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: http://ontheflix.com/2009/11/07/rihanna-full-2020-interview-gets-released-online/)
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.
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.