From Our Readers But It Is My Business: Listen Up, Rihanna! From Our Readers

First of all, I need to tell you that when Chris Brown beat you up, I was heartbroken.

I was in college at the time and my roommates and I really loved you. We had your picture on our refrigerator. When the news broke, we looked at the horrible photo of your bruised and swollen face and we felt like crying. We kept your picture on our refrigerator because we supported you and we knew that you would be a strong example and inspiration for other women in abusive relationships. Unfortunately, we were wrong.

When rumors of you and Chris remaining friends surfaced, we took your photo down. I wanted so badly to understand where you were coming from, but I couldn’t.

And then, when you and Eminem came out with Love the Way You Lie, I tried to just ignore it, but it was just so bad. Years later, that ridiculous song still comes on the radio and I can never turn it off fast enough.

Just gonna stand there and watch me burn?

Well that’s alright, because I like the way it hurts.

Just gonna stand there and hear me cry?

Well that’s alright, because I love the way you lie.

I love the way you lie.

When I listen to these lyrics, I feel like you’re asking for it, which is a really horrible thing for me to think. Nobody wants to be in an abusive relationship, right? And then I hear Eminem say “If she ever tries to f**kin’ leave again, I’ma tie her to the bed and set this house on fire,” and I just feel like you two should be ashamed. People tell me it’s just a song; that I need to relax. I disagree.

And now you’re back with Chris Brown, coming out with a song called Nobody’s Business, but Rihanna, it is our business. Don’t you know that when you say little things like “me and you get it” in regard to Chris Brown, you are excluding a whole lot of people, and simultaneously explaining that it’s okay to stay in an abusive relationship as long as it makes sense to you? You are making excuses. No love that ever involves black eyes and police cars is “perfection,” and you have to know that. I know it’s hard to be a victim, but right now you are hurting more than just yourself.

You seem so honest and strong in every interview I hear from you, so why are you being like this? My heart broke for you when you when you told Oprah that you had worried about Chris after the initial beating. Like you were the only one who could help him. Rihanna, that man is too far gone. You cannot help him and it is not your responsibility to fix it.

One night, a few months ago, I was walking down a street in Washington DC with my boyfriend and a couple of our friends. We walked past a club with a line of people waiting to get in. A young woman in a blue dress walked past us down the sidewalk and we continued along, trying to figure out where we needed to go to get home. As we hesitated down the way, a man in a yellow shirt passed us, met up with the woman, leaned in to say something to her and then proceeded to hit her face with both hands before throwing her against a building. It wasn’t until he pulled her away and we heard the thud of her head hitting the stone wall as he slammed her against it again that we realized what was happening.

It took us several seconds to process the beating this girl was taking, but suddenly, without even blinking, I had dialed 911 and was describing the man to the police.

The police arrived and put the man in handcuffs and my boyfriend went to find the girl, who had wandered away. He brought her back to where we were and I reached out and pulled her toward me by the arm. She looked around confusedly before finally putting her weight on me and she wrapped her arms around my waist and buried her swollen head into my chest, tears rolling down her face and onto my own skin.

I still think about her.

“We see this kind of thing happen all the time,” the officer casually told me after the injured woman refused to press charges, “she’s not going to do anything about it. He’ll be back before you know it.”

We live in a culture where violence often gets mistaken for passion. But Rihanna, what’s wrong with being with someone who treats you well? I wanted you to be the strength that could show young women that it’s never okay to stay with or go back to a partner who hits you. I wanted you to be someone that we could look up to. I thought you could do it.

We can do better than this. We can do our best to end domestic violence. Won’t you help us?

Respectfully,

Megan

You can read more from Megan Flynn on her blog.

Feature image via.

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  1. i think everyone needs to stop making rihanna the story. chris brown is the criminal, chris brown is the abuser. rihanna has not committed a crime, moral or otherwise, and nothing she has done is worse or anywhere near what chris brown did. calling her out like this is part of blaming the victim.

    i of course wish she would leave him, and hope she gets all the support she needs and deserves, like everyone else in the same situation. but there’s a reason domestic abuse is often considered a cycle. please, stop acting like she is the criminal here. she isn’t being a great role model right now, but i’d be willing to bet she’s doing the best she can, and that’s the only responsibility a victim of domestic abuse has to anyone. when we call victims out like this, we treat them like criminals instead of like people who need support and empathy.

    it really isn’t your business. it really isn’t.

    • I totally agree that Chris Brown is the criminal and abuser, and I would not go so far as to say that Rihanna has committed a crime of any kind. The point of the piece is that it is everyone’s business because she is in the public eye and has a lot of power to influence the personal decisions of young women who might be in her situation. I’m sure she’s doing the best she can, but I reserve the right to disagree with someone’s life choices.

