In 2009, pop star Rihanna was seriously assaulted by her then-boyfriend, Chris Brown.
The world was quite rightly horrified by the reports; worried for the physical and psychological welfare of the entertainer.
Amongst those who expressed their fears for Rihanna’s wellbeing was the world’s best known television presenter, Oprah. During an episode of her talk show, Oprah looked directly into the camera and sent a message to Rihanna. “Give it some time, get yourself some counselling… Love doesn’t hurt. If a man hits you once, he will hit you AGAIN.”
Three years on, Oprah and Rihanna have appeared together for a lengthy interview on Oprah’s new show - Oprah’s Next Chapter.
Take a look. It makes for compelling – and thought-provoking – viewing.
It’s hard to watch, in fact it makes you feel almost a little squeamish to see this independent, smart and successful young woman talk about her feelings for a man who beat her so viciously she had to be hospitalised.
But the truth is that it isn’t unusual for a woman who has been assaulted by her partner to come to forgive him. It makes you wonder though, what about Rihanna’s friends and family? While she may still love Chris and feel sympathy for him and protective of him – how must they feel about him?
We asked television personality and Ambassador for White Ribbon Australia Andrew O’Keefe to share his thoughts with us. Here is what he had to say:
Many women don’t want their abusive partner to be punished, but simply want the abuse to stop. The problem is that, in the absence of serious consequences, the abuse often doesn’t stop at all. Violence is a learned behaviour and anything that reinforces the acceptability of violence will only encourage it.
I have never seen an adequate apology from Brown, nor heard of any serious attempts to reconstitute his thought or behaviour in light of what occurred in his relationship with Rhianna.
In fact, his latest album, which is full of misogynistic bragadoccio, shows just how little he has learnt since then, as well as a complete absence of empathy with women or understanding of his own role in perpetuating violence against them.
Until Brown really owns up to what he has done, and genuinely seeks to change, I believe Rhianna is selling short her own dignity by continuing to publicly support him.
Of course, love runs deep, and forgiveness is one the greatest virtues, but while we may forgive the person, we should not forgive the crime until amends have been made. As the old adage goes, “love the sinner, hate the sin”.
Now, while it’s a big responsibility to carry, people like Rhianna do have a responsibility to stand up against violence for their own sake and for the sake of all who have been its victims. And those who love her and care about her have a responsibility to ensure that she can see Chris Brown’s actions for what they are. That doesn’t mean she shouldn’t love him.
It simply means she must demand that he truly loves her in return.
There is no place for violence in love. Never, ever.
What do you think? Could you forgive the partner of someone you loved, if you knew that abuse had been a part of their relationship in the past? Would your opinion change if the person you loved had forgiven or even reconciled with their formerly abusive partner?
If this post brings up any issues for you, contact 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or go to their website. They are the national sexual assault and domestic family violence counselling service.
White Ribbon is Australia’s campaign to stop violence against women. You can donate to them here or, better still, get all the men in your life to take their oath to never commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women.
Managing Editor’s Note: We have unfortunately had to close comments on this post because of the nature of the comments, which included unnecessary and unfair attacks on Rihanna. Jamila