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Domestic Violence: Teens Think Rihanna Deserved It?

Domestic Violence: Teens Think Rihanna Deserved It?

I work in a middle school in the Bronx, and just like almost every school in the country right now, bullying is a huge concern.  Our guidance counselor has plastered our hallways with posters, articles and thought-provoking quotations about bullying and relationship abuse, and she takes students around in groups to read them and leave their comments.

Right outside my classroom, she posted a before and after picture of pop-star Rihanna following her domestic abuse incident with Chris Brown in 2009.  Good, I thought.  An important topic through the lens of a relatable public figure.  Two thumbs up, Guidance Counselor.

However, as I was leaving school one day, I noticed that someone had written, “B—-, you deserved it!” in big letters across the top of the comments page.

I stopped.  I stared.  My jaw dropped.  Keep in mind, I’ve worked in an inner city school environment for five years.  I’ve been called every name in the book (some of them nice), I’ve seen some pretty interesting behavior incidents, and I’m not easily shocked.   Even so, this comment truly alarmed me, and I took it down.


Well, I have no way of knowing for certain who wrote it, but it was likely someone between the ages of 12 and 14, and I have reason to believe it was a female student.  This concerns me for two reasons:

1.  Whoever wrote it is most likely just beginning to explore the world of relationships.  It’s quite frightening to think that she (or he) is entering the dating game with the perception that women, under any circumstance, could possibly deserve to be beaten.

2.  Kids at this age are extremely observant and desperately want to fit in — a sometimes dangerous combination.  They pay attention to what’s going on around them and do the best they can to blend into what’s “normal” as much as possible. If it’s sneakers they need, they’ll buy them.  If it’s a hairstyle, they’re the first one in line at the salon.  If they’re supposed to act a certain way, they’ll do the best they can to comply.

Likewise, if the consensus among their peers is that it’s normal for a guy to knock a girl around a little bit, they’ll be less likely to speak up about it when it does happen and be more at risk to become a domestic abuse victim themselves. I’m not saying they won’t question it — they’re not lemmings, after all — but they will be quicker to dismiss it or play into the all too familiar blaming-the-victim scenario without really understanding the serious consequences of brushing off domestic violence. This is particularly dangerous because the attitude that today’s young girls take toward relationship abuse will help shape the norm that future young ladies will look to when they enter into their own romantic relationships. 

If this is how my older sister’s relationship was, why should I expect any different?  This must just be how it’s supposed to be.

And so it will continue…until we stop it.

What can we do, ladies?

We need to reach out to the young ladies in our lives.  Make a point of talking to your daughters, sisters and nieces.  Start a girls’ group if you’re affiliated with a school or out-of-school-time provider.  Become a mentor.

However we do it, we need to create a safe place for adolescent girls to discover their identity in a healthy relationship, which of course means making sure our own are up to par, and give them the tools to navigate and ultimately leave a bad one. We need to help them challenge the notion that domestic violence is ever justified, despite any prevailing opinions floating around their social circles that may make them think twice about speaking up.

What do you think?  Feel free to leave your comments below.

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6:20AM PDT on Apr 29, 2013

Call domestic violence is actually sexist violence - separating the violence from the attitude that drives it creates confusion and allows the media to keep selling the attitude via pornography whilst wringing its hands at the body count amongst women and children. We don't call racist violence 'street' violence - name the attitude and shame the violators.

8:23AM PDT on Apr 16, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

4:55AM PDT on Jul 24, 2012

Thanks for the article. Domestic Violence Is Not A Joke, even when it someone you really don't like for shellow reasons.

6:49PM PDT on Jul 7, 2012

It's a known fact that males tend to make harsh judgements on someone who has been beaten. They often quickly jump to the conclusion that the victim is weak, a sissy, and deserved it. Girls often compete with each other, and dish out harsh criticism on other girls, name calling, blaming and shaming. They think magicall that they would not have faired the same consequences, "it wouldn't happen to me!!" This combination is combustive. Both genders have their reasons for victim shaming. Teaching compassion is so vital. They need to see that empathy is a strong ability, not just feeling sorry for someone. Empathy means the person is GROWN UP enough to understand and care.

7:56AM PDT on Apr 10, 2012

It seems our youth have not been taught any manners let alone advised against violence. Almost every TV show or movie deals with violence and sex and then wonder why they have to act like that. Rihanna seems to be singing to him in most of her songs so go figure. I've known women who are so annoying and actually provoke men to the point were I wanted to smack them myself. There are always 2 sides to every story and then there is the truth.

5:23AM PDT on Apr 9, 2012

Thanks for the article.

12:13PM PDT on Apr 8, 2012

Rihanna is playing games. She is now apparently secretly dating this A-hole who slapped her around. She needs to go and play the fool with the paparazzi, and leave this serious issue alone, if she is simply playing PR and media games.

1:41PM PDT on Apr 7, 2012

Domestic violence has been and continues to be a plague upon our society. It is a scary thought to believe that our youth male or female would believe that ti is alright for anyone, male or female to be subjected to domestic violence or any type of abusive behavior. Violence and abuse is never a way to deal with or solve a problem. It is scary to think this is what our society and our culture is teaching our youth.

4:21AM PDT on Apr 7, 2012

Pos. comes from a home where DV is the norm and women are bullied.

Great idea Catheryn! Thank you very much!

1:44AM PDT on Apr 7, 2012

A class in RESPECT AND RESPONSIBILITY should be taught from Grade one to graduation, children should be taught that anything is permissible as long as it does not hurt themselves or anybody else. Common sense would dictate that if children are taught at a very early age that every child has their own strengths and weaknesses and that they should use their strengths to help not tease or bully others. It should not matter if a child comes from a FAMILY of a mother and father, 2 mothers or 2 fathers or a single mother or father as long as they are LOVED.
Sex Education should be taught from LGBT, Contraceptives, Masturbation, Pregnancy and all forms of sex. Let us face it whether we like it or not children are curious and are having sex earlier and earlier. Children should be taught the joys and the consequences of having sex ( Pregnancy, STD, AIDS and others.) But you say when will this be taught. Cut out Geography or History early on then put it back in and remove Geometry or Algebra. They can learn this in college if needed. I believe this is a solution. Stopping the damage before it starts so that Bullying, Sexual Assault, and many others will be greatly diminished if not eradicated. It is my belief that when children graduate with these principals where they are taught RESPECT for themselves and others and to take RESPONSIBILITY for their actions. If children grow up with these principals I believe business and government would benefit greatly. Within a few generations

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