  2. I think it’s sad that we still spend so much time discussing this one instance of domestic violence. Yes, she is in a position of influence; no one can argue that she’s not. But when it comes down to it, she’s a real woman too. As if it’s not enough for her to have to deal with an abusive relationship, we put the future of America’s young girls on her shoulders.

    So maybe, instead, we could stop hiding behind her and start discussing the larger issue, like the thousands upon thousands of men and women who deal with domestic violence on a daily basis?

    When we present (and obsess over) an abusive relationship against the glamorous backdrop of celebrity culture, we set young people up to believe that abusive relationships are all fame and flashing lights. We didn’t even give the poor girl the time or space to deal with the issue on her own, as a normal person.

    Maybe in giving this relationship all the attention that we’ve given it, we’re the ones romanticizing it.

    Why don’t we, instead of putting all the focus on one celebrity (as usual), we discuss the problem as it pertains to the rest of American society? Like, what it’s like to be in an abusive relationship when you’re not a celebrity? When you can’t support yourself financially? When it feels like staying is the only way to eat? Why don’t we tell young people that story instead of filling their computer screens with news articles about Rihanna and Chris Brown reuniting?

    Further, we’ve told young people that Rihanna is nothing more than her relationship; it’s what defines her in the public eye. What’s worse, we’re now rejecting her and bashing her because she was unable to make the decision that so many people are unable to make everyday.

    Why don’t we stop pointing the finger at the men and women who won’t leave their abusive relationships and point the finger at the mental health system in America, which has yet again let us down by failing to educate the public on the prevalence of the mental health issues that lead to domestic violence? Or the lack of governmental support for men and women who don’t have the financial means to leave their abusive spouses or significant others?

    Why don’t we talk about the sexism that is still so prevalent in America, which allows the American public to sit by and watch as these things happen, not just in celebrity culture, but in day-to-day life? Why don’t we consider what this says about our nation’s stance on gender equality? Why don’t we consider what it says about us that we go on blaming the individuals who were abused in the first place?

    Why don’t we ever just blame the perpetrating men and women in abusive relationships for being the violent, manipulative individuals that they so often are? Abuse is abuse because it takes hold of the mind of the individual being abused; if it was so easy to leave, domestic violence wouldn’t be an issue at all.

    It may be difficult for you to understand a woman who goes back to someone who hurt her like that, but it doesn’t give you the right to judge her, and it definitely doesn’t give you the right to blame her.

    Domestic violence didn’t start with Rihanna, and unfortunately it won’t end with her either, especially if we keep allowing this relationship to get the amount of attention that it has gotten in the last few years. It’s nothing but an excuse for us to hide from the larger problems that are going on in our society and focus on something that feels more like gossip. Putting the focus on Rihanna’s responsibility to the American population is shirking our own.

    I’m not saying you’re wrong: obviously something needs to be done. I’m just saying that for a problem so big, you’re putting an awful lot of pressure on one individual to be the answer.

    Like you said, it’s EVERYONE’S business. So maybe we should get out there and do something about it ourselves, instead of just waiting for someone else to fix the problem.

    Just some food for thought.

  3. I think it’s sad that we still spend so much time discussing this one instance of domestic violence. Yes, she is in a position of influence; no one can argue that she’s not. But when it comes down to it, she’s a real woman too. As if it’s not enough for her to have to deal with an abusive relationship, we put the weight of the future of America’s young girls on her shoulders.

    So maybe, instead, we could stop hiding behind her and start discussing the larger issue, like the thousands upon thousands of men and women who deal with domestic violence on a daily basis?

    Why don’t we, instead of putting all the focus on one celebrity (as usual), we discuss the problem as it pertains to the rest of American society? Like, what it’s like to be in an abusive relationship when you’re not a celebrity? When you can’t support yourself? When it feels like staying is the only answer?

    Maybe in giving this relationship all the attention that we’ve given it, we’re the ones romanticizing it. How is gossiping about it going to change anything?

    Why don’t we stop pointing the finger at the men and women who won’t leave and point the finger at the mental health system in America, which has yet again let us down by failing to educate the public on the prevalence of the mental health issues that lead to domestic violence? Or the lack of governmental support for men and women who don’t have the financial means to leave their abusive spouses or significant others?

    Why don’t we talk about the sexism that is still so prevalent in America, which allows the American public to sit by and watch as these things happen, not just in celebrity culture but in day-to-day life? Why don’t we consider what this says about our nation’s stance on gender equality? Why don’t we consider what it says about us that we go on blaming the individuals who were abused in the first place?

