The altercation that police say occurred between Chris Brown and Rihanna on February 8 has brought domestic violence to the forefront of public discussion. And with the prevalence of intimate partner violence (1 in 4 people), it is a topic that should be discussed in a national forum. As has been noted by Dr. Phil McGraw and various other health care professionals, domestic violence and abuse tends to move on an escalating curve. With that as a given, the assault of Rihanna would have had to have been on the upward end of that escalation, considering the severity of the beating.
TMZ reported that there is evidence of prior fighting between the two R&B singers. She told the Los Angeles police that their fights had been escalating.
Hollyscoop reported that when Rihanna talked with investigators the night of the incident, she told them that this was the third time two had had an altercation and it was the first time he had physically retaliated. Hollyscoop sources also indicate that Rihanna slapped Brown while on tour in Europe. He retaliated by putting her up “against the wall” (no further details were forthcoming, so it is not known if he threw her, pinned her, or backed her up against the wall) and told her to calm down.
Prior to that incident, which occurred in December, Chris Brown and Rihanna had had a verbal altercation at her family’s home in Barbados in August. That heated verbal exchange, she said, was over a text message as well.
Part of the escalating cycle of violence is denial and hiding. The bruised or abused individual tends to wear covering clothes and accessories, denying that there has been any form of domestic violence whatsoever if confronted. The abuser typically denies that they ever abuse their partner. TMZ reported that Chris Brown told Power 105 in December that he and Rihanna didn’t fight, that if they got into it, he would “laugh it off and walk away.” He added, “I ain’t the fightin’ type.”
Some may suggest that this does not constitute much of an escalation, but one must remember that even though she was talking to the police, Rihanna may not have disclosed everything. It is part of the shame, hiding, and denial aspect. She may have already been feeling less resentful, more ashamed, convinced that she “deserved” the beating, strangely feeling sorry for her attacker and that she was causing him so much trouble. She may have already been considering going back to her abuser.
If the allegations are true, there will also be those who say that, since Rihanna slapped and hit Brown on February 8, he had the right to defend himself. Truly, he did have the right to defend himself. But when defending himself meant doing what he did to Rihanna, it crossed over into abuse and was no longer defensive.
And nobody deserves the kind of beating meted out to Rihanna, the severity of which seems to indicate that if Brown perpetrated it, he had assaulted her before.
Rihanna and Chris Brown were separated for about three weeks. As happens in two-thirds of domestic violence cases, after a “cooling off” period and a show of remorse by the abuser, the abused returns to the abuser. And the cycle begins again.
But the escalation sometimes leads to death.
It is this escalation that has so many worried about Rihanna’s safety. Many are speaking out on talk shows, live performances, and through news outlets.
Bringing this issue into a public forum might help others break free from the cycle of dominance, submission, and abuse. “The Oprah Winfrey Show” is dedicating an entire episode to domestic violence to help educate women of all ages on the signs of abuse and where they can turn for help.
For more on dealing with abuse in a relationship: “Domestic Violence: The First Cut Is The Deepest.”