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Rihanna Speaks Out About Media Voyeurism and Domestic Assault

Rihanna Speaks Out About Media Voyeurism and Domestic Assault

For the first time since the news of her assault at the hands of then-boyfriend Chris Brown broke last February, singer Rihanna will speak out about her experience.  According to excerpts of an interview released today, she will send the message that she is a confident young woman who was nevertheless the victim of something that “can happen to anyone.”

Since the assault was splattered across every media outlet last winter, Chris Brown has been extremely public about his role – first “apologizing” and then attempting to defend himself.  But Rihanna has been silent, and has instead been the subject of endless speculation about whether the assault was her fault.  Now she will appear on The Today Show this Thursday, on 20/20 this Friday, and be featured in the December issue of Glamour.

In addition to talking about the assault itself, Rihanna will speak about how it felt to suddenly be part of a media circus.  “I went to sleep as Rihanna and woke up as Britney Spears,” she said. “That was the level of media chaos that happened the next day. It was like, ‘What, there are helicopters circling my house? There are 100 people in my cul-de-sac? What do you mean, I can’t go back home?’” 

Rihanna expounds upon this honest description of what it must be like to have such a personal and painful experience splashed across every magazine cover and TV screen, talking about how it felt to have the photo of her face after the assault leaked to the media.  She felt “completely taken advantage of … I felt like people were making it into a fun topic on the Internet, and it’s my life. I was disappointed, especially when I found out the photo was [supposedly leaked by] two women. … That is not a photo you would show to anybody.”

I’m not sure what Rihanna means by the comment about “two women” leaking her photo – nobody should have made that photo public, regardless of their gender – but this is an unusually honest discussion of the betrayal that Rihanna must have felt.  To be a young woman dealing with domestic assault is bad enough, but to make matters worse, for months she was the subject of constant speculation about her own role in this terrible incident.  How anyone expected her to deal with this when it was made such a public issue is anybody’s guess – and I’m glad that she is indicting the media for its role in making this painful experience into a public spectacle.

She also seems willing to make herself into a role model for other women who may be afraid to get help for domestic assault.  She told Glamour, “Domestic violence is a big secret. No kid goes around and lets people know their parents fight. Teenage girls can’t tell their parents that their boyfriend beat them up. You don’t dare let your neighbor know that you fight. It’s one of the things we [women] will hide, because it’s embarrassing. My story was broadcast all over the world for people to see, and they have followed every step of my recovery.”

I don’t have anything to say to this, except right-on, Rihanna!  I’m glad that she’s taken her time to speak out and that now she’s sending an amazing message to young women everywhere.  And hopefully the next time something like this happens to a celebrity (particularly one as young as Rihanna, who is only 21), the tabloids and media outlets will leave her alone and allow her to work through things privately, with the help of friends and family.

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18 comments

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8:05PM PST on Nov 7, 2009

Rihanna's doing the right thing by staying away from Brown... but at least he expressed remorse, even if it wasn't entirely sincere; alot of wife beaters won't even give you that much.

Take one of my neighbours, for example. When the police came for HIM, he immediately attacked them, just as he had his wife, and when the fight didn't go in his favour he started to scream "Police Brutality!" (easy cop-out).

That's what woke me up at 2:00am on the night of his arrest. In fact, he was kicking and screaming all the way into the back of their squad car, and if you think that's the last we heard of him you're dead wrong.

The cops let him out on bail a week later, and the next three nights I was woken up repeatedly at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning by the sound of him screaming at her to let him back in. Each time, I remember thinking that if he didn't shut up I was going to be the next to phone on him, but I could never really prove that he was the one doing the screaming because he was gone before I could look out my window and see who it was. I'm pretty sure it was the wife beater, though.

Thankfully, his victim never co-operated; in fact, she probably wasn't even there to let him in because he'd roughed her up pretty bad; from what I heard, she had to spend at least a week in the hospital. She left the building very soon after coming home, but we still had to put up with him until the eviction notice had taken effect.

Boy were we ever glad to be rid of that jerk

7:18PM PST on Nov 7, 2009

Abuse of the court system also thrives on publicity... although the true motives of the false accuser remain hidden, so you might say that thrives in the dark, too.

7:08PM PST on Nov 7, 2009

I'm sorry, but a pop-star who is currently on a media-tour of all the major networks criticizing the media is just too much for me...

11:32AM PST on Nov 5, 2009

"Abuse of any kind is a disease that thrives in darkness."

What about abuse by the media or the paparazzi?

8:50PM PST on Nov 4, 2009

I don't think the publicity is a bad thing. Domestic abuse needs to come out of the closet and be revealed for what it is. Abuse of any kind is a disease that thrives in darkness.

8:20PM PST on Nov 4, 2009

My grandfather (God bless his soul) used to say "a man who raises his voice or hand on a women is a women not a man as only a women cat fights a women, a man who hurts a women in any way to prove that he is a man, is indeed in doubt of himself being a man, and if a man is in doubt of himself in being a man, than how can anyone else beleive he is a MAN??!!".

11:21AM PST on Nov 4, 2009

respect yourself..

11:19AM PST on Nov 4, 2009

before getting involved make sure it's what you are looking for..otherwise it is wasted energy

10:52AM PST on Nov 4, 2009

Taz: you inadvertently hit upon a great part of the problem. If a man acts in self-defense when abused by his wife/girlfriend, it's called and accepted as self-defense. When a woman acts in self-defense, the first response is "well, she deserved it, she didn't give him what he wanted." Or else it's "well, she asked for it, she let him beat her." Her testimony and the evidence is doubted, there is no presumption of innocence, she is presumed guilty of murder or assault and battery until she somehow proves that she was a victim of abuse. She is not automatically given self-defense as a defense.
The classic double standard hits (pun intended) very hard here. Men are believed, women are doubted; men who act against their abuser get compassion and help, women are thrown in prison and have their children forcibly taken from them. A man is allowed self-defense, a woman is charged with a crime and has to prove it was self-defense.
Another twist to this whole issue is the restraining or protective order, and it's lack of enforcement. In MN, in the last year, we've had 5 women that I can remember who were killed by their husband/boyfriend AFTER they had gotten a restraining order. In the most recent case, part of it was because the police themselves were afraid of the man, so they weren't sure how to enforce the order.
Both sides of the issue need to be addressed. We need to accept that women ARE born with inalienable rights, and we need to end all relationship violence.

10:07AM PST on Nov 4, 2009

according to germaine greer, there are 22 places in the old testament which liken the value of a woman to the value of a cow. in deuteronomy, moses, speaking 'the word of god's law' that "if a man shal rapeth a virgin, he shall be caused to pay the father 50 shekels and to give him his best head of livestock. then he shall marry the girl." note the girl isn't asked if she likes or wants to marry her rapist; no matter her wishes. as to how many other woman-hating lines in the old testament? well, there's this: "an witch be a woman who shall pay no obedience to a manfolk" and "thou shalt not suffer an witch to live. new testament, too. apostle mark says, "if a shrew shall not still her tongue; y must pluck it out." quran follows in this tradition to the extent of clitoral mutilation, etc., but the jews and christians have been tormenting women for eons before mohammed lived.

however, while there is no debate that historically it is women who are the more abused spouse or gender in a male-dominated society... men are also beaten by women and wives; men are often hounded, needled, screeched-at, ridiculed and insulted to such a degree that violence is almost inevitable as a self-defense to that violence. this is also highly likely to go unreported...

got a seriously disturbed, largely love-disabled society here... and much of the problem can be laid to the evil religions.

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