Thursday, February 19, 2009
Chris Brown & Rihanna- Addressing Domestic Violence
I was going to stay away from this one, at least until more details were revealed. But after this picture leaked, I have to say something.
It doesn't matter if she hit him first, if she said something way out of pocket--whatever. This is just not okay. Now even if it later comes out that he somehow didn't do all of this (which is doubtful)-- it still is a good opportunity to talk about domestic violence.
I come from a family that was marred by domestic violence. My mom was abused, her mom was severely abused-- and so the cycle was. Statistically speaking, I too, will be physically abused by a man. But, let me just say, the cycle ends with me.
As a kid, I can remember being deathly afraid of my father. It's strange to think of the man that he would turn into when he would fight my mom. My dad is mellow, laid-back and genuinely a nice guy. He really is. But, he too comes from a home where there was violence, and that seeped its way into his and mom's relationship. I have a lot of dramatic stories that I could share here-- the sad thing is, even when my mom divorced my dad, she ended right back in an abusive relationship. And it was 10 times worse than before. I remember one time she was beaten badly in the parking lot of our apartment complex. Her face was so distorted after that beating, so swollen and bruised, she couldn't return to work for over a week.
Sadly, my stories (too many to share) are not all that uncommon. As a society, we have a tendency to downplay domestic violence (much in the same way they do sexual abuse)-- though it happens way more often than most realize. If you come from a home like the one I grew up in, just know that you can stop the cycle. You don't have to become a victim. I've never been hit, thank God. But over the years, I've sort of developed some tell-tale signs that women should aware of. Of course, these aren't surefire and I'm no expert, but they could act as some red flags:
1- He gets angry very easily. Now some folks are just quick-tempered. But if he's always quick to get really angry at you over very small things, that could be a sign that he has emotional issues and won't be able to control his temper.
2-He calls you out of your name. My mom always said that if a man will disrespect you by routinely-- calling you a "bitch," "whore" (fill in the rest of the blanks)-- he probably wouldn't have a problem taking it to the next level and hitting you. Blatant disrespect like that is always a red flag.
3- He's hit another woman. This is always, always one of the first questions that I ask a man when I first start dating him. It may seem like it's out of left field, particularly in the beginning of a relationship- but if he's hit another woman, for any reason other than his life being threatened, chances are he may hit you as well. Abusive men obviously have psychological issues that don't end or begin with just one woman. Not to say folks can't change. But I'd steer clear. And also, don't be fooled. Professional, educated, "nice" men can be abusive too. Ask.
Now, there are also a few things that you can do to establish some sort of protection in your relationship.
1- Make sure he knows you have strong men in your life who will protect you. Never bad mouth the men in your life... ever, in the beginning of any relationship. If your brother is a deadbeat-- your new man doesn't need to know it. He just needs to be aware that you have a brother who is there for you.Whether it's your brother, your dad, an uncle, a cousin, or even a friend-- abusive men are usually less likely to get stupid when they know they may end up dead for hitting you. (Either that, or they will attempt to separate you from your family and your loved ones so that they don't know what's going on.) Now that doesn't mean that every time you get into an argument you mention how your brother will whup his ass. Not at all. You should never make direct, dumb threats like that. You can establish that there is a strong male presence in your life simply by talking about them positively.
2- If you come from an abusive background, don't bring it up early on. I don't really have much of a theory on this one-- except that I've noticed abusive men have a tendency to be drawn to women who have already been abused. Of course, it's probably the other way around-- abused women are drawn to abusive men... but either way, the attraction is lethal. I think it's best to keep quiet about it until you've discovered that you can truly trust the man.
3-Establish respect for yourself early on. I've been called sensitive and everything else under the sun, but when men yell angrily at me in person- it scares me. Period. I don't like it and have never tolerated it. There are ways to express dislike without yelling or getting in my face. Some women don't mind loud, passionate arguments. Me, I do. So I make it a point to establish those boundaries early on. If he respects you, he'll respect that.
Now, if you're already in an abusive relationship-- please, please get out. Once you've started being abused, the chances of it ending are very, very slim.
At any rate, didn't mean for this to turn into a Dr. Phil special, but domestic violence is serious-- and this particular case is yet another sad example of it. I hope CB gets some counseling. He's very young and still has time to get himself together. And I hope Rihanna takes this, learns from it, and ends her cycle before it starts.