous language.
“While Chris is reflective and saddened about what happened, he is really happy to be with the woman he loves.” Again, about what happened. That’s how you describe nearly murdering a woman?
Batterers rarely take responsibility for their actions, but at the same time, they’re capable of amazing apologies. I personally fielded tears, flowers, promises and declarations of love from mine. As Chris Brown is loaded, I’m sure he’s supplementing his crocodile tears and soon-to-be broken promises with expensive baubles.
Family affair . . .
Like Brown, my boyfriend had enablers who excused his behavior. Shockingly, my BF’s helpers were his family. I remember one night, after a horrific beating (which his parents witnessed), I begged his father to keep his son in the house so I could make it back to my place in one piece. A couple blocks from my house, I heard footsteps behind me. So instead of just being assaulted that evening, I was also raped.
I don’t know for sure that his father beat up their mom, but they certainly seemed fairly blasé about their kid’s crimes. They certainly never called my parents about it. I know my mom and dad suspected I was being beaten, but my mother’s MO was to scream that I was a stupid slut and hit me some more, so I kept my mouth shut.
Rihanna’s dad is taking a lot of heat because he told a reporter, “I love my daughter with whatever road she takes. I’m behind her win or lose. I will be supportive. If that’s the road she wants to choose, I’m behind her. I hope to see her soon.” Though the press is twisting that so it appears that he condones his daughter’s decision to return to Brown, in my humble opinion he said exactly the right thing. What Rihanna needs right now is to know that the people who truly love her, will be there for her when she needs them. I’m sure he’d like to beat Brown within an inch of his life, but saying that right now, will only further alienate his daughter.
So again, why didn’t she leave?
For one thing, the most dangerous time for a battered woman is when she’s thinking of leaving. For another, batterers tend to alienate their prey from their support system, making them feel completely isolated. In my case, my abuser told me – and I believed him – that he would kill me, murder my entire family and then kill himself. In Rihanna’s case, he’s got her out on an island and, according to gossip columnist Janet Charlton, “Chris convinced Rihanna that it was HER fault for MAKING him mad and he lost control because he loves her SO much.” Disgusting and probably true.
After two and a half terrifying, painful years, I eventually escaped my abuser, but only after I decided that even if nobody ever loved me again (and I truly believed this would be the case) that at least I would be alive to possibly make something of my life. Though it’s been many years, writing about my abuse is excruciating, because, in a way, I still blame myself for “letting” it happen.
I hope it takes Rihanna less time than it took me.