Rihanna Is Undoubtedly An Abused Woman

One Saturday evening last November, I was sitting in my dining room, typing away and enjoying the cool breeze wafting through my open window. My sons were watching cartoons and eating popcorn and, for a Saturday night in this neighborhood, things were pretty quiet.

But then, the relative silence was broken by some very loud screaming. The sound of those screams will forever be etched in my memory because I could feel the absolute terror vibrating up the hill. And then the screaming was immediately followed by the sound of gunshots. Then more screaming, more gunshots, and, finally, silence once more.

I spent the ensuing hours laying on the floor,
trying to watch the news to figure out what had happened. I typed a play by play of what was going on onto my Twitter feed. My house shook from the sound of helicopters and for a little while, police shut down my neighborhood with a perimeter.

In the immediate aftermath of the incident, I thought it might be gang activity. Clearly so did some of my neighbors because a few folks got their guns and were standing in front of their buildings. However, once I found out what had actually happened, it was so much worse than the average drive-by.

An estranged husband had busted in, shot his two children to death, shot his wife and then shot and killed himself. A victim of domestic violence, she'd gotten a restraining order, which he violated on the night he murdered her children and tried to kill her. She was the only person to survive and, as a mother of two children myself, I often wonder how that mother gets through the days.

Who knows how many years that man abused her, but I'm sure there were those around her who said it was her fault, said that she deserved it. I'm sure there were people who said it was between the two of them and no one else's business at all.

The saddest thing is that she finally took the steps to get away and even got a restraining order, but the end result was still tragedy.

I think about all of my friends and loved ones who've had a man beat the hell out of them. Mirrors broken over backs, nail polish remover poured into eyes, shotguns put into mouths. Stripped naked and thrown out of a house in the dead of winter. Burned with cigarette butts. Tied up with a sock stuffed in the mouth so no one can hear screams, and then beaten.

Out of all the women I know who've been physically abused, only a couple have called the police. In general, there has been no District Attorney or police force minding their P's and Q's. And there definitely hasn't been any felony charges of criminal threats even though the women I know have consistently been told, "I'm gonna kill you."


Thank God no one I know has ended up shot and left for dead like the woman down the hill.


But, like the woman down the hill, none of the people I know are wealthy pop stars. TMZ wouldn't even look twice at their photos of bashed in faces or bruised bodies, let alone pay $65,000 for such images.

On a day to day basis, we like to think stars like Rihanna, her battered face floating across the void that is the Internet, don't experience domestic violence because they have money. It's like we believe that money washes away all tendencies to either abuse or be a victim caught up in a cycle of abuse.

We say to each other, "Why doesn't Rihanna just leave? She's got money!"

I am one that doesn't fully understand how Rihanna can go back to Chris Brown, especially not after reading the police report submitted in the case. What Chris Brown allegedly did to her is gruesome. But, sadly enough, this saga is nothing new. It's a story I've read before and, as I type this post, it's being told over and over again in countless Los Angeles homes.

The characters may be either rich or poor. The may be pop stars or they may be El Salvadorean immigrants. Indeed, the setting, characters and some minor plot details may change, but in the end, it's all the same. The abuse victim won't leave till she's really had enough, till something clicks and reminds her soul of it's nobility and true worth.


Will that happen for Rihanna? I don't know. But take a look at the women around you, the women you actually know. Chances are, one of them is being abused and you don't realize it.

And if you do know that someone you know is being abused, be there for her. Be there for the women in your life whether they're staying or not. Listen to them and help them walk away before things get even worse. They, and Rihanna, deserve more of our support. Not less.

Comments

Carmennc said…
I read the report and it's hideous the way he beat her. We know money has nothing to do with it, Tina Turner stayed with Ike for a long time. These men work on a mental level of breaking these women down. Even beautiful Halle Berry was a victim of abuse. These men will make you feel ugly and worthless. I know the signs. If a man keeps saying negative things about me, I'm a ghost.