    Why don’t we ever just blame the perpetrating men and women in abusive relationships for being the violent, manipulative individuals that they so often are?

    It may be difficult for you to understand a woman who goes back to someone who hurt her like that, but it doesn’t give you the right to judge her, and it definitely doesn’t give you the right to blame her.

    Domestic violence didn’t start with Rihanna, and unfortunately it won’t end with her either, especially if we keep allowing this relationship to get the amount of attention that it has gotten in the last few years. It’s nothing but an excuse for us to hide from the larger problems that are going on in our society. Putting the focus on Rihanna’s responsibility to the American population is shirking our own.

    I’m not saying you’re wrong: obviously something needs to be done. I’m just saying that for a problem so big, you’re putting an awful lot of pressure on one individual to be the answer.

    Like you said, it’s EVERYONE’S business. So maybe we should get out there and do something about it ourselves, instead of just waiting for someone else to fix the problem.

    Just some food for thought.

    • My point was never to limit domestic abuse to one instance or one individual–and I hardly believe that Rihanna’s choices have the power to end or continue the problem. Like I have said, I am starting here because it is what I know and I feel that our pop culture icons do send powerful messages. I absolutely do not blame Rihanna or any woman in an abusive relationship because that is unfair. I do feel responsible to make a difference, which is why I called the police when I witnessed what I did in DC, and why I even wrote this piece in the first place.

    • That is some food for thought. I’m ashamed to say that while I’m not American, I feel like I know more about this issue in the US than I do my own country. I am going to educate myself, because I agree with you, something does need to happen in the mindsets of people, and the first step towards that is always education. Also, you have awesome hair, and an adorable puppy.

  4. I’ve seen the Oprah interview and she broke my heart. I could really understand that kind of sick love that mixed in her with the issues she had with her dad. But then her album…. And not even LTWYL…..
    “S&M”…..I mean… let’s just read these words…. :

    “Now the pain is my pleasure
    Cause nothing could measure
    Love is great, love is fine
    Out the box, out of line
    The affliction of the feeling
    Leaves me wanting more
    [...]
    Sticks and stones
    May break my bones
    But chains and whips
    Excite me
    [...]
    I love the feeling
    You bring to me
    Oh, you turn me on
    It’s exactly what
    I’ve been yearning for
    Give it to me strong”

    I’m sorry, but you just can’t write this. I’m not saying people aren’t into S&M, and that’s a private issue and it’s for no one to judge. But even S&M has boundaries!!!! The beating that Chris Brown executed on Rihanna was violent, uncontrollable, barbaric. And I’m sorry Rihanna, if you feel like that turns you on, but even if it does – which I guess it’s your thing and you have “the right to your own opinion” and likes – YOU CAN’T write that in a lyric! You just can’t. If it’s “nobody’s business” then don’t freaking publish Instagram pics of you and him back together. You just want to be “defiant” with the media, but guess what honey? You look like a fool. And if you want to be a fool, be one behind closed doors. But don’t just go on flaunting your sadistic relationship to the world. Don’t say it’s ok and it’s healthy and set that as an example of true love. I’m sorry but being a celebrity for young girls means you are a role model, whether you like it or not.. So do whatever you want, but if you flaunt it, then don’t expect the people to back off. If you don’t want to be harassed, then be a private person!

  5. I have a guilty secret: I still listen to Chris Brown’s music. And Rihanna’s, for that matter. It always makes me feel bad because I definitely agree with you whole-heartedly, domestic violence is something that should never be glorified or okay.

    However, I do think that we should seperate Chris/Rihanna the artist from Chris/Rihanna the person. I remember last year, when there was wide-spread outrage about Chris Brown being asked to perform at the Grammys, with people calling for a boycott of the whole thing; what everyone seemed to forget is that Chris Brown is an entertainer, who makes his living by performing. He was absent from the Grammys for two years, and in that time, he has had numerous hits and received a number of awards. Saying that the Grammys are supporting violence against women by letting Chris Brown perform is like saying that anyone who listens R.Kelly also supports sex with minors – ridiculous.

    I feel like a lot of people get so upset that he’s still making music and in the spotlight, but that’s his job, you know? Just because you are a mostly-shit human being shouldn’t stop you from doing your job; in CBrown’s case, I’m sure that there are a lot of people (like myself) who still buy his music, simply because they like the music. Now, when there’s young girls posting things like “Chris Brown can hit me any day!”, THAT is an entirely different, terrifying scenario.
    I don’t know, I may be over-simplifying here, but I feel like so many arguments get blown completely out of proportion nowadays – I just think there are better ways to make a point than to give an extreme as example.

