It is irrational to return to danger.
I didn’t believe that it was her. She had cuts on her lips, bruises on her face and her eye. What happened to the sexy, sassy, beautiful girl? But, it was her, Robyn Fenty. In February 2009, the picture of her injured face, stemming from the attack of her then boyfriend, Chris Brown, was everywhere. While driving home after a party, the two got into an argument after Rihanna saw a text message in Brown’s phone; it was from a woman whom he had a previous sexual relationship with. Their argument escalated to Brown punching Rihanna and banging her head against the passenger window. According to court documents, Rihanna called her assistant and left a voicemail saying “I am on my way home. Make sure the cops are there when I get there.” This infuriated Brown to which he responded with, “You just did the stupidest thing ever! Now I’m really going to kill you. I’m going to beat the shit out of you when we get home…” Brown placed Rihanna into a headlock, punched her and choked her; eventually he restricted her breathing and caused her to start to lose consciousness.
This highly publicized incident wasn’t the first. They were involved in at least two other domestic violence incidents before this one. Brown pled guilty to felony assault from this February attack and was sentenced to five years of probation and six months of community labor. Some said that Rihanna deserved the beating because of her volatile personality. Others stood firm that no matter what Rihanna said or did, that Brown should have never put his hands on her.
About three years after the incident, in 2012, Rihanna got back together with Brown. She opened up about her decision in an interview: “I was that girl. That girl who felt that as much pain as this relationship is, maybe some people are built stronger than others. Maybe I’m one of those people built to handle s–t like this…” Towards the end of that year, the couple ended their relationship again.
That same year, I was working as a reporter, following countless legal cases. For weeks, I was focused on the outcome of a domestic violence story on baseball player, Manny Ramirez. In September 2011, he was charged with misdemeanor domestic battery-accused of slapping his wife, Juliana Ramirez. In her 911 call, she told the dispatcher that her husband struck her face and head. Manny Ramirez told investigators that he only grabbed his wife by the shoulders during an argument and “shrugged” her which caused her to hit her head on the headboard of their bed. The case progressed to March 2012. Aiming to be the first to break this story, I called the State Attorney office multiple times a day. And every day, for several times a day, the press officer gave me the same update, which was, “no updates.” Every time I heard that update, I was one step closer to giving up. I started to question the return value of my chase and was having a hard time generating new small talk topics.
Then, one morning, I received an e-mail. It was from Handy, offering me an hour of free cleaning service. Naturally, I booked an appointment. Then, moments later, I received an e-mail from the State Attorney office, stating that Ramirez’s case had been dismissed due to insufficient evidence and lack of cooperation from the victim. I spilled my coffee, called my boss and verified a credential and within the next ten minutes, Thirty Mile Zone published its first exclusive story of the day: Manny Ramirez Off The Hook in Domestic Violence Case. That day, I left work with a big smile, savoring my victory and bundles of praises from colleagues. I could care less about the real issue. All I cared about was the glory.
A few days later, I was talking to an officer from the Los Angeles Police Department, and with intent to insert small talk content I casually mentioned the outcome of Ramirez’s case. He said he was not surprised because from his past experiences, it was very common for a woman to return to her abusive partner. Women changed their mind, got soft, started to feel bad and regretted calling the police so they became uncooperative with the police. As a result, they were forced to drop the charges.
What he said surprised me, a lot. Why would anyone go back to terror, to someone who harmed them? This someone wasn’t just anyone, he was supposed to be your companion, someone who cared for you and loved you. Not fully convinced, I asked Siri. She read me the statistics: about 85 percent of women in abusive relationships return; and it takes about seven times, on average, for a woman to return to an abusive relationship before she leaves for good.
And you can see my heart, beating,
You can see it through my chest
I’m terrified but I’m not leaving
In September 2014, a video surfaced the internet, showing back in February, Baltimore Raven football player, Ray Rice and his then fiancée, Janay Palmer hitting each other in a hotel elevator. Rice eventually knocked Palmer off her feet and into a railing, then dragged her out of the elevator into the hotel. Raven was indicted on third degree aggravated assault. Later, Rice’s attorney stated, “neither Rice nor Palmer wants to move forward with the case.” The two got married a month after the physical altercation. In May 2015, the judge dismissed the charges and stated that Raven successfully completed his pretrial intervention. The prosecutor agreed with the dismissal, after he reviewed the situation and consulted with Palmer.
Some criticized Palmer’s decision to marry Rice after the incident. Hashtag WhyIStayed quickly surfaced the internet; women used it to explain why they went back to their abuser and why they should not be judged. Some tweets were, “b/c he never hit me and I didn’t think verbal abuse and emotional manipulation was considered an abusive relationship,” “My mom had 3 young kids, a mortgage, and a PT job. My dad had a FT paycheck, our church behind him, and bigger fists,” “He said he would change. He promised it was the last time. I believed him. He lied.”
Say a prayer, to yourself
He says, close your eyes
Sometimes it helps
I had never seen my parents behave violently towards each other. Nor had I been through any myself. I could not imagine the effects such exposure would have on anyone. About 104 years ago, I had a boyfriend whose parents had an unhealthy marriage. He told me his mom was afraid of leaving his dad even though he mistreated her. He asked me once, “Do you know what it feels like to watch your dad curse at your mom?” No. I did not. And, I didn’t know what else to say except that she should divorce his ass, like now. He said his mom was afraid to be on her own. His constant exposure to his parents’ toxic relationship worried me. What if one day he did the same to me like his dad did to his mom? Chris Brown had seen his stepfather get violent with his mom. He said he never imagined in a million years that he’d do the same to Rihanna. Although I couldn’t prove that seeing and doing had causation, I was still concerned. This time I did not ask Siri, I asked my mom.
She told me there were only two situations when a man will physically harm you and neither of them was applicable to me. One was that you are incapable of fighting back and another was if you provoked uncontrollable rage. She said before a man decides to hurt you, he already has a rough idea of the possible consequences. Fighting back did not imply you had the physical strength to fight back, but that you had the financial independence, support from your family and friends, and power from your societal ties, so that if he did hurt you, he will face detrimental consequences and pay a cost not worth the move.
And you can see my heart, beating,
Now you can see it through my chest
Said I’m terrified but I’m not leaving, no!