I hope every girl and young woman in the Cayman Islands saw Rihanna’s recent television interview with Diane Sawyer aired on the ABC program, 20/20. This Caribbean sister, born and raised in Barbados, opened up about the brutal beating ex-boyfriend Chris Brown inflicted on her last February. If you missed the interview, it is available on the ABC News Web site or you can find clips on You Tube. If you are the parent of a daughter, you may want to encourage her to watch it. If you have a son, he might benefit from watching it as well.
It is so easy for young people to ignore the constant chatter from adults that comes their way. On important topics such as drug abuse, speeding, education, and so on, they often feel like they have heard it all before and can afford to tune it out. Many young people, drowning in this endless deluge of advice and demands, probably grow numb to it all. Unfortunately, adults tend to be out of touch with young people and mistakenly relate everything to how it was rather than how it is. Like generals fighting the last war instead of the current war, many adults fail to adapt and grow with the times. The price for this is often a tragic failure to communicate, no matter how important the message. Therefore it is important for young people when one of their own, in this case a talented and ultra-successful singer, offers wise words they need to hear. Rihanna’s emotional and revealing interview qualifies as one of the best available declarations against violence in romantic relationships for today’s young people.
In short, Rihanna’s message was that she had been stupid. Love had blinded her to the fact that she was attempting to accept the unacceptable. She said that it’s wrong for a woman to do what she had done. No woman should let a man commit violence upon her only to respond with second chances. Earlier in their relationship she reacted to Brown shoving her against a wall by giving him a second chance. Then she responded to the severe February beating by giving him another chance. To her credit, however, this time around something finally switched on in her mind. She opened her eyes and said goodbye. Further amplifying her words in the ABC interview, she did not seem angry or bitter towards Brown. She appeared only to be enlightened, unwilling to live her life as a punching bag in the name of love.
Rarely do pop stars open up in the sincere and meaningful manner Rihanna seemed to in this interview. Of course one never truly knows what is real when it comes to the big-time news media/entertainment machine and the many androids that inhabit that weird world. But I saw nothing to cast doubt on Rihanna’s sincerity during the long interview. To the contrary, I was impressed by her maturity and intelligence. She came across as profoundly wise and sophisticated for a 21 year old. It was a striking moment in pop culture at a time when nearly everything that comes out of the mouths of celebrities is fake, calculated, self-serving, or utterly meaningless. Rihanna’s interview did not have the feel of yet another staged performance by a celebrity who was well coached and in pursuit of a selfish agenda. Sure, she still has albums to sell and image always matters for stars, but if she was faking her words and emotions then she’s clearly in the wrong business. This Bajan beauty should forget singing and take up acting.
One thing about the Chris Brown-Rihanna incident still bugs me. How is it that he got off with probation and no jail time? One look at that widely circulated photo of Rihanna’s battered and swollen face, and I was thinking five- or ten-year sentence at least. Don’t you agree? After all, people get 20 years in prison for getting caught with a bag of marijuana in their car. Shouldn’t smashing another human being’s face with one’s knuckles carry severe consequences too? Imagine if Brown had beaten and strangled a total stranger with the same rage and force he unleashed on Rihanna. Would he still have escaped with only probation? I doubt it. For example, if the victim had been a rich white woman who had no relationship with Brown, and the attack occurred in, say, Texas, he might well be on death row right now. It seems there is still an odd belief lingering out there that suggests a man punching a wife or girlfriend at home or in a car is not quite as bad as a man punching a stranger on a sidewalk. The time for this warped perspective to die is long overdue.
There is no doubt that many girls and women are beaten by boyfriends and husbands in the Cayman Islands. We are no different than most other societies when it comes to this common crime. Our police leaders reportedly believe that domestic violence crimes are significantly underreported here. There is no doubt that some women live in fear every day in the Cayman Islands. Some hide bruises and injuries as they go about their lives. Children who linger in the shadows at home while this madness goes on are traumatized and taught by example that it’s normal to accept violence. Too many little boys learn to hit; too many little girls learn to take hits submissively. We all should do more to condemn and prevent this.
It is, of course, risky for fans to fall under the spell of their idols and emulate them. Very few stars are worthy of it. In the case of Rihanna, however, this is one specific instance when I hope her fans mimic her example to the fullest. Yes girls, if you want to be cool like Rihanna, then take her advice: if a man hits you, leave him and never look back.
If you are a victim of domestic violence or suffer abuse from a boyfriend, call the Cayman Islands Crisis Center’s 24-hour number for help (943-2422). If you would like to support the Crisis Center, phone 949-0366. Their Web address is www.cicc.ky. Guy’s columns appear twice per month in the Observer. Contact him at [email protected]