    Having said all that, I really enjoyed this article – it made me think, and I like that.

  6. It can seem harder to live with reallity than with what we wish for. However; what we wish for can hit us that much harder.

  7. Thank you so much for writing this Megan. More women need to hear this.

  8. So true! I was shocked when I found out about her being abused by Chris Brown and disgusted with her when she decided to go back to him. But I’ve seen it before. It’s about a
    lack of self worth and self esteem. There are too many women who don’t seem to value themselves and that drastically effects who the choose to date and who they surround themselves with. Until she realizes her worth and that it really isn’t just about them in their warped little world, she’ll never escape the abuse.

  9. A real man would never use violent actions to push a Point especially against females. 
    Sure this creates a double standard of abuse 
    The likes of witch are only seen in our society congruent of big to little dogs… A little dog barks and nips at the human all day and often disregarded as cute or ignorant where if a big dog acted the same it may be subjected to being put down for those actions.
    Im not saying there are other connections just that i have seen a lot more men bing carted of to jail for violent crimes against the opposite sex then i see woman who commit the same crime where i believe the numbers should be a lot closer to equal or far less. No reason it shouldn’t be!
    I have a feeling both of those “icons” eyes are greater then their stomachs much like the rest of America who constantly has to put up with and digest this awful music is thinking that this bite might be more then they can chew… 
    Spit it out
    I can live without ever hearing chris brown’s squeaky voice and if i live without hearing Rihanna bellow on the radio again i would be happy enough but the sad part is that the youth loves this horrible drama and catchy music that makes most of us sick but yet we are all subjected to it just the same(not because its the best music or some great love but because its a huge talking point no matter who’s side your on. But the fact is most of the people who listen to this hip hop junk has never had a true experience with the issues people sing about and the sad part about it is that if you have, you tend to shut up about it more then little trl girls and boys will request for it.
    One more trend i hope someday will flip… 

  10. What terrifies me the most is the idea of girls as young as 13 defending what Chris did and saying things like “She probably asked for it”. There is NO excuse for that kind of behaviour and it baffles me how Chris Brown fans can defend his actions just because they like his music or think he’s attractive.

  11. I was in an emotionally abuse relationship and I would justify our screaming matches and crying and drama by saying everyone else is just boring and doesn’t understand how much we love each other. No.
    Love doesn’t make you feel worthless. Love doesn’t make you cry for hours and love doesn’t make you terrified that the next move you make will send your significant other into a rage and make him say awful things to you.
    When I heard pull the trigger I was so sad because while I could relate, “I’m terrified but I’m not leaving.” It made abuse seem almost sexy, like a hot little secret only those of us in abusive relationships could understand. I could’t bear listening to it and when I saw it quoted all over Facebook and twitter by teenagers my stomach would turn.
    So no, maybe we won’t get Rihanna to leave Chris Brown, but we can make a stand and refuse to listen to music that sends a message that romanticizes abuse. Then they’ll have to stop if they want to sell any more records.

    • I felt exactly the same way about that song, Maria. Maybe I missed the point, but I could just never get past how they seemed to make abuse seem sexy, like passion gone wrong.

  12. Hello, First I think your post it’s quite interesting but i think we should worry about Rhianna the moment she start to sing songs about abuse and liking the abuse: rude boy, S&M, love the way you lie, etc. I think she is putting first her extreme bad image girl than her integrity and dignity because that image gave her a lot of publicity, since her beat up she is shown this kind of image. Since that everybody is talking about her and Chris Brown, I personally think these two guys aren’t in love I think they are just doing this for publicity, but no matter what is the reason Rihanna is doing it, i think she is only one example of what society seems to like, I mean common have you read 50 shades of grey or at least hear about, no dignity for women in there, but girls seems to like it… So maybe as concern human being we should start to not listening or read things that put abuse as something sexy and romantic, and create consciousness like you did with your post.
    Have a nice day!

  13. Megan is allowed to feel disappointment at the choice of Rihanna to reunite with her abuser, and I think if we are totally honest with ourselves, most of us probably are disappointed to hear of any woman reuniting with an abuser. I think what makes it harder to understand is that Rihanna portrays herself as a strong, take no bull kind of gal, so we expect that same fierceness to apply here as well.Unfortely, most women will leave 7 t times before they leave for good. And some women will never leave. As someone who knows Megan personally, I can say that she is passionate about social justice and I applaud her for being honest about her feelings.

