A coworker sent me this link to a Chicago Tribune article with a disturbing observation. Remember the accusation that entertainer Chris Brown beat his girlfriend Rihanna? Well, it turns out some teens think she had it coming. I’m not kidding. Here’s the beginning of the Tribune article:
Ed Loos, a junior at Lake Forest High School, said a common reaction among students to Chris Brown's alleged attack on Rihanna goes something like this: "Ha! She probably did something to provoke it."
In Chicago, Sullivan High School sophomore Adeola Matanmi has heard the same.
"People said, 'I would have punched her around too,' " Matanmi said. "And these were girls!"
As allegations of battery swirl around the famous couple, experts on domestic violence say the response from teenagers just a few years younger shows the desperate need to educate this age group about dating violence.
Their acceptance, or even approval, of abuse in romantic relationships is not a universal reaction. But it comes at a time when 1 in 10 teenagers has suffered such abuse and females ages 16 to 24 experience the highest rates of any age group, research shows.
I heard the rumors, too. It didn’t take long for them to pop up. My stepdaughter came home from school the day after the allegations were made public and let my wife and me know exactly why Chris Brown beat Rihanna (a talented entertainer in her own right). And while she didn’t say Rihanna deserved it, she might as well have. After all, so the rumor went, what Rihanna gave Chris Brown was worse than the beating he gave her, wink wink.
First, my wife and I explained that schoolyard rumors are usually best left in the schoolyard. Only two people witnessed whatever happened, and it’s not likely that one of them called up a friend at Cypress Bay High School to spread the word.
But the bigger lesson, the one we hope stuck, was that violence in romantic relationships is unacceptable. I could tell my stepdaughter with near certainty that Rihanna didn’t deserve it because no one deserves to be beaten like that. I don’t care what she did. If you’re a man, you don’t hit her. Maybe you'll yell or scream or get loud in the heat of the moment. But you do not get physical (unless self-defense is an issue, which may happen but is certainly not representative of abuse cases).
I know some men (and some women) can explode if the wrong buttons are pushed, and without a doubt, it’s unwise to intentionally push those buttons. But I want my teenage stepdaughters to know that it is never, ever right to let a man strike them.
Erica Herman, director of social change at Women in Distress, succinctly shot down the notion that victims of domestic violence provoke the attacks against them. "Domestic violence is about power and control," she said, addressing a different rumor about the Brown-Rihanna altercation. "He didn't hit her because he was angry. He hit her to gain control."
We don’t know what happened. In our family, we hope Chris Brown is innocent, and we hope those pictures of Rihanna that surfaced on the Internet were faked. But if they’re authentic, then someone hurt this woman. And if it was Chris Brown, then he should pay. The shame of this whole thing is that our family is fond of this talented singer, dancer and actor. He’s a heck of an entertainer – I’d bet he could get a standing ovation at a cemetery.
But if this charge sticks, then he’ll have gone from Chris Brown to Bobby Brown, from undeniable talent to disgraced has-been (if only in my eyes). No, I wasn’t expecting perfection out of him. But I was expecting him to refrain from beating his girlfriend. I don’t think that’s much to ask at all.
If you’re a victim of domestic violence or of violence in a romantic relationship, you didn’t have it coming. You didn’t ask for it. It's not normal and it's not your fault. And there are places you can turn to for help. If you’re in immediate danger, call 911. If you need counseling in Broward County, call Women in Distress at 954-761-1133. In Palm Beach County, call Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse at 1-800-355-8547.
Elsewhere, call the Florida Domestic Violence Toll-free Hotline at 1-800-500-1119 or the National Domestic Violence Toll-free Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.