She's a character, she has opinions.

It’s Okay to Want to Stay

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On February 8, Rihanna was allegedly attacked by her boyfriend, Chris Brown. Brown was arrested and may face charges. A photograph of an obviously battered Rihanna was leaked to the internet. Rihanna supposedly went into seclusion and Brown released a statement saying he was seeking counseling. Everyone had an opinion and fortunately most of them were kind. We all seemed to agree, at least in this case, that intimate partner violence is wrong, it’s tragic, and that Rihanna deserved all the compassion we could provide her. Few people wanted to discuss or even see the photograph because that sort of violation of her privacy after what she had already allegedly endured was much more than Rihanna should ever have to go through.

As an advocate, I was torn. IPV is a hidden crime and bringing it to light can only help those who think they have to suffer in silence. Having a female role model like Rihanna become a victim of IPV and then stand up for herself can, and hopefully did, inspire someone else to stand up for herself. Having male role models like Jay-Z and Kanye West speak out against IPV can and, again, hopefully did, inspire people to speak out in their own communities and lend compassion to their friends. However I was concerned that being in the public eye would make things harder for Rihanna, that people would forget she was a person who deserves the dignity that IPV takes away from you.

Last week news broke that Rihanna and Chris were back together and working through their issues. [Source] All that compassion the general public had for Rihanna? It’s gone. Go ahead, check the comments on that linked article. Now Rihanna is “guilty,” “stupid,” and “has no self-respect.” She’s “trash” who deserves what she gets and she’s “a sorry excuse for a woman.” That last commenter hopes she gets beat again because she “needs it.”

The focus of IPV advocates has been to get the woman out of the abusive situation. If she leaves the house and the relationship then she won’t get hit again. Simple fix, right? Well, no, it isn’t, not entirely. It ignores the many reasons why women can’t leave, and it also ignores the rationality of not wanting to leave. Just as there is nothing wrong with leaving there is also nothing wrong with wanting to stay.

  • For many victims, leaving an abusive partner does not guarantee physical safety and raises other risks. Leaving can destroy any chance for financial security and can place children in precarious legal and emotional circumstances. Leaving can mean the loss of home, health care, a job, an education, custody, a faith community, immigration status, or the support of family or friends.
  • Many victims don’t want to leave. Victims want someone to change their partners – to help him stop the violence, to be a better partner, a better parent. Since the violence is the problem, asking for help to fix the problem makes sense. It is a rational request, given the commitment most victims have to their families and their relationships and the very high stakes of leaving. At the same time, victims want protection, someone to shield them and their children from the violence and control by enforcing some of society’s most basic principles.
  • The focus on strategies for leaving has created an expectation that victims should leave. The view that leaving is the answer to domestic violence is so strong that it has become the standard by which victims are judged. Leave and you are worthy of the full range of services and protection. Stay and the resources may be limited, the consequences sometimes severe. Victims who don’t leave are often unfairly judged to be making poor decisions, viewed as “not being serious” about stopping the violence, or as somehow responsible for not preventing it.

[The above bulletpoints were reprinted/adapted from the publication titled When Battered Women Stay…Advocacy Beyond Leaving by Jill Davies for Building Comprehensive Solutions to Domestic Violence (BCSDV), a project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence]

Before you judge Rihanna for talking to Chris Brown (and possibly desiring to reconcile with him), think about how her desire to want him to change, to be a man who does not hit her, is a rational desire. There is nothing wrong with her for wanting a person she presumably loves to be a loving partner in return. There is nothing wrong with any person who wants this. She has not suddenly become complicit in her own beatings, she does not deserve or desire them, and she is not stupid. Just like the rest of us she wants to be safe, happy, and loved, and there is nothing at all wrong with that.

Related posts by Tamara:
An Open Letter to Chris Brown
Wake up and smell the Madonna-Whore dichotomy

Call for help, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224.
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474 (1-866-331-8453 TTY).

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  1. […] post: It’s Okay to Want to Stay (Rihanna and Chris Brown) ▶ No Responses /* 0) { jQuery('#comments').show('', change_location()); […]

  2. […] posts by Tamara: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE RESOURCES It’s Okay to Want to Stay (Rihanna and Chris Brown) An Open Letter to Chris […]

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