When the lines between pop culture and news blur, the meanings of terms such as getting “Chris Brown-ed” or “Michael Phelps-ed” become common knowledge. The recent extensive coverage of the legal mess that ensued following Brown’s alleged assault of pop idol Rihanna has caught the public’s attention. Due the slew of coverage on the latest updates of the “Rihanna/Chris Brown case” and inevitability of confusion, here’s a short re-cap of the incident.
Robyn Rihanna Fenty, more commonly known as Rihanna, has rocked the charts with “Pon de Replay,” “Shut up and Drive,” “Umbrella” and “Disturbia,” just to name a few. The relationship between 21-year-old Rihanna and 19-year-old Chris Brown (who popularized “Run it,” “Kiss Kiss” and “Forever”) tickled the fancy of many hip-hop and R&B followers. The power couple proved to be a younger version of Beyonce and Jay-Z.
So, it came as a surprise Rihanna’s 2009 Grammy performance was cancelled. However, more shocking information leaked shortly thereafter. Brown and Rihanna were allegedly involved in a domestic dispute following a pre-Grammy party in Brown’s vehicle. The cause of the ruckus? Rihanna intercepted a text message from Brown’s ex-girlfriend.
The rumor wheel began spinning far before any confirmed facts were released — one unreliable source even attempted to claim the duo had eloped the night of the Grammys because Rihanna was pregnant. As of March 5, Brown has been charged with two felonies, and the legal process stands at a halt until the next court date, April 6.
Understandably, many are concerned with the image that this sends to fans of Chris Brown. While most celebrities have avoided commenting on the situation until conclusive evidence is shown, there are a few who have decided to share their thoughts. Daytime goddess Oprah Winfrey plans to dedicate a segment to domestic violence.
“I want to do a show about it, dedicated to all the Rihannas of the world. If a man hits you once, he will hit you again. He will hit you again,” Winfrey said on her show following the Feb. 8 incident.
Pictures of a battered Rihanna leaked on the Internet shortly after the incident, which indicated the severity of the situation. If the attack had continued, it is possible that she would have never made it out of Brown’s car alive. As Brown began hitting her in the face, Rihanna is said to have held her head in her arms to protect her face as Chris Brown said, “Now I’m really going to kill you.” A recent forensic investigation revealed that traces of blood were found in Brown’s car.
While few disagree that domestic abuse is a negative aspect of any relationship, the controversy really began when rumors of Rihanna and Brown’s reunion surfaced post-trauma. The troubled couple was rumored to be attempting to “work things out.” The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence released a PR statement regarding the Rihanna/Chris Brown case: “A battered woman’s emotional ties to her partner may still be strong, supporting her hope that the violence will end. Also, it is extremely common for battered women to return to their abuser multiple times before she leaves for good. Gaining strength, relinquishing hope or letting go of someone we love is very hard and takes time even when violence is not present.”
As Rihanna’s songs are translated onto KidzBop CDs and mass marketed to the eager youth audience, the greater impact of the situation on pop culture filter-feeders is concerning to me. In the American zero-tolerance (of violence) environment, how can advocates against domestic violence advise leaving an abusive relationship while remaining sensitive enough to the emotional struggle the couple must be experiencing? The answer to that question can’t be conclusively answered until formal, legal verdicts have been made regarding the validity of the assault charges against Brown.
A few laughable attempts to save Brown’s PR face have been made within the last month. The Brown camp even hired a specialist to deal with the influx of bad press he was receiving following the assault. A (strategically crafted) statement was released by Brown in an effort to deal with all the opposition: “I am seeking the counseling of my pastor, my mother and other loved ones and I am committed, with God’s help, to emerge a better person,” Brown said. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Rihanna and Brown may even release a book in tandem addressing abuse. The slightly desperate PR attempts have been successful so far as Brown’s album sales continue to impress.
If Rihanna was concerned about a text message from Brown’s ex-girlfriend, the relationship was clearly already on the rocks. Furthermore, if Brown indeed exploded so violently over a menial incriminating text message, there is no telling what a more serious argument would entail for Rihanna’s personal safety. At 19 years old, Brown is currently sporting a $50,000 bail until his April 6 court date.
Observers are at a standstill until more definitive evidence is presented. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in four women will be physically assaulted by a partner in their lifetime. This unfortunate incident can serve as an inspiration to advocate against domestic violence and to offer resources for those who may be stuck in a dangerous relationship. For more information on domestic violence, visit ncadv.org.
Christina Johnston is a sophomore intending to major in journalism. If you have any questions or comments, e-mail her at email@example.com.