I have seen a friend get beat by her husband in front of their young daughter. It was the worst thing I have ever seen. Thank God for kitchen chairs and adrenalin. I went to her parents house with her and her daughter and told it all. It took her a month to plot to get away from him because he would never let his daughter go with her alone.

Yet, my boyfriend of the time who was friends with the beater told me to stay out of it. In a Rihanna voice, "Please, go take a bow."

I remember you tweeting about that night too. So, so sad.
Lisa Johnson said…
When I read the specifics of what happened to Rihanna, I was horrified and nauseated. Chris Brown is really cruel and sick. I so hope she breaks up with him.

I heard that Jay-Z is trying to put together a meeting with her and Tina Turner. I hope it's true and maybe Rihanna can get some perspective and realize what is happening to her. I fear for her life.
I read the report and I just don't understand that kind of violence, especially toward someone you claim to love.

They are both very young and maybe think relationships are supposed to have "drama".

This is not drama it's violence and it's unacceptable.

Sad situation.
TKTC said…
Thinking about this a lot lately. On the one hand I completely recognize that no one can force or even reason these women out of abusive relationships. On the other hand, I can't help but be disturbed by "friends" offering up houses for the relationship to be reconciled in and I hope the voices of survivors like Halle Berry are being heard amongst the noise. The good news is that keeping abuse part of the national conversation is shining a bright light on something that thrives on silence and darkness.
Ingrid said…
this was a very powerful post, liz. thank you for sharing your feelings and observances. we need more of these voices of support instead of the celeb machines that dole out the play by play with no respect to those involved.

it's a heartbreaking experience and it's saddens me when i realize these celeb sites, shows and mags are not calling chris out or running stories about how to protect yourself or heal yourself if you are a battered individual. they're feeding their own continually toxic guts (the celeb machine).

today oprah said the story enraged her so much she's running another show on the reality of battered women AND teens. the reported stats are 1 in 4 women are victims of abuse. now think...the same stats relate to the teen demographic.

i know she's the big O but why do we wait for oprah to scream, "this is an outrage." we should all be screaming about the outrage.

no more jetski's or booty scannin' for breezy. it's time to get outraged.

so thank you for your voice, liz.
Mamita Umita said…
Amen! As someone who was in an abusive marriage (mentally,emotionally and physically), dealing with the agony of it all alone is one of the hardest things. The secrets and lies built to "stand by your man" eat away at your soul. You want to tell, but you can't. You always think things will change, and for me I didn't want to fail in my marriage. At the time I walked away, I didn't want to, but although it was painful (which is CRAZY in rhetrospect) it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. It was a gift from God. I am one of the fortunate, and I hope other women are strong enough to do the same. That's why I talk about it, and help those friends that are victims where I can.
sippinwineman said…
I so CANNOT understand people who don't/can't remove themselves from life threatening situations

I know two abused women. I've spoken to both about their situations and believe that they suffer from some mental disorder. "Helping to end their problem" is not an option. They are attracted to the SAME TYPE OF GUYS!!

There are many out there who've survived that type of abuse. God bless them. Tina, to me, seems to be the strongest. I'm curious though. I've not heard from Mary J. Blige in all this talk of abuse.
Jameil said…
i read that police report in shock and horror. there is no excuse for that. i don't know that i know any currently abused women but some women in my family were abused for years before they finally got out. i'm glad they did.
Anonymous said…
That was a great post. Thanks.
Anonymous said…
Los Angelista,
I was about to eat lunch.
I just lost my appetite.

How do you convince yourself to hit a woman anyway?
Liz Dwyer said…
Carmennc,
What is up with the stay out of it attitude? How horrible for your friend's daughter and you to witness their mother getting abused like that. I'm glad she got away.

Anali,
I imagine there's plenty of people who are in her ear talking about his career and her career, but I hope folks are talking about her safety and sanity above all that. Reading what he did to her, I fear for her life, too. I hope the reports of Jay-Z trying to get the meeting with her and Tina Turner turn out to be true.

