Contributed by guest blogger, Robert Diaz, Community Educator
On Valentine’s Day I had the privilege of speaking at a school in Orange County about Teen Dating Abuse. There is a part of my presentation where I talk about how prevalent intimate partner abuse is in the media and in our celebrity culture. I always ask the students to name any famous celebrities who have been involved in intimate partner abuse. For the past three years, Chris Brown and Rihanna have been the first answer given by 99 percent of the students. Whether he likes it or not Chris Brown is this generation’s poster boy for an abuser. As I write this, new reports allege that the couple may even be back together. We should not be surprised by this. On average victims of domestic violence will leave an abusive relationship seven times and go back again before they finally leave for good.
However what was most disturbing about my presentation on Valentine’s Day was that at this particular school, when I asked that question a young man shouted out, “She must have liked the abuse; she’s back together with him.” The assumption that because she may be back together with him means she liked the abuse is absurd but that is what many young people are taking away from recent events.
Back in 2009 right after the pictures of Rihanna with cuts and bruises were leaked, many students, both male and female, would try to defend Chris Brown. Comments like, “well she was cheating on him so she got what she deserved,” or, “I heard that Rihanna started it,” were commonplace. I had hoped that this incident would cause a larger public debate on the topic of teens and abusive relationships, or that we would at least see an increase in education and prevention efforts, but it seems like the opposite happened.
This is why community education is necessary. Working with school districts, in particular school resource officers, is vital. Human Options’ Community Education department has been on the forefront of this issue but, as you can see, it is still an uphill battle.
So before we judge, before we chastise, before we get angry, as an educator, my job is to make sure that we balance what the media says and portrays with education so that we can have a fair and balanced discussion with our youth about healthy and unhealthy relationships.