Domestic Violence May Not Happen Just Once

In the cycle of abuse, Sisters Acquiring Financial Empowerment founder Kalyn Risker says that women need to be prepared, including Rihanna. 

Posted: 02/23/2012 03:02 PM EST
Rihanna domestic abuse

On Monday, fans were stunned when 24-year-old superstar Rihanna released an overtly sexual remix of her song “Birthday Cake,” featuring her notorious ex-boyfriend Chris Brown.


In the new song Brown recites, “Girl, I wanna f*** you right now. Been a long time I’ve been missing your body.” But, it wasn’t only the explicit lyrics causing controversy among Ri-Ri’s fans, nationwide.


“I was shocked when I heard that she decided to do the song with him,” fan Sharde Gillum tells BET.com. She believes that some little girls who idolize the star may think it’s OK to hook back up with a guy who has beat them, but, at the same time, she believes that celebrities shouldn’t necessarily be role models, and that Rihanna’s personal life is her “personal life.”


No matter if the star wants to keep her life private, however, the reality is that when Rihanna was found with a split lip, bloody nose, bite marks on her arm and a swollen face the night before the Grammys, her personal life was made public. A light was shone on domestic violence, a crime more prevalent than many may think.


According to domestic violence statistics, around the world at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime.


Sexual, physical, emotional and financial abuse are all things founder and executive director of Sisters Acquiring Financial Empowerment (SAFE) Kalyn Risker has experienced.


“I am a survivor of domestic violence,” she tells BET.com. “In 1998 I was in a seven and a half year relationship. Labor Day weekend he shattered my left eye socket. I had to get reconstructive surgery and I have a titanium implant there now that replaced the bone."


Since founding her nonprofit organization in 2006, Risker has been dedicated to assisting survivors of domestic violence through financial empowerment. Her organization provides services to help domestic violence victims build skills needed to re-enter the workforce, obtain higher paying positions and manage their finances.


“People are often unfamiliar with economic abuse and how that occurs. An abusive partner will restrict the victim from working, from their own money, from having their name on a car or a home, and even from checking accounts,” she says.


Risker explains that when victims are ready to leave, quite often they may not be able to because they are financially dependent on their partners.


In the case of Rihanna, she says that it’s important for young women to know that domestic violence doesn’t just happen to older women and that abusers don’t look like a horror-movie character. They are often seen as charming, nice guys, and in a cycle of abuse, there may be “breaks” in a relationship — up to one or more years, like Rihanna’s — but that doesn’t mean the abuse is over.


“In my case, my ex and me had a break in our relationship and it was after we got back together that I was hurt the most severely,” she says.


Though every case is not the same, Risker says that seeking counseling is a necessity for domestic violence victims in order to get to the root of their problems and for victims to identify what’s important to them including their health, safety and goals.


“I would encourage those harmed to get the help and seek counseling before they make any decisions about returning so they can get clarity and make safety plans in case signs re-emerge,” she says.


If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, to get help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE (7233).


If you are in immediate danger call 9-11.


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