  14. I can’t help but think she is an idiot and he’s an asshole and forever will be. I know many women continue in abusive relationships because she cant support herself and/or her kids or are just afraid. But that’s not the case here. She is young, have a career and sure have money to support herself. So I cant understand why the hell she got back to him, she doesnt need him for anything. This is a subject very close to my heart and I do believe once an abuser, forever an abuser and he will do it again. I have seen this before and it is very ugly. I’m sorry Rihanna but if you go on with this shit, you will be hurt again sooner or later.

  15. I feel the need to play devil’s advocate when reading the comments and article. Does society no longer believe in rehabilitation? I know it is the least likely scenario, but there still could be a small chance that Chris Brown has been rehabilitated. I do know some people who have truly been rehabilitated (and know some who have not of course), but I hope for Rhianna’s sake that perhaps he truly did learn the error of his ways. I do believe in forgiving once as everyone makes mistakes, even REALLY REALLY big ones.

    • I agree with you in that I hope he has been rehabilitated. I do believe it’s possible, but unfortunatley my experience and education (I work with abused women) tell me that it is not very likely.
      Until society changes it’s views on gender equality, and men are taught from a young age that women are equal to them, and deserve to be treated with respect the chances of an abusive man changing his ways will remain low. I’m still hopeful that this can happen.

      • I’m with Jessica–I think it’s possible and have every hope that abusers will change their ways, but I don’t think it happens enough. If someone hit me, I’d rather not give them another chance.

  16. This is wonderfully written. Kudos to Megan to putting into words what so many of us are feeling.

  17. Wow that just struck a major chord with me. I was in a bad relationship once and feel fortunate that I got out and am working on changing my life. My dream is to one day become an advocate for families who are torn by domestic violence.
    Everything you said about Rhianna is so true its scary. I used to have so much for her as a singer. And now. I just cant.
    I am so much for not blaming the victim and in reality I dont but its hard when she keeps going back and in this society we are told we are weak if we are single. But to me weakness is when we let someone hurt us and keep going back for more. It shouldnt be happening

  18. Celebrities are not Gods. Perhaps we need to look at our TMZ culture and figure out why we idolize singers and actors to being with. They are just people and anyone who has done work in domestic and sexual violence knows that return to the abuser is very common. My greatest role models have been my mother and grandmother, who are strong women that have taught me love and self-respect. Rhianna is not going to teach our kids these things.

  19. Megan,
    I’m appalled by the judgmental tone of this post. Have you personally experienced an abusive relationship (regardless of the nature: physical, emotional, etc)? Have you personally been ashamed of a mistake you’ve made? Have you ever made a mistake MORE than once?

    The “Love the way you lie” lyrics are specifically about wanting to believe/love someone’s twisted truths (and being aware of it) because you are suffering in an abusive relationship. Do some research about the psychology of domestic abuse before you stand on a soap box and express such distaste for their decisions. The song isn’t about glorifying a bad relationship. It isn’t about being happy.

    DOMESTIC ABUSE CONTINUES BECAUSE PEOPLE LIKE YOU CONTINUE TO JUDGE. Show some compassion. Show some love. Don’t promote the shame these women already struggle with daily.

    I guess when you’re already perfect it’s probably easy to judge others.

    • I guess I’m not sure how this article is supposed to help anyone. As a person who has been abused in the past, and can’t help but feel attacked and judged when I read this. You obviously have no idea what it’s like to be in an abusive relationship. I would suggest that you try harder to understand where these people are coming from, because that it is the only way that you will ever really be able to help them.

      • I’m very sorry, Kayla. Like I said, I am neither judging nor attacking. My intention was to point out the influence of pop culture icons in issues like this, and hopefully shed light on one tiny part of the problem. I do try very hard to see where people are coming from.

    • Leah,
      I’m so sorry to have offended you. It was not my intention to be judgmental, and I have nothing but compassion and love for women who are abused. I never said I was perfect, and I have made mistakes more than once and felt ashamed. I’m writing because I care, not because I have distaste for other people’s decisions.

      • “and I just feel like you two should be ashamed. ”
        Amongst other language and word choice says it all. I really don’t like starting arguments or disagreeing, but this is an area I feel very passionately about.
        Unless you’ve walked a mile (even a minute) in this situation, or you’re a clinical psychologist, or a psychiatrist, I think it’s immature to say such things. I understand you’re doing this with the best intention, but the cliche “The road to tell…” wouldn’t exist if this weren’t true.

  20. The world has become tacky, without class and self respect because of thees morons setting bad examples! She’s pretty much sending the message that it’s okay to treat women like shit! Thank you America!