By DeWayne Wickham
When I read the police account of Chris Brown's alleged attack on Rihanna, I thought about what I'd say to my 15-year-old daughter about this guy.
Brown, 19, a soul singer, is a heartthrob for thousands of girls who swoon every time he takes to the stage or his records are played on the radio. When he was 16, The New York Times called him "a fast rising R&B star, “ and, in fact, his career has soared since then. But last week, it nose-dived when Los Angeles persecutors charged him with "assault likely to cause bodily injury and making criminal threats."
Robyn Rihanna Fenty, 21, whose stage name is Rihanna, is an R&B star in her own right. The native of Barbados had been dating Brown for about 18 months when, police said, the attack occurred. It allegedly started when she questioned him about his relationship with another woman. He became enraged and began punching her as he was driving in Hollywood. The blows caused Rihanna's "mouth to fill with blood and blood to splatter all over her clothing and the interior of the vehicle," police said in a court document.
"I'm going to beat the shit out of you when we get home," Brown told Rihanna during his violent rant, according to the police report. They never made it home, but a picture of her badly beaten and swollen face testifies to the brutality of the attack.
Like a lot of young girls, my daughter has followed Brown's career with a puppy-love fascination for the star who, until now, was seen as a clean-cut, good guy in a music business that has more than its share of bad boys.
Some of what I want to tell my daughter I think she already knows, because it has been said in our house before. Still, it's worth repeating. No man should ever physically abuse a woman. And any man who strikes a woman once will almost certainly hit her again, if she doesn't end that relationship as quickly as possible.
What I think my daughter, and millions of other young women, don't know are the hard facts about domestic abuse in this country. She doesn't know that one of every four women will be the victim of domestic abuse; or that women ages 20-24 are at the greatest risk of being beaten by a boyfriend or husband. Domestic abuse is one of this nation's most underreported crimes. I suspect that’s because women are torn between a man's promise that he'll never do it again — and a haunting fear that he will, if they report the attack.
"If you want to know the end, look at the beginning," best-selling author Iyanla Vanzant told me about abusive relationships. "I lived for nine years in an abusive marriage, and the first slap came two years into the marriage; and the second one came three years into the marriage; and by the time I was being beaten every other day I had been married five years and there was always the promise that it would never happen again. He had a second chance 842 times," she said of her abuser.
For most men who abuse women, one second chance is one too many. Brown, while not admitting that he brutally beat Rihanna, issued a statement publicly apologizing for "what transpired.” He also said he's seeking counseling. And that's a good thing. He needs to confront — and defeat — his demons.
But my advice to Rihanna is the same I'd give my daughter in a similar situation: Don't walk away from that man — run.