From Our Readers

But It Is My Business: Listen Up, Rihanna!

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?



You can read more from Megan Flynn on her blog.

Feature image via.

  • Hilary June

    I am not the only one who thinks this, then? It is horrible, what a bad example she is setting. Whenever I hear a song by her or Chris Brown I turn it off on principle.
    To quote the brilliant Liz Lemon “I reject Chris Brown’s comback!” same goes for Rihanna’s.

  • Ana Raquel Romão

    This is perfection. I work with abused women and what the officer said is absolutely true. They are afraid of being with them but more afraid of being alone. Their dignity has been stolen, they feel worthless. And it always amazes me how easy it is to make someone feel worthless and how hard it is to make them see they’re not.

    • Megan Flynn

      Thank you so much, Ana, for the work that you do. I can’t imagine how complicated it must be for these women.

    • Diana Bonton Wardanita

      I used to love Rihanna’s music very much but now I can’t stand it because it reminds me of her abuse and reunion with Chris Brown. And especially because her songs romanticize/glorify abuse.

  • Angelica Rodriguez

    This is beautiful.

    I can’t listen to Chris Brown’s music. At all. It upsets me. And now I can’t listen to Rihanna’s music either, because it feels like I’m supporting her being with this woman beater. What upsets me even more are the people who shrug it off, say he paid the price (not even, if it were your sister, your mother, or your best friend, there wouldn’t be enough money in the world or enough community service hours completed that would make you forgive a man who destroyed that person, physically and emotionally), and that we should just move on.

    But this is a problem that persists in our culture every single day. I’ve seen young girls saying ‘I want a love like Chris Brown and Rihanna’ and I get physically ILL. You can’t move on, because young women have started to idolize this abortion of a relationship. Someone has to scream ‘This isn’t alright’. If she won’t, then we do.

  • Heather Luginbill

    I could not agree more with this article. I have always felt the same way. She has young girls who look up to her. But the sad thing is, since all that happened it seems like she has changed into a different person. Now she tries to be so “hard” and posts pictures of her doing weed and numerous other things. Chris Brown has shown more than once since this all happened that the guy in that car that night is the real Chris. I just hope the story doesn’t end with her dead.

  • Jordyn Reed

    Okay, I agree with you about the whole point of the article that Rihanna shouldnt be with Chris Brown. I get that and couldnt agree more. But I really think that you are missing the point of her and Emeim’s song Love the Way You Lie. This song isnt about glorifying bad relationships. It is about showing people the emotions and the thought processes that surrond a couple that are in a domestic violence situation. It helps answer questions like, “why doesnt she just leave?” It just simply isnt that easy for everyone, I’ve seen it myself. I don’t agree with her getting back together with Chris Brown, but I do applaud her for that song because it opened up a dialog on domestic violence. Now S&M song… that is what you should be questioning her about.

    • Stephanie Titus

      I think I have to agree about the Eminem/Rihanna song. As someone who was in an emotionally abusive relationship, it allowed me to identify how absurd it was and to work on getting out of it. Above all, it shows people who may in similar situations just how bad or extreme it can get, and hopefully prompting them to leave that relationship.

      • Megan Flynn

        Jordyn and Stephanie, I do see where you’re coming from. And I know it can’t be as simple as just packing up and leaving someone. I’m glad it has opened up a dialog on domestic violence too, but I just never felt that “Love the Way You Lie” was clear enough. I think I’ve seen too many Facebook statuses quote the song with little hearts and initials to feel that it’s doing something good.

  • Alle Connell

    The thing that bothers me the most is that Rihanna seems to be reframing the entire Chris Brown THING as “passion gone wrong.” The narrative that she’s selling us through her music is “Oh, we just loved each other so much that we had an explosion of PASSION! And he beat the hell out of me because HE COULDN’T HELP IT because he’s so PASSIONATE! Isn’t it romantic?”
    And no, it’s not romantic. And you can make as many songs about it not being anyone else’s business, but it IS our business because you’re SELLING us this stuff. I realise that everyone in entertainment makes a big point of saying “I don’t want to be a role model, don’t let your kids look up to me” but they all have to know that kids are still going to do it. Girls–very young girls–are going to look at her because she’s beautiful and talented and internalise the lessons she’s teaching with her music and her actions. Like “Sometimes relationships are so passionate that men hit women, and that’s just the way it is. Romance!”
    I worry for her. Chris Brown obviously has some serious issues that aren’t likely to ever be addressed. But she’s an adult woman who is making her own choices, and a savvy businesswoman who’s founded an entire persona on a horrifying incident of domestic violence. So mostly I worry for the young girls who look up to her, who take their cues from her, and who she’s implicitly teaching that being beaten is just part of being in love.

