Chris Brown shocked the world on February 8, 2009, ahead of the 51st Annual Grammy Awards after severely beating then-girlfriend and pop-heavyweight Rihanna. Three years later, fresh off a return to the Grammy stage (and the award for Best R&B Album to go with it), Brown has shocked yet again — this time by teaming up with Rihanna on a pair of remixes. Fan reactions have been split; some celebrated their reunion, while others reacted in disbelief. Teen dating abuse prevention experts, however, are far from celebrating the new music.
“I can’t comment on their relationship only they can. But [their collaborations are] incredibly disturbing,” Jane Randel, director of Love Is Not Abuse, tells MTV Act.
The pair of songs was released yesterday (Rihanna’s 24th birthday). The first, tweeted by Chris Brown to Rihanna, was a remix of her song “Birthday Cake.” Rihanna tweeted to Chris Brown their second collaboration minutes later — a remix of his hit “Turn Up The Music.”
“The lyrics ['Birthday Cake'] alone are disturbing. The song is fairly explicit, but what’s most disturbing is the background knowledge from what was reported,” she said about their reunion in song. “The lyrics sung by him are very difficult to listen to. And it’s super disturbing from a parent’s perspective because their children look up to these two.” In the song, Chris Brown opens his first verse with the lyric: “Girl I wanna f*** you right now. Been a long time, I been missing your body.”
Rihanna had reunited with Brown before, only months after the dispute. But it didn’t last long.
“When I realized my selfish decision for love could result in a young girl getting killed, I could not be easy with that,” Rihanna told Diane Sawyer in a November 2009 interview. “Even if Chris never hit me again, who is to say that their boyfriend won’t? Who’s to say that they won’t kill these girls?”
Photo: Diane Sawyer interviews Rihanna. (ABC/Ida Mae Astute)
It can take a woman up to 7 times on average to leave an abusive relationship because of the role power and control plays in the relationship, according to Randel. Rita Smith, the executive director for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, echoed the sentiment to MTV News saying that it’s “not surprising because many victims get back with their abusers, even after an assault. They love them, they think they change, and abusers are particularly good at convincing you they’ve changed.”
Some fans argue that Rihanna and Chris have grown since 2009, and if they have gotten over it, we all should, too — a sentiment that doesn’t sit well with experts like Randel. “To see people be so dismissive of what happened is distressing,” she said. “It makes me think that nothing has really been ‘learned’ from the situation.
“What we know is that teens and young people don’t understand what a healthy relationship looks and feels like,” she added, “and something like [Rihanna and Chris' collaborations] gives us an opportunity to start that conversation. If there is any benefit to be gained from this situation it’s that it gives people the opportunity to discuss something that often seems so hard talking about. It gives us a teachable moment.”
Test Your Knowledge
How much do you know about teen dating abuse? Let Love Is Not Abuse help you raise your IQ.
February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. Download this awareness toolkit from Love Is Respect.