September 27, 2020

What is Love? Baby, Don’t Hurt Me…

posted on: Thursday March 1, 2012

Sarah O’Brien ’15/Asst. A&E Editor

A battered face. A broken nose, bruised cheeks, swollen eyes, a bloody, split lip—punching, biting, choking, and threatening. Not to mention the verbal abuse that led to the physical. “I’m pretty sure we can always be friends, and I don’t know about our relationship, but I just know definitely that we ended as friends,” said entertainer Chris Brown back in February 2009, after his arrest for brutally beating his girlfriend, recording artist Rihanna. In an interview with Larry King, Brown equated his situation with Rihanna to Shakespeare’s classic Romeo and Juliet. Excuse me, but I don’t recall any mention of the “star-cross’d lovers” engaging in domestic violence…correct me if I’m wrong.

Now, three years later, Brown and Rihanna have collaborated on two new songs—Rihanna’s “Birthday Cake,” featuring Brown, and Brown’s “Turn Up The Music,” featuring Rihanna. Musical tastes aside, these songs seem more of a thinly veiled attempt to let the world know the pair is back together (at least mentally, if not physically), than an attempt to make quality music (okay, this could just be my bias that repeating the word ‘cake’ 100 times does not convey meaning). Perez Hilton dubs this collaborative marketing move “genius” and commends the two for making each other’s songs “a billion times better!”

Brown, who got off easy in 2009 with five years probation, 1,400 hours of community service, and required participation in a 52-week domestic violence-counseling course recently performed and accepted an award at the 54th Grammy Awards. This was to the disdain of many fans, such as country singer Miranda Lambert, who tweeted, “Chris Brown twice? I don’t get it. He beat on a girl. . . Not cool that we act like that didn’t happen.” The phrase “wife beater” began to trend on the site, while others tweeted variations of “Chris Brown can beat me anytime,” which is disturbing to say the least.

Twitter has played a key role in the Brown-Rihanna relationship in the past year. The singers have allegedly made indirect vows of love through tweets in December 2011, with Brown saying, “Love U more than u know!” and Rihanna tweeting a minute later, “I’ll always love u #1LOVE.” Come on, that’s more obvious than your professor hinting for the fourth time in one class that there might be a quiz next week. (There’s a quiz. Study.)

After receiving negative feedback from his Grammy win, Brown angrily tweeted, “A man shows how he can make a Big mistake and learn from it, but still has to deal with day to day hatred!…HATE ALL U WANT BECUZ I GOT A GRAMMY. Now! That’s the ultimate F*** OFF.” Though it was soon deleted, the action brings to mind Brown’s behavior during his Good Morning America interview in March 2011. Just last year, Brown threw a fit when questioned about the assault; he stormed off-stage, used a chair to shatter a window, and left the television studio without a shirt. The month before this outburst, Rihanna had dropped the restraining order against Brown to “level one,” meaning the two are allowed contact, as long as he does not “annoy, molest, or harass” Rihanna.

Just this week, the troubled young pop star is reported to have stolen a fan’s iPhone, so that pictures of Brown bringing home two groupies wouldn’t end up on the Internet. According to The Miami Herald, a source claims that Brown’s fellow rapper Tyga revealed to authorities, “The guy’s trying to get back with Rihanna, and he knows that wouldn’t happen if the photos ended up online.” This robbery could send the infamous Grammy winner to prison.

Should Rihanna be collaborating with the man who battered her? It is easy to label Rihanna as pathetic for crawling back to someone who caused her so much pain. She’s supposed to be a “role model.” Shouldn’t she know better? What people tend to forget, however, is that Rihanna is not to blame for any of the abuse. She is the victim. And the sad fact is that 54 percent of women will stay in a violent, unhealthy relationship; and women who do leave statistically return to the relationship 8 or 9 times before ending it for good. If Rihanna’s abuse hadn’t fallen under public scrutiny, who is to say she would have reported it at all?

On Monday, Feb. 27, Providence College’s group, Women Will, hosted an event called “Love is Respect.” Kendra Marasco, PC alum, 14-year professor, and VASE (Victim Advocacy, Support, & Education) Coordinator, led the talk, focusing on the signs of an abusive relationship and how to help a friend who may be in one. Marasco emphasized that anyone struggling with relationship abuse (be it mental, verbal, or physical) is not alone. Shockingly, 1 in 5 women on any given college campus are involved in a harmful relationship, 50 percent of which will never tell anyone. Sadly, only 20 percent of those who confide in someone tell an authority figure.

“If you feel fear, or the need to change your behavior, that’s unhealthy. You shouldn’t have to give up ‘you’ in a relationship,” said Marasco, whose office is located in Harkins 101. “Resources are available to anyone, and victims should know that they are not to blame.”

Statistics show that only about 11 percent of men who have battered women will change for good. The rest will at some point or another return to their violent tendencies. Or, as often occurs, they will shift to a less detectable type of abuse, such as verbal instead of physical.

“It’s unlikely they will be totally abuse-free,” said Marasco. “The first step is for the person to acknowledge he has a problem.”

No one can tell for sure whether Chris Brown will be able to overcome his struggles and resolve all matters with Rihanna, but a writer for, Shannon Keating, poses the question, “What if it were Taylor Swift who Chris Brown beat up, and not Rihanna? Would it be safe for us to assume that if Chris Brown beat a cherished, popularly virginal white woman instead of a famously ‘promiscuous’ and racy black woman, that he would not be winning Grammys—but instead would, in all likelihood, be serving time behind bars right now?” Keating has a valid argument, since many fans still don’t forgive Kanye West for interrupting Taylor’s speech at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2009. . .imagine if he got onstage and beat her instead?

The all-too-common accusation that women who dress in a certain way or who have an aggressive attitude may somehow “deserve” abuse or are “asking for it” is completely ridiculous, asinine thinking. And the issue of racism is a much deeper dilemma, but as Keating suggests, it comes into play in such a situation. Why, when Charlie Sheen abuses women, is it written off (Oh, you know, Sheen and his tiger blood…) and called ‘winning’?

Eve Ensler, writer of The Vagina Monologues—which were recently performed by PC students at the Avon Theatre, and have raised over $75 million for women’s anti-violence groups through productions worldwide—wrote, “I am over violence against women not being a #1 international priority when one out of three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime—the destruction and muting and undermining of women is the destruction of life itself. No women, no future. Duh.”

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