NYC/CR,
I don't either. Clearly, it's been an ongoing thing, but the viciousness of this particular attack is just shocking. I was watching Kelly Clarkson's latest video and she's her boyfriend's tossing her stuff out a window, so she tosses his stuff too... and it's supposed to be all good. But it's not. That sort of drama is seen as romantic and it can turn ugly in a heartbeat.

TKTC,
Yeah, just when I thought Diddy couldn't sink any lower, he provides a reconciliation spot for them. It's beyond comprehension how sick and twisted that is. But you're right, if any good comes out of this, it's that abuse is being discussed in a way I haven't seen discussed in awhile.

Ingrid,
The gossip-driven industry is all about the profit. They don't care about the suffering of the souls involved. It just sells magazines and provides hits to their sites because folks want the latest play-by-play details. We shouldn't have to wait for Oprah to speak on it, but people don't see it as an outrage as much as they should, sadly enough.

Mamita,
That fear of failure, that feeling like you don't want to disappoint everybody... that's a hard one to deal with. I am so glad you were able to walk away and you are such a role model because you are willing to talk about it instead of keeping the cycle of secrets going. XOXO.

Sippinwineman,
Once you've been abused in any way, it's very hard to get back the self-esteem that'll keep you from being attracted to abusive people. Very hard. Yeah, I haven't heard that Mary J. Blige has said anything at all about this. But you know, one of the things is that I wish more women of all colors would speak up. I found myself thinking this morning that folks automatically make the Ike/Tina comparison, but what about Pam Anderson? Nary a word.

Jameil,
Girl, I already knew most of it and was still horrified to read it. I heard a joke that the officer who leaked the photos will probably do more time than Chris Brown if a plea deal gets worked out. It shouldn't be that way. I'm glad your family members finally got out. Finally is better than never.

Natebrown,
Glad you came over to read it. Thanks.
Liz Dwyer said…
Daniel,
Sorry about the lost appetite. How do folks decide to hit? I'm sure there's studies on it, but my gut tells me that it's their own insecurity, their own feelings of powerlessness, and their own ability to exercise discipline and self-control in their lives.
Unknown said…
Thanks for your thoughtful post, Liz. This is such a major issue.

One of my favorite books is The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker.

In it he talks a lot about domestic violence situations and how restraining orders often backfire and embolden the abuser.
Liz Dwyer said…
Mark,
Thanks for the link about the book. I'll check it out. Restraining orders definitely don't seem to do what they're supposed to do. It sometimes seems like a majority of women who are murdered/assaulted are victims of a man who they had a restraining order on.
April said…
You're spot on that a woman needs to recognize her own self worth before she can leave. Abusers don't just use their fists and/or weapons, but they use their wits and words to get the woman to believe that she doesn't deserve and will never receive better. It's a terrible, terrible thing, and one of my biggest fears for my daughters.
Lisa Blah Blah said…
That report turned my stomach. And yes, it's all too common. Just last weekend, my husband's cousin got beat up by her boyfriend. They had been together for 4 years and he never touched her before. She has choke marks on her neck, cracked ribs, and he damn near broke her jaw. Thankfully they have another cousin with the LAPD. He tracked the boyfriend (now ex) down and he's been arrested.

I was completely freaked out because we all thought C. was such a nice guy. And then I remembered how it was in my own family - how we never talked about how much my stepdad drank, or the crying and yelling late at night, or my mom's bruises. We just acted like a happy family.

I just feel sick that anyone could do that to someone they're supposed to love.
Anonymous said…
"reminds her soul of it's nobility and true worth."

This is truly why it is important especially for people to tell people we love how much they mean to us and that they have worth and value. Feeding someone's soul may save their life and keep them from staying in a situation like this.


Women who stay in this situation do so because they do not believe in their value or worth and have been so beaten down they feel worthless, and isolate. Only when they realize they have value and worth and do not deserve this treatment will they leave.

