Saturday, March 7, 2009

Important conversations

Since the morning of February 9, 2009, the celebrimedia here in the United States has been focused largely on one couple and the circumstances they found themselves in on the late evening of February 8, 2009, namely the singer Rihanna (since turned 21) and the singer Chris Brown (19) and the beatdown he allegedly treated her to that night on the way to a Grammy party.

Meelyn and Aisling don't listen to a lot of popular music, since 99% of it is total garbage. Aisling declares that she doesn't even like it, and although Meelyn does have an MP3 player, all songs she downloads must past the parental approval of She Who Must Be Obeyed, which means I look up the lyrics on the internet -- handy tool, that -- and read them, looking for both explicit and veiled references to sex, drugs and alcohol abuse, which pretty much cuts out most of today's crappy music. So it's not like the girls are big fans of Rihanna and Chris Brown, although they do know who they are: Rihanna was featured singing her big hit "Umbrella," which we saw on either American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance? last year, we can't remember which, and Chris did a duet with squeaky-clean Idol winner Jordan Sparks called "No Air," which has been one of Meelyn's favorite songs. That was also the song SYTYCD? contestants Joshua and Katie danced to so movingly last season.

At any rate, it was still upsetting news for them to hear that Chris apparently pounded the holy hell out of Rihanna while they were driving in his Lamborghini in downtown Los Angeles.

Here's an excerpt of the LAPD detective's notes taken when Chris Brown had already left the scene and Rihanna was apparently sitting on the curb, bleeding. I warn you, this is not pleasant reading: it's really shocking and terrible and it made me get tears in my eyes, so you have been warned. So that you won't be confused, let me tell you that Rihanna's legal name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty:

Christopher B and Robyn F have been involved in a dating relations for approx 1
and half year. On Sunday Feb 8 at 25 hours Brown was driving a vehicle with
Robyn F as the front passenger on an unknown street in Los Angeles. Robin F
picked brown,s
cellular phone and picked up a three-page text message
from a woman Brown had had a previous relationship with.

A verbal
argument ensued and Brown pulled a vehicle over in an unknown street. Reach over
Robyn F with his right hand and open the car door and attempted to force her
out. Brown was unable to force Robyn F out of the vehicle because she was
wearing a seat
belt. When he could not force her to exit he took his
right hand and shoved her head against the passenger window of the vehcile
causing an approx 1 inch raised circular contusion.

Robyn F turned to
face Brown and punched her in the left eye with right hand. He then drove away
in the vehicle and continued to punch her in the face with his right hand while
steering the vehicle with his left hand. The assault caused Robyn F Osmouth to
fill with blood and blood to splatter all over her
clothing and the interior of the vehicle. Brown looked at
Robyn F and stated "I am going to beat the s–t out of you when we get home! You
wait and see!?

Robyn F picked her cellular
phone and called her personal assistant Jennifer Rosales.
Rosales did not answer the telephone but while her vm greeting was playing Robyn
F pretended to talk to her and stated "I am on my way home. Make sure the cops
are there when I get there? (this statement was made while greeting was playing
and was not captured) after Robyn f faked the call, Brown and looked at her and
stated, 'You just did the stupidest thing ever! Now I really am going to kill

Brown resumed punching Robyn F and she interlocked her fingers
behind her head and brought her elbows forward to protect her face. She then
bent over at the waist placing her elbows and face near her lap and in attempt
to protect her face and head from the barrage of punches being levied by Brown.
Brown continued to punch Robyn F on her left arm and hands, causing her to
suffer a contusion on her left triceps that was approx 2 inches in diameter and
numerous contusions on her left hand. Robyn f attempted to send another text
message to other personal assistant Melissa Ford. Brown snatched the cellular
telephone out of her hand and threw it out of the window
to an unknown street. Brown continued driving and Robyn F observed his cellular
phone in his lap. She picked up the cellular phone with her left hand, and
before she could make a call, he placed her in a head lock with right hand and
continued to drive the vehicle with his left hand.

Brown held Robyn F
close to him and bit her on her left hear. She was able to feel the vehicle
swerving from right to left as Brown sped away. He stopped the vehicle in front
of [address] and Robyn F turned off the car removed the key from inignition and
sat on it. Brown did not know what she did with the key and began punching her
in the face and arms. Brown began applying pressure to Robyn F left and right
carotid arteries causing her to be unable to breath. She began to lose
consciousness. She reached up with her left hand and began to attempting to
gauge his eyes in attempt to flee herself. Brown bit her left
ring and middle fingers and released her. While brown
continued to punch her she turned around a place her back to against the
passenger door. She brought her knees to her chest and placed her feet against
Brown,s body and began pushing him away.

