Nine seconds before Chris Brown allegedly laid a finger on Rihanna, another woman somewhere in this country faced the same fate. However for her, there were no relentless news reports, no scathing blog posts, or shouting magazine covers. Perhaps even more disturbing, statistics show that the nameless, faceless victim is 35 percent more likely to be a woman of color.
Rihanna and Chris Brown – the fabulous, young “It” couple, and two of our favorite entertainers – have given a public face to an all-too-often hidden social epidemic. While the timing of the alleged incident (the night before the Grammy’s) may have fueled the media frenzy, intimate partner violence is a common and well spread phenomenon. Famous people are not immune to domestic violence. Some of the biggest stars in the world have been victims. Tina Turner, Halle Berry, Juanita Bynum, Robin Givens, and the late Left Eye are just a few. There are many perks to being a celebrity, from the luxurious lifestyles to the adoring fans. Fame is an exclusive club, but clearly domestic violence cannot be restrained by a velvet rope. It hits every race, community, and age group. And yet, there is very little discussion about the problem unless it happens to someone we all think we know. While the Chrihanna saga dominates the headlines, solutions for stopping domestic violence should be the real object of our attention.
First, let’s be clear that no one deserves to be abused. Not the mouthy baby mama, the abrasive partner, the unruly child, or the combative wife. Much of the gossip surrounding this unfortunate incident has focused on potential reasons why the beating may have occurred, and ushered in a debate about whether or not the young starlet “deserved” what she got. Suggesting that domestic violence is ever justified – whether through provocation or grave offense – only condones abusive behavior and encourages silence. Sadly, about 57 percent of women who are victims of domestic violence do not discuss the incidents with anyone.
Let’s not engage in debates about whether or not what may have happened between Chris and Rihanna was justified. After all, the full details of the incident have not even been released, and while the spotlight is never far from our celebrities, this is a serious situation and both individuals deserve respect and privacy. This is not a time for the playful “Team Chris” and “Team Rihanna” discourse. Just because we think we know our favorite stars, doesn’t mean we are privy to the dynamics of their private lives. And really, they should be just that; private. We should be careful of overstepping that important line and maybe remain quiet while details are still emerging instead of letting gossip and speculation fuel senseless and empty discussions.
But let’s also not let silence linger. We must stop turning a blind eye to abuse. It is not just “other people’s business”. It is our business to lend a helping hand to any woman, man or child being abused. If we all begin to speak out against violence, we give voice to the victims who don’t have the glare of the spotlight to shine light on their stories. There are wonderful organizations like the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community (www.dvinstitute.org), and the Black Church and Domestic Violence Institute (www.bcdvi.org) that target education, resources, and assistance. In the Black community, violence against Black women is prevalent on wax, on the streets, and in our homes. Now it is time for Black men to step up and stomp the epidemic.
Perhaps Jay-Z said it best: Think of Rihanna as your sister or mother. Sadly, she won’t be the last woman to be hit by a loved one. After all, if the statistics are true, there was another woman abused just nine seconds later.