Let’s Talk About Rihanna and Chris Brown’s Family Histories Of Domestic Abuse

Everyone from Jay-Z to country singer Miranda Lambert to half the blogosphere has an opinion on what the heck Rihanna is doing collaborating (and possibly more) with her abusive ex-boyfriend Chris Brown on two new songs. But why are so few talking about Rihanna and Brown’s family histories of domestic violence?

Any chance the uproar over Brown’s Grammy performance had of dying down was quashed by the simultaneous release of Rihanna’s “Birthday Cake” featuring Brown and Brown’s new single, “Turn Up The Music,” featuring Rihanna. Meanwhile, Brown and Rihanna have been tweeting at each other like flirtatious high-schoolers. Rihanna also tweeted this week:

Rihanna tweet


So you kind of want to be cynical and you kind of want to tell them to grow up and you kind of want to be worried about this more-or-less grown woman you don’t even know and you kind of worry about the ‘message’ this is all sending about violence against women. Amanda Dobbins at Vulture nails it here, with “The Argument You’re Having With Yourself About Rihanna and Chris Brown;” it’s also a nice summary of the argument the Internet is having about Rihanna and Chris Brown. Clearly, the publicity is good for both their albums (Perez Hilton’s post about it was pretty accurately titled “Rihanna & Chris Brown mind-fuck the world”). And who are we to say … yada yada yada. But in the end, what it keeps coming back to is: Maybe Rihanna is in an abusive relationship. Billboard’s editorial director Bill Werde said:

“People have the tendency to forget that maybe this isn’t some kind of contrived career move or a staged opportunity for PR,” Werde said. “This media-saturated world is trying to make sense of a very, very human decision.”

Maybe Rihanna is a very famous, very rich, very talented 24-year-old in an abusive relationship. 

Rihanna grew up with a father who was both abusive to her mother and had been a victim of abuse himself. In an interview in Rolling Stone last summer, she said:

“I actually feel really bad for my father. He was abused too – he got beat up by his stepdad when he was young. He has resentment toward women, because he felt like his mom never protected him, and unfortunately, my mother was the victim of that. I’m not giving him excuses. Right is right and wrong is wrong. I still blame him. But I understand the source.”

She also says she thinks being a masochist is “common for people who witness abuse in their household. They can never smell how beautiful a rose is unless they get pricked by a thorn.”

Brown grew up with a stepfather who beat his mother. He said (back in 2006) that because of that, “I used to always feel the hate for anybody that disrespected a lady. Or called a lady the B-word … or just disrespected her.” And yet …

It’s not uncommon for children raised in households where a parent is abusive to grow up to commit or be victims of domestic abuse themselves. In the Brown article above, Sheryl Cates, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, says: “It’s a learned behavior. It can be unlearned … But it’s about a belief system where you think, ‘I have the right to hurt someone I love.’”

Photo: Rolling Stone/David Crichlow/Rex USA

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    • Megan

      Personal opinion aside, that first tweet is actually lyrics from Rihanna’s song Hard.


    • Muffy

      Let it go. Stop telling strangers how they should think and feel about their life! You were not there. You do not know Rihanna or Chris Brown. They are not your poster children of domestic violence. They don’t want to be and I don’t blame them. Them doing music together does not condone violence. Brown dated Rihanna, not you. Rihanna dated Brown, not you.

    • scallywag

      It seems if one is to believe most media outlets, Rihanna by normalizing relations with Chris Brown has ostensibly sent a message that domestic violence is okay, but that may be further from the truth when in reality these two entertainers live distinct lives and have not sought to be romantically involved with each other again. It just may well be that Rihanna has gotten over the incident of 3 years ago and is simply forging a high profile collaboration that both her and Chris Brown are aware will keep them in the public eye which isn’t necessarily a bad thing when you’re in the business of selling your public image.

      What though is interesting is the high benchmark we have placed on Rihanna to play moral ideals when perhaps it might be more useful to look within ourselves instead.


      • jane

        Stop trying to make two young ppl that had one fight three years ago, into your case history for domestic violence (DV). DV is a repeated action. They had 1 fight and they both were actively involved in it by Rihanna’s own admission. I find it awfully interesting that the feminist interest groups have tried to make it more than that. You have actual cases of domestic violence in the world (see Charlie Sheen’s 20 yr history of abusing women), but you keep trying to use these two for that purpose. I think there is a definitely racial bias as well as an age bias at work here.

        Rihanna isn’t sending a message of anything other than she is tired of carrying the weight that others (feminist interests groups) have placed on her back. She knows they had a fight. She knows she hit him as well. They both have suffered over the past three years and personally, I am tired of witnessing the abuse that they continuously receive. Rihanna is not you and Chris is not the men you were in a relationship with!

    • amanda

      White America your SHEETS CONTINUE TO SHOW! As teens Chris Brown and Rihanna Fenty had 1 fight 3 years ago! MOVE ON! I am so tire of the feminist ploy to make Rihanna your enternal victim and Chris Brown your enternal villian. THEY WERE VERY YOUNG, hell they still are very young and you ppl need to STHU and get off of their backs already.

      Also why don’t you chronical the abusive families of SERIAL WIFE BEATERS: Ozzy Osbourne, Alan Jackson, Eminem, Jeff Goldblum, Alec Baldwin & brother Dan Baldwin (THER’S YOUR FAMILY CONNECTION), Rodney Atkins, Sean Penn, Mel Gibson, Michael Lohan (DRUG ADDICT VIOLENT DAUGHTER IS LINDSAY), Frank Sanatra (FRANK JR SMACKED AROUND A FEW WOMEN), & Glen Campbell? You know ADULT MEN who beat many times the same woman or different women. Leave Chris & Rihanna ALONE!