Brown continued to punch her on
legs and feet causing several contusions. Robyn F began screaming for help. And
Brown exited the vehicle and walked away. A resident in the neighbor heard Robyn
F,s plea for help and called 911, causing a police response. An investigation
was conducted and Robyn F was issued a domestic violence protective order (EPO).
Affiant conducted an interview with Melissa Ford who advised on Feb. 8 2009 at
2500 hours she received a
phone call from Robin F from an unknown telephone number
later identified as the telephone number of Officer Chavez. Robin F had advised
Ford that she had been assaulted by Brown. At approx at 1 am Brown called Ford
as nothing happened. Ford advised Brown that she had already talked to Robin F
and was aware of what happened. Ford had advised brown that the neighbors had
called police and that they were with Robyn F. Brown had asked Ford if robin F
had provided police with his name. And ford advised him that she had. Brown hung
up the telephone and did not call back.

On Feb. 8, Brown turned himself
in and was given a
copy of the EPO and advised to not contact Robyn.

On Feb. 17 Ford advised the affiant that she had received text messages
from … a number that Ford recognized as belonging to Brown. In the text message
Brown apologized for what he had done to Robin F. and advised Ford he was going
to get help.

THIS is what Rihanna's face looked like after Chris Brown allegedly finished slamming her head into a window and punching her repeatedly with his right fist. You can see the bruising on her neck where he allegedly choked her with both his hands, although you cannot see her bitten left ear or the bitten middle and ring fingers on her left hand, or the numerous contusions on her arms and legs.

According to the media, the couple reunited at the Miami Beach vacation home of Sean Combs over the weekend of February 27, which was presumably long enough for Rihanna's bruising to fade enough so that she could see to make her way to the boarding gate for her flight.

A publicist was quoted as saying: "While Chris is reflective and saddened about what happened, he is really happy to be with the woman he loves."

Reflective and saddened, huh? Aw, that's precious. And I bet he was happy to be with the woman he loves down there in Miami Beach, because not only has she given him the message that it is perfectly okay to allegedly use her face and body as a speed bag and that he can be forgiven for allegedly putting her in the hospital because of the severity of her injuries, he also allegedly had the time to convince her not to press charges against him. Suhhhh-weeeet!!!

Because? Donald Etra, Rihanna's attorney, has stated to the media that the star has refused to file a restraining order that bars Chris Brown from any contact with her in favor of a Level 1 Protective Order, in which the court demands that he refrain from annoying, harassing or molesting his beloved. It also allows Rihanna to record any conversations in which he again (allegedly) threatens to either kill or beat the sh*t out of her and also permits her to video any subsequent beatings. Although how she's going to hold her cell phone camera up while continuing to try to keep him from bashing her head in, I don't know.

So! That Level 1 Protective Order, that'll put the manners on him! Yep, if there's any way to let an allegedly abusive monster know that you have had it up to here with his violence, his need to manipulate and control and his disrespect for you, it's to avoid the restraining order.

Meanwhile, this past Thursday, March 5, Chris Brown was charged with two felonies at the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, one for assault with force likely to cause grave bodily injury and the other for making criminal threats. It is estimated that his sentence could range from probation to four years in jail, with eight months of that being served in a state prison. The state of California could still prefer these charges against him, even if Rihanna decides to drop the case.

On a very disturbing note, Rihanna's father, Ronald Fenty, is claiming to the media that his daughter has changed her email address and mobile phone numbers and that neither he, her mother or her brother can reach her. To that, add the widely-circulated rumor that Rihanna and Chris Brown were married when they spent that weekend in Miami, and it's like you have every single Lifetime Television for Women movie about abusers and the women who love them ever made and a real anti-role model in Rihanna, who just set a horrible example to young women and girls everywhere, worse than anything Britney Spears ever did.

I know it sounds as if I'm more upset by Rihanna that I am by Chris Brown, and I suppose it's true, in a way. I do think he's a pig, and I think it would serve him right if no woman anywhere in the world ever looked at him again, although we all know how unlikely that is. If he is found guilty by a jury of his peers, I hope he gets locked away for the longest possible period of time and I hope he learns his lesson.

