In a much anticipated interview last Friday on ABC’s 20/20, Diane Sawyer interviewed pop-star Rihanna about her fight back in February with fellow singer and now ex-boyfriend, Chris Brown. Rihanna alleged that after they left a Grammy party, Chris proceeded to hit and bite her after she repeatedly asked him about a text another woman sent him.
Chris Brown fans immediately uploaded videos onto their Youtube pages with messages of support, many even speculating that Rihanna must have done something to provoke or deserve Chris’s beating. Even after the infamous photo of Rihanna’s bruised and swollen face leaked to the public, fans remained steadfast in their support of Chris Brown. Even after Chris finally admitted to Rihanna’s allegations, fans continued to think what he did was easily forgivable, or even admissible. Even though he committed a felony.
Rihanna’s interview with Diane Sawyer:
Why are we so apathetic about domestic violence?
Domestic violence is a more common problem than many of us would like to admit, and it happens to women of all ages, colors, and socioeconomic statuses (men can also fall victim to domestic abuse, though less frequently). According to the U.S. Surgeon General,
“Domestic violence is considered one of the foremost causes of serious injury to women ages 15 to 44, accounting for about 30 percent of all acute injuries to women seen in emergency departments”
African American women, however, are disproportionately affected by domestic violence, falling victim to abuse at rates up to 35% higher than women of other backgrounds, according to the Surgeon General report.
Women, and especially women of color, are being abused by their spouses at rates too high for us to continue to ignore or belittle. Rihanna remembers her father “severely” beating her mother on numerous occasions, so much so that she “wasn’t surprised when it happened”. Chris Brown’s mother was also abused by her spouse.
What counts as domestic abuse?
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline,
“Domestic violence can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.
Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound someone.” 
What’s the big deal?
Because most bruises heal eventually, right? The woman must have deserved or provoked a beating, right? Wrong. Domestic abuse comes in many forms, and has many different yet devastating effects on its victims. Rihanna even admitted to Diane Sawyer, “the thing that men don’t realize when they hit a woman…[is] the scar inside.” A Surgeon General report on mental health details the diverse effects of abuse:
“Domestic violence is a serious and startlingly common public health problem with mental health consequences for victims, who are overwhelmingly female, and for children who witness the violence… The mental health consequences of domestic violence include depression, anxiety disorders (e.g., post-traumatic stress disorder), suicide, eating disorders, and substance abuse…Children who witness domestic violence may suffer acute and long-term emotional disturbances, including nightmares, depression, learning difficulties, and aggressive behavior. Children also become at risk for subsequent use of violence against their dating partners and wives…” 
Chris Brown was undoubtedly scarred after repeatedly witnessing his step-father abuse his mother, but it is important for his fans to understand that what he did, no matter what the context, is plain wrong. Period.
Rihanna admitted that although she initially returned to Chris Brown after he hit her, when she realized her decision to continue loving Chris Brown was a selfish choice that could possibly result in a young girl getting killed by an abusive boyfriend, she couldn’t bear to “be held responsible for that,” so she broke up with Chris for good. Realizing what a big impact her life choices make on young women all over the world was a “big time wake-up call” for the singer. Her advice to those who might be in a similar situation: “Don’t react out of love…because love is blind. Step out of the situation and look on in third person, then react”.
If you or someone you know is experiencing any kind of domestic abuse, please call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) for anonymous and confidential help.
Please remember that abuse is not always physical. Incidents of domestic abuse are overwhelmingly under-reported, oftentimes because an affected woman doesn’t understand that how her partner treats her is considered abuse. Educate yourself and others about domestic abuse and help to end the cycle of violence!