Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Rihanna Has Fame, But Her Story's the Same As Other Victims

I’m excited about the second installment of the From the Front Line blog. I had started to put my thoughts together for this blog when I learned that Rihanna was going to be interviewed by Diane Sawyer and I decided to watch the interview and go from there. (Watch Rihanna's interview with Diane Sawyer in its entirety:

I asked my 9 year old daughter, Chloe, to watch it with me. She and I have had many conversations about domestic violence in terms of what it is, why it happens and what I do on a daily basis. I have tried to instill in her the need for her to always have her own voice; that she is her own person and no one can take that away from her.

So we sat down as a family and watched and listened as Rihanna told her story. I listened as a mother and thought about how I will talk to my child about dating violence. I listened as a woman and felt so much empathy for this young, confused woman. I listened as an advocate who is trying everyday to help people end the violence in their lives. I had different emotions as I wore those many hats.

As a mother, I want my daughter to learn from Rihanna—to hear her struggles and how it wasn’t easy for her to come to realize that it wasn’t her fault. I want her to learn that no matter who you are, it can happen to you. I want her to realize that just because her mother runs a domestic violence agency, that doesn’t mean she won’t someday find herself in a situation that is abusive.

Wearing the hat of the CEO of Hope House, I was struck by how Rihanna’s story was the same story I have heard from the women who I have worked with for the last 17 years. Her story was a classic example of domestic violence:

1) She’d experienced and witnessed abuse as a child.

2) Her abuser witnessed domestic violence as a child, which put him at greater risk to one day abuse.

3) She felt guilty. She feared for his safety. She needed to make sure he would be OK. All which led her to go back to him.

4) She felt helpless, with no one to turn to for help.

5) She was in denial that anything like this had happened before, minimizing previous incidents as “just a shove”—not many shoves, not really abuse.

6) She felt shame that the attack had happened at all.

Rihanna’s story is the same as all of those who have been impacted by domestic violence. Despite her fame and her fortune and her thousands of fans, she was still alone; alone with her feelings of helplessness, shame, hurt, betrayal, and continued love for the man who caused it all.

My heart went out to Rihanna as I watched her. She is determined to move on, and to make a difference in the lives of young girls who look up to her; who see her as a role model. She wants to use her experience to make sure that it doesn’t happen to someone else.

I hope and pray that she and others who have experienced domestic violence continue to find the strength they need to put themselves first; to feel that they deserve a relationship of respect and equality, without violence; that their voices will be heard no matter what.

This is what drives me everyday.


  1. Wow....powerful post. Well done. Love the blog.

  2. All of that was great, but I add one more element. I add that it's *wrong* for a man (or other person) to assume they can simply take what they want, when they want and if they don't get their own way, then dish out either verbal abuse or worse, physical abuse. I make sure I tell my young daughter that it is the responsibility of the other person to change themselves, that she can't change other people. To walk away when she recognises abusive behaviour and to never, ever, think that it is something she has done, or needs to change in herself to make the behaviour of the other person stop (or change).

  3. Rod, thanks for the positive feedback! Lynn, you are absolutely correct. There's never an acceptable reason for abuse whether it's dished out by a man or a woman. The advice you're giving your daughter is great! That's the kind of thinking we're trying to encourage through this blog. Thanks for following us!

  4. I agree that this was great; this is my first visit to the blog

  5. Anonymous, thanks so much for joining us! We post every Wednesday so be sure to check back or subscribe. Let your friends know too. Friend to friend is the best way to increase our community's awareness.

  6. Great observations. As someone who received life-changing help from Hope House (with my 3 daughters in 1996) I can attest to the challenges faced by women to stand up and make the hard decisions needed. I will forever be thankful to Hope House staff who worked tirelessly to be there for us and for all the other women and children who were/are in similar situations. They helped give us a voice and the courage to use it, when it may have been "easier" to just return to the cycle of abuse. They helped us walk through the dark and scary path that led us out into the light, and a new life. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  7. Diane, this is EXACTLY why this blog is being written and why Hope House is here! What a wonderful testament to our hardworking staff. I'm constantly amazed by their dedication. I'm so thankful that you and your kids emerged whole from your situation. You should be very proud of the journey you've made. YOU ARE SO STRONG!