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“Look for the girl with the broken smile
Ask her if she wants to stay awhile
And she will be loved”
- Maroon 5, “She Will Be Loved”
Lowering her eyes, the young lady, still a teenager, turned away, trying to conceal the evidence: But it was unmistakably there. The marks on her face were painful reminders; she had indeed become another girl with a broken smile.
Like thousands of other victims of domestic violence, her bruises would heal, but the scars on her heart would last a lifetime.
The statistics on women’s abuse are shocking: Nearly one in four women in the United States reports experiencing violence by a current or former spouse or boyfriend at some point in her life; 84 percent of spouse abuse victims are women; and on average, more than three women a day are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in the United States.
Apparently, patterns of domestic violence frequently begin early in a woman’s life. Females ages 16-24 are almost three times more vulnerable to intimate partner violence than any other age group. And nearly one-half of adult sex offenders report committing their first sexual offense prior to the age of 18.
And just in case you’re wondering, it’s not just a heterosexual problem. In a study of gay, lesbian, and bisexual adolescents, youths involved in same-sex dating are just as likely to experience dating violence as youths involved in opposite sex dating.
That’s why the news that pop artists Rihanna and Chris Brown are releasing new duets is so disturbing. It’s sending a wrong message to their impressionable followers. “Domestic violence is just another new normal,” their actions seem to indicate. “It’s not perfect, but it’s okay: Learn to live with it,” the unspoken message appears to convey.
No one should learn to live with domestic violence. Until that problem is resolved, the relationship should be placed on hold.
Three years ago we viewed that leaked photograph of Rihanna’s bruised and bloodied face, her smile broken by the savage blows from the hands of her then boyfriend, Chris Brown. It’s difficult to get that image out of the mind, no matter how attractive their new music may be.
Of course, Chris Brown deserves another chance. Maybe he has been transformed. It’s certainly possible. Perhaps he has worked through his anger issues and has come to terms with how he can better control himself.
But we have reason to doubt. Only last March he reportedly lost his temper, yelled at a TV producer and shattered a window in the green room during an interview on Good Morning America.
And there are reports alleging that the assault three years ago was not the first time Brown and Rihanna had a physical fight.
Patterns can be broken, but it’s not easy, and it usually doesn’t happen quickly, if it happens at all.
Why then would Rihanna, or anyone, even think about reconciling with an abusing partner? Rihanna herself sang the provocative lyrics with Eminem in the 2010 song, “Love the Way You Lie,” about a woman who keeps believing a man who promises he’ll never hurt her again. “Just gonna stand there and watch me burn/Well that’s alright cause I like the way it hurts,” Rihanna sang.
“We can never ignore the fact that many abused women actually love the men who hit them because the men who hit them don’t always hit them,” thestar.com quotes Dr. Walter DeKeseredy as saying. DeKeseredy, professor of criminology at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, has been researching domestic violence for 25 years
It’s a dangerous cycle that can result in death. The same week that Rihanna and Chris were rumored to be reuniting, former University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely V was found guilty of second-degree murder in the 2010 death of his ex-girlfriend. Theirs was reportedly an abusive relationship.
Rihanna and Chris Brown aren’t the problem; they are only representative of a violent subculture that is increasingly growing more and more calloused to violence in many forms.
They deserve better, if only they would demand it.
As the young lady, still a teenager, walked away, maybe she hopes she will find love, or that love will find her, a true love that will not only heal a broken smile but unbreak a broken heart in a place where she can stay awhile, a safe place, a place where love can blossom, a place where she will be loved. Truly.
Editor’s note: Contact David B. Whitlock, Ph.D., at davidbwhitlock.com or visit his website, www.Davidbwhitlock.com.