Thanks for a wonderful post


SMH
Shiona said…
I couldn;t believe it when my sister was telling me this. And she went back to him. Amazing. I cannot believe it. This is totally unacceptable. I hope she does go to testify against him but I don't think that will happen.
Ok I have to respond to this and I'm doing so before reading the comments. You have to be really careful about how you respond to a domestic violence scenario. Sometimes the woman is caught in a cycle and chooses to stay no matter what efforts may be made by those who wish to help. Then the person who tried to help is left exposed. You know you can give all the good advice in the world but if that person doesn't have the mentality to accept it then it's not going to be utilized. So I guess I'd say whatever one does to try to check all the angles and decide how much you're going to invest and to not put yourself in harm's way.
Anonymous said…
There is still an incredible level of domestic and sexual violence that goes unnoticed because all those involved keep it secret for one reason or another - to preserve the image of a happy family, low self-esteem, misguided loyalty, fear of retaliation etc.

Only when such violence becomes totally unacceptable and is always made public will it come to an end.

My mother was physically attacked by my father early on in her marriage and told him immediately that if he did it again she would leave him. Thankfully he never did.
Unknown said…
Like Mamita Umita, I was in an abusive marriage, and even though I STILL feel a lot of shame about it 23 years later, I can honestly say that it was very hard for me to leave, for some of the reasons she had. The rationalizations were insane; the most common one for me was "He'll never do it again. He's learned his lesson." No such luck. He continues to abuse any woman he is involved with to this day. He just moves from one victim to the next.

Luckily, he decided that he ran the risk of losing his own life if he came at me one last time. My father told him what he would do to him (my dad is an expert marksman and hunter), and that there is no place on earth he could hide. My ex took the warning seriously.

Thanks for posting this, Liz. Your blog and the Rihanna incident reminds me of how close I came to being just another domestic violence statistic. When my ex burst through the front door and tried to stab me, I couldn't believe it was happening. I don't know if any woman ever believes that the man she married is capable of killing her. Yet it happens, every six minutes.
Liz Dwyer said…
April,
If I had girls, I'd be worried about it too, but this happening has been a good reminder of why it's so important to talk to my sons about the equality of men and women and also what it means to be a true gentleman.

Lisa,
Wow, that's so sad. Glad that the cousin tracked him down and arrested him, and glad he's now an ex. I grew up feeling the burden of a LOT of family secrets/shame and I'm determined to not pass that legacy on to my boys because I feel like it's a part of the cycle of all sorts of addictive/negative behaviors. It's hard to break though, for sure.

Anonymous,
I love your comment. I kept saying to myself, "Exactly!" as I read it. I always tell my boys how much I love them and talk about the virtues I see them exhibiting in their behavior. I try to do so much stuff to cultivate the spiritual capacities, because our culture sure enough emphasizes the physical and material.

Shiona,
Apparently, her atty said she'll testify if she's required to, but otherwise, I wouldn't expect much. I think I'm just mentally steeling myself for the day I read that he's got a plea deal and won't serve any time at all.

Faith,
Very good point. I've tried to help folks in the past and then they totally cut me off because their man felt like I was too nosy or a bad influence. Sometimes I think that if someone's gonna ask, "Do you think I should leave?" that if they have to ask the question, they already know the answer.

Nick,
So glad that your dad never attacked your mom again. So very glad. You know, it can feel very overwhelming to think about all of the physical and sexual abuse that goes on in our society. The number of women (and men) and children affected is just staggering. :(

Angela,
My God, Angela... that had to have been so terrifying. I'm so glad you're not a statistic because you have so much positivity and light to offer the world. Good that your dad is an expert marksman/hunter, but how sad that a threat like that was the only thing that would stop your ex. No surprise that he hits other women, because it's not the woman causing it, it's the man's issues. XOXO's.
Anonymous said…
That's so horrifying and sad, especially for the kids. I had a patient who finally got clear of her abusive boyfriend and he broke in and beat her, trying to kill her. I'll never forget seeing her bruised face the next day.

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