But Rihanna....

She could be learning her lesson right now. And she could be teaching it to her many fans. I know she's just a pop star who never set out to be a role model for the young women of America, but with fame comes responsibility -- at least that's my old-fashioned view of things. Not only did she just do her fans a huge disservice, she's done herself an even deeper one.

Because this beating thing? That won't stop. (And it didn't just start, either.) Brown has just been given the GREEN LIGHT to go ahead and do it again, only this time in a more private place where no one will be able to hear his lady-love scream for help like that neighbor did. Rihanna's taken him back and she's refused to file a restraining order and that's probably all the information that any abuser needs to know that his actions are acceptable.

So Meelyn and Aisling and I sat down yesterday and I read them the entire police report and showed them the pictures of Rihanna's battered face.

I told them that she took Chris Brown back. And I told them that he was "reflective and saddened" by what he'd done, and I told them that that is all part of the abuser's pattern: start out small, maybe with a little slap. If that's accepted (usually in the manner of saying to the victim, "Why do you make me do things like that to you? If you didn't act like that, I wouldn't have hit you"), he'll know he can continue to escalate the violence and pretty soon, a victim might find her face being shoved into a wall or a rib being broken or teeth being knocked out of her head.

I told them that although the LA district attorney had charged Brown with two felonies, Rihanna had declined to file a restraining order.

I also told them that I'd been visiting different websites frequented by young people, reading the things they've been saying about Rihanna and Chris and observing the answers given in different message boards and online polls. I've been dumbstruck by the number of girls and women who say that Rihanna needs to give Chris another chance; that everyone "has a bad day" or "makes a mistake" now and then. You'd have to see for yourself.

In a March 2, 2009 Access Atlanta poll, 66.11% of respondents answered "No way!" to the question "Should Rihanna take Chris Brown back," while 8.89% answered "Yes, definitely." But a startling 20.33% said, "Yes, with certain conditions," while 4.66% advised the star to "Hold out for more diamonds."

On the message board site Gaia Online (which you'd think, from the name, would be most supportive of women), poster DiamondWings23 posted the following message: "This thread is for all the fans of Chris Brown who still love him. I know what he did was wrong. But don't people make mistakes all the time? I mean, that's part of being human. All of us should not hate Chris Brown or Rihanna because we don't know the whole story. So, please don't post in this thread and say "I hate Chris Brown!" or "I hate Rihanna!" This thread is for those who still love and forgive Chris Brown."


Thankfully, many of the people who responded went ahead and said they hated him anyway, or had at least lost all their respect for him and would never buy a single note of his music, ever again, which sounded a bit more hopeful. A few people bluntly came out and said, "Why would you support violent behavior?" Why, indeed? And where, in our culture, have we gone so wrong that there are people out there -- young people -- who think that beating a woman's face against a window and punching her until blood sprays all over her clothes and the interior of the car is a "mistake," one of those things that just happens through absent-mindedness, like forgetting to pick up the dry cleaning on the way home?

As we ended our conversation, I read the girls this list taken from the book Love, Sex and God: Ages 14 - Young Adult from Concordia Publishing House (1995):

"How Can I Tell When I'm in an Abusive Relationship?

Does your dating partner...

  • get angry easily and often?
  • handle anger by destroying things or treating people roughly?
  • constantly put you down?
  • frequently embarrass you in front of your friends?
  • brag about previous girlfriends/boyfriends?
  • insist on making decisions that affect both of you?
  • try to stop you from ordinary socializing with friends, visiting your family, or talking with the other sex?
  • use threats to make you do what he/she wants? (I'll leave you; I'll tell everyone your secret; I'll hit you again; I'll kill myself.)
  • make you feel you deserve to be punished or abused?
  • isolate you from people who really care about you?
  • get so upset when you express a different opinoon that you always give in, just to keep peace?

If you said yes to even one of the above questions, you are in an abusive relationship and need to get help. If you do nothing, things will almost surely get worse. Don't even think about marrying a person who treats you badly. You deserve to have a relationship of equality and love, not one of dependence and fear."

I hope Meelyn and Aisling will never need this list. I wish I could send it to Rihanna, who is in a position to know firsthand -- or maybe "firstfist" would be a better term -- just how brightly colored these red flags are.

I hope all the young women will stay safe and respect themselves enough to know that a beating is not a mistake. Neither is a slap, a push or a threat.

The mistake is in staying with someone who does those things.

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