Rihanna, Chris Brown, & Forgiveness: Can She? Should She? And Is It Too Soon?

Ever since the news broke that Rihanna had (allegedly) been beaten by her boyfriend Chris Brown, I’ve been saying that there would be no way she would take him back, even if she wanted to. After all, this is a woman in the public eye, who’s extremely popular with young women and girls. She’s also always seemed to be comfortable and okay with being a role model, unlike, say, Britney Spears, who never seemed to like the influence she had, or was expected to have, over her fans. As it became clearer that this incident did in fact happen and wasn’t just a rumor, I was even more convinced that she couldn’t and wouldn’t get back together with Brown — but part of me did wonder how I, and her fans, and just everyone, would respond if she did. So when I read that Rihanna and Brown were holed up at Diddy’s estate in Miami, and were supposedly reconciling, I thought two things:

1. Who does Diddy think he is? Dr. Phil?
2. WTF?!I have never been in the position where I have been hit by another person, let alone a significant other. I like to think I never will be, and if I was, I wouldn’t stand for it and I would leave. That said, you never know what you would do in another person’s shoes. Love can be a very powerful thing, and just because someone does something awful to you, doesn’t mean your deepest feelings for them change. But the heart is often stupid, which is why it’s often better to listen to logic. What’s illogical and disturbing to me is how quickly Rihanna took Brown back.

Forgiveness is a powerful thing. But people who do wrong should have to earn forgiveness. Has Chris? Many people, I’m sure, don’t think he should be forgiven, that she should never take him back. That once is enough and that it’s never just once anyway. Couple that with the fact that she’s a public figure with many young women and girls who look up to her, and the ease with which she appears to have come to this decision has far reaching repercussions. Statistics show that one in three teenagers has experienced violence in a dating relationship and females ages 16 to 24 experience the highest rates of any age group. When a young woman sees that someone they respect is being hit by her boyfriend and then takes them back (or never ends things with them in the first place), does the likelihood that they would do the same thing in that situation increase? Does Rihanna have an obligation to think of how her actions in her personal life may affect the lives of her fans?

The Chicago Tribune interviewed teens about the Rihanna and Chris Brown incident and found that many of them, including many of the girls, blamed Rihanna for what went down, and also acted as if violence in teen relationships is normal and acceptable. That is horrifying to me. I get that we don’t have all the pieces ot the puzzle of what went on between Rihanna and Rihanna and Brown. We have no idea what their relationship was like, in general, and whether she was abusive to him as well. Those things do matter, in a way, but they are by no means an excuse for what he did. If this was a huge, horrible mistake that will never happen again, if he has promised that, and she has chosen to believe him, I hope that they’re both right, and they are able to move on with this. But they both clearly need help getting there — two weeks and a siesta in Miami are hardly evidence of therapy these two need. And I really hope teens who are reading about this aren’t taking notes.

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