When the Justice System Fails: The Case of Rihanna

9 years ago

When I was a junior in college - my ‘year abroad’ was actually spent back home in St. Louis working at a local domestic violence agency. I went through extensive training, taught violence prevention education to middle school and high school students and I worked on the agency’s crisis line.

The training was intense and the prevention work was inspiring and
incredible - spurring me on to teach (as I have in various ways ever
since). But working the crisis line was terrifying. The reality of the
violence and the lives these women were leading were nearly too much
for my 20 year old self to bear.

I learned several things:

  • If an abused woman tries to leave her abuser, the likelihood that
    he will try to kill her raises dramatically - as in, it’s close to a
    sure bet.
  • Abuse doesn’t happen over night. If someone hit you on the first
    date, you’d be gone in a flash. It builds slowly through a dedicated
    process of intimidation, fear, isolation, humiliation and control.
  • The violence escalates. Following the well-documented cycle of violence,
    it usually starts with mental/emotional abuse and leads to physical
    abuse, sexual abuse and sometimes murder. Between each act, is a system
    of apologies and promises, a stealth-like honeymoon phase and a trigger
    that starts it all over again.
  • As a result, an abused woman needs the support and help of friends,
    family and the justice system to help her save her life. It is next to
    impossible for her to do it on her own.
  • This is in no way, shape or form a sign of her weakness, stupidity
    or inability to function.  It is directly indicative of the power of
    the abuser and the way that he has stripped her of  anything resembling
    a self.

The Case of Rhianna


In case you haven’t heard, last week, Chris Brown beat his
girlfriend, Rihanna. The details of how he smashed her head into a
window, punched her repeatedly, put her in a  headlock until she nearly
passed out and bit her over and over again can be found here.

This could be the story of so many couples - but it happens to be
the story of a best-selling R&B artist and his girlfriend, the
Grammy winner. And so, it’s splashed all over the news.

We get to see the pictures of her face. We get to read the notes
from the detectives. We know that Sean ‘Diddy’ ‘Puff Daddy’ Combs or
whatever his name is, has decided to play God and bring Chris and
Rihanna to his Estate and have them reconcile. We know from Rihanna’s dad
that he can’t get a hold of her, her mother can’t get a hold of her,
her cell phone number has been changed, her email has been changed -
she has all but disappeared.

And we get to hear that Chris Brown went to court on Friday and entered no plea - and was charged with two felonies.
But, he was allowed to go free until April. And even with all of the
evidence and the police reports and the blood splattered all over the
car, there is no restraining order. Chris Brown can get as close to
Rihanna as he wants. Though the judge did tell him: “You are not to
annoy, harass, molest, threaten or use force or violence against

And that should make us all feel better because I’m sure now he
won’t hurt her! The judge told him not to, after all. Excuse me while I

Chris’s lawyer said there will be no restraining order because “Miss
Fenty [Rihanna] does not request such an order.” Uh huh. Maybe because
she’s being threatened with her life if she does such a thing and she’s
surrounded by egotistical R&B ‘kings’ who won’t let her talk to her

I’m sick. I’m sick that this happens every day to ‘everywoman’ - the
nameless, faceless women that deal with domestic violence and abuse.
I’m sicker that this is happening, more or less, in broad daylight, and
no one is doing anything to help this woman. I’m about to hop a plane
to Miami and rescue Rihanna myself - and I have no clout, no money and
no power. All I do have is a voice and an audience via this blog and
social media - so here I am.

Come on OPRAH. Come on Katie Couric. Come on Tori Amos (founder of RAINN).
Come on Queen Latiffah. Come on Michelle Obama. Come on elected female
federal officials. WHERE ARE YOU? Make a fuss. Help this woman and let
your voice help all women.

It is never okay to be hit, raped, abused or treated badly
by anyone. If you are in this situation, please call 1.800.799.SAFE
(7233) to get help.

Yes, the majority of references to the facts come from Perez
Hilton. And, yes, he is an un-apologetic gossip Queen. He is also as
pissed about this situation as I am. And with millions of visitors to
his site everyday, he is, in fact, careful about checking out sources
before publishing. I’ve been un-apologetically reading his site for a
long time, and I’ve got to say, his ‘gossip’ pretty much always turns
out to be true - and when it doesn’t, he says so. Thank you, Perez for
letting millions of people know how horrid this situation this is.

Cross posted on Writing Roads

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