By Jessica Walsh
Chris Brown’s recent appearance on the Grammy’s, and the subsequent release of two collaborative tracks featuring Chris Brown and Rihanna, have sparked new conversation about the incident of abuse that happened 3 years ago. We are encouraging everyone to talk to the young people in their lives about the Chris Brown and Rihanna case for two reasons.
To begin with, most young people are aware of the situation and hold a lot of misconceptions about what happened (and about dating violence in general, for that matter). Take this opportunity to make sure they have the facts and aren’t harboring false “reasons” for why the incident occurred or false understandings of the severity of this case and of dating violence in general.
Additionally, teens are at high risk for experiencing dating violence — a staggering 1 in 3 adolescent girls in the U.S. is a victim of abuse by their dating partner. And yet nearly three-quarters of teens indicate that their parents have not talked to them about relationships in the past year.
So if you decide to use these new songs as an opportunity to talk to a young person about dating violence, here are some questions & conversation starters to help you out:
- Start with an open-ended question, like “What do you think about the Chris Brown & Rihanna incident?” Listen for misconceptions, and ask follow up questions to probe more into your teen’s thought process.
- Rumors circulated after the incident regarding what Rihanna had “done” to provoke Brown. Ask your teen if they think there is ever a justification for relationship abuse. Don’t be afraid to challenge their thinking a bit by giving specific examples. Ultimately, we want to stress that there is NEVER an excuse for abuse, but it can be more effective if they come up to the conclusion on their own.
- Consider reading through the police report from this incident with your teen. It is hard to do, and that is precisely the point. One commentator recently said that our girls “need to realize that abusers can be cute — some can even sing and dance — but they’re still abusers. There’s nothing cute about what they’re doing.” Reading through this ugly incident in detail can open up a conversation about the realities of dating violence, beyond the vagaries presented in popular media.
- Share with them that many young women were posting messages on Twitter during the Grammy’s such as “Chris Brown can beat me anytime.” Discuss why they think a young person might say something like this. Be sure to ask if they have heard sentiments like this expressed by their peers. Ask how they might respond if they heard something like this in the future.
- Don’t be afraid to address the rumors that the two may be getting back together. Take the opportunity to talk about how common it is for victims to return to their abusers. Share with your teen the barriers to leaving an abusive relationship and the cycle of violence. Stress that just because someone goes back does not mean that past abuse was not serious or that the victim deserves future abuse.
- Make sure your teen knows who they can talk to if they or someone they know is in an abusive relationship. Recognize that they may be uncomfortable coming to you directly at first, so brainstorm other trusting adults they might go to. Ask them how they would want you to respond if they came to you with a situation like this, and what reactions would prevent them from coming to you.
Ultimately, by simply opening the door to non-judgmental conversations about relationships, you are increasing the likelihood that your teen will come to you if s/he or someone they know is in trouble.