I have written previously about Domestic Violence and some of the key themes illustrated in the case of Rihanna and Chris Brown, particularly how men (or perpetrators of any gender) can hold each other accountable and abusers’ claims of change. I was interested to follow up on the story by reading about Rihanna’s interview on Good Morning America and 20/20. You can view the video here:
What I want to highlight are some common feelings and issues for any survivor of domestic violence.
1. Rihanna reported feeling embarrassed. Every survivor I have worked with has expressed this feeling, and often an accompanying belief that they are at least partially responsible for the abuse they received. This may something their partner/abuser has told them directly or something they have internalized from the experience itself. I believe this is partly due to how prevalent victim-blaming continues to be in our culture. No matter what, abusers are responsible for abuse. No one deserves or causes their own domestic violence. The shame does not belong with the victim.
2. Rihanna went back. On average, victims of domestic violence attempt to leave 7 times before they are successful. I found Rihanna’s description of the going back process very telling and haunting:
I do think dissociation can be part of what keeps the domestic violence cycle going. Often victims and perpetrators alike seem able to “block out” the incidents of violence and abuse after they are over. Until the next time.
3. And finally, Rihanna is quoted as saying “This happened to me … it can happen to anyone”. My hope is that out of these highly publicized cases can come that awareness. Domestic Violence can happen to anyone. It happens in LGBT relationships too. Increasing this awareness is key so that no victim has to feel too ashamed to seek help.
I wish Rihanna continued healing and peace.
If you or someone you know is experiencing Dating/Intimate Partner/Domestic Violence help is available:
- National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
- Choose Respect: an initiative to help adolescents form healthy relationships to prevent dating abuse before it starts.
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence