As Chris Brown continues his Twitter battles with the likes of Miranda Lambert and WWE heavyweight champ CM Punk, and Rihanna’s dating status is being debated — is she with Rob Kardashian, as Media Takeout purports, or is she considering reuniting with Chris, as TMZ says? — a lot of conversations we had back in 2009, after his brutal assault on her, are also resurfacing. After they dropped two collaborations on Rihanna’s birthday Monday, we decided to ask a couple of experts on domestic violence to answer the question burning in our minds: Is it possible that Chris has reformed, as he claims, and that a renewed relationship (friends or more) is not the crazy bad idea some think it is?
“We have to believe that there is opportunity for people to change, but it does not happen on its own. It requires a lot of work and the person has to want to change that behavior,” said Marjorie Gilberg, executive director of Break the Cycle, an organization that tries to teach both young victims and abusers how to change the patterns of violence in their lives. And while she believes change is possible, particularly in someone so young, Brown’s “outbursts” on Twitter and elsewhere aren’t great evidence that he’s done so. “I also think it’s not that probable that he would be able to have a healthy relationship with Rihanna, because they already have a pattern of communication and behavior. It’s difficult to change once you get in to that routine of it.
“I hope that they both can heal from it, and I hope that they can have healthier and happier relationships for the rest of their lives because they’re both very young,” Gilberg added. “I wouldn’t suggest that it was the greatest idea to have that relationship with one another.”
The possibility of a reunion between the stars is troubling for Jane Randel, the director of Love Is Not Abuse, Liz Claiborne’s initiative to combat and prevent teen dating abuse. Women typically return to their abusers seven times before finally breaking off the relationship, and if Rihanna does that, “I think the message that she’s sending to her fans is confusing. … It does seem to make it OK, that she’s OK with it all … whatever it was.”
Whether she wants to be or not, Rihanna is a role model for young women, and women ages 16 to 24 are the most at risk for being in an abusive relationship, Randel said. But both Randel and Gilberg hope that they can turn this into a constructive conversation with young people, particularly the ones who have been defending Chris’ behavior and blaming Rihanna for what happened in 2009.
“Let’s just pretend, for argument’s sake, that she started it, that she did whatever to piss him off,” Randel said. “He had a choice. He could pull the car over or he can ask her to get out. He could remove himself. He can defend himself, but that doesn’t mean punching her in the face. There were lots of different choices he had to make, so that what happened didn’t happen.”
Gilberg said the tweets some girls posted during the Grammys, saying that Chris Brown could beat them up, showed how much people have yet to learn about the gravity of domestic violence. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s a teaching moment, a way to engage young people on this issue and get them thinking why would anyone say, ‘He can beat me up anytime.’ Why would someone put that on their Twitter page? And, what do you think they were really thinking when you said that?”
[Photos: Getty Images]