    • Megan Flynn

      Yes, exactly! I couldn’t agree with you more.

  • Beth Hannah

    I remember when rumors started flying about her and Chris Brown talking again. I felt so bad for her – that she really needed this? Then the song she did with Calvin Harris came out, and I felt more bad for her. As someone who was in a relationship that turned abusive, you can make excuses all you want, but at the end of the day, they are still purposely trying to hurt you, and that is not safe. Now, as a mother, I will try my hardest to tell and show my daughter she is above all of that and to never remain in a relationship where passion and romance are equated to bruises and fighting. Come on, Rihanna. Get yourself together and go something to show the little girls out there they don’t need to be abused to be loved. Get some therapy, work on yourself, show the world that women do not have to go back to their abusers, break the stereotype!

  • Romi Viola

    I really hope this reaches, if not her, at leats someone who is suffering from an abusive relationship. Live has nothing to do with being beaten up… & someone that is in the spotlight always ends up being a role model, she should know it, my husband Jay Z should know it.
    I heard that song the other day for the first time, and I felt sick about it. “Nobody’s business”, I wonder how Rihanna would react if the beaten up girl was someone she *actually* loved.
    Thanks, Megan. Sometimes our voices are low, but they count as long as we are spreading our thoughts.

  • Mary Lynn

    thank you-! this is great-!

  • Ramou Sarr

    I just think that this is absolutely not the way to end or raise awareness about domestic violence. Rihanna doesn’t know us. We are not going to get her to leave Chris Brown. And if it were that easy – to just say, “You’re right! This is a terrible situation! Let me leave!” – domestic violence wouldn’t even be the issue that it is! Unfortunately, it is far more complicated than that. We can do our best to end domestic violence, but calling out Rihanna as if she owes us something is not the way to do it.

    • Megan Flynn

      I think you’re probably right, Ramou, but celebrities like Rihanna have so much cultural significance and influence that it unfortunately really does matter what they do. That’s why I chose her instead of simply writing about my thoughts on the matter.

      • Ramou Sarr

        I think I’m just having a really hard time understanding what the narrative is in regards to this entire issue. Are we really concerned about domestic violence? Or are we just concerned about this one particular couple and/or incident? Do we want to have a real conversation about the complexities of domestic violence? How about we talk about how we can help in our communities! Or do we just want to talk about how Rihanna has let us down?

        • Megan Flynn

          Of course it’s not just about Rihanna, but that seems to always be where I start. I’m incredibly concerned about domestic violence, and as someone who is interested in cultural studies, I think what people like Rihanna do matters to us. It shouldn’t, but it does. I absolutely did not mean to make the problem seem smaller than it is.

        • Kathryn Dalziel

          It seems to me like people are reading too much into the surface of this article – yes, it’s “addressed” to Rihanna, but for me, coming from the perspective of someone who walked away from 6 years of an abusive relationship with 25 stab wounds and even more emotional scars, that being able to point out various things about the relationship that Rihanna and Chris Brown appear to have (admittedly we only see the public surface of it, no matter how personal the details may seem), it gives people something they can look at directly and possibly relate to, gives them a solid image, so to speak, that they can hook into and gain a better understanding. Domestic violence in a relationship is more than just a few bruises and some yelling, it’s also about the manipulation of one person’s thoughts, feelings and self-view by another person and the results of that. Obviously I can’t speak for Rihanna, but from my own experience, I went back because he had successfully and insidiously convinced me over many years that I was worthless to anyone but him, and I would never be any good for anyone else – what other option did I have but to stay, I thought? It’s a very hard mindset to get out of. It makes me angry that Rihanna is back with Chris Brown, but at the same time, I get it. And ultimately, she’ll do what she feels she has to until she feels she can do something else. What’s important for other people to get out of her situation is, as much as we can, the deeper ins and outs of abusive relationships, and it then sparks more thoughts and questions on what can be done about it.

          • Megan Flynn

            Thank you so much for your thoughts, Kathryn. Your story is incredible!

  • Ashley Wilson

    If bruises and verbal abuse = passion, then give me boring love.

  • Leah Christine

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  • Bujana Brahimi

    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!

  • Leah Christine

    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.

    • Megan Flynn

      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.

      • Leah Christine

        “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.

    • Kayla Rose Vaughn

      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.

      • Megan Flynn

        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.

  • Sasha Aramalay

    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.

  • Carolina Rose Wings

    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

  • Casey Hollimon Bowles

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

  • Jill Mayo

    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.

    • Jessica May Bryant

      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.

      • Megan Flynn

        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.

  • Mariana Lima

    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.

  • Amanda Nastiuk

    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.

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