On April 8th, IMDB.com posted a news blurb in which Dynasty star Joan Collins warned pop star Rihanna against returning to her ex-boyfriend, celebrity Chris Brown, who is charged with assaulting and threatening her (Rihanna).
Rihanna and Brown are involved in one of the most high profile instances of teen dating violence in recent history, and the relationship abuse has sparked discussions among teachers and parents of how to explain the issue of intimate partner violence to their children. The case has also revealed societal attitudes about relationship abuse.
For example, in this news blurb, Joan Collins, who has been married five times (eesh), says:
I made a few mistakes but one of the things that I would say to a girl like Rihanna is never go back to a man who hits you. Never, ever. Any man who hits you once will hit you again. No man has ever hit me. They know I wouldn’t tolerate it for one second.
The beginning of this quotation is very strong and clear: abusers don’t magically stop abusing. I agree with Collins that Rihanna shouldn’t get back together with Brown. But unlike Collins, I understand that it is very difficult to leave an abuser, and therefore, should Rihanna decide to go back to Brown, I will not think less of her, and I would encourage other people to remain supportive of her.
Why wouldn’t people be supportive of her? Probably because of attitudes like the bolded portion of Collins’ quotation (emphasis mine). There is this ridiculous attitude that abusers won’t abuse unless they’re given a chance, and if you, the victim, don’t give them a chance, then they won’t hurt you. Joan Collins mistakenly believes that she was never physically abused because her partners “knew” she wouldn’t put up with it. While this idea might sound empowering (“I’m just too strong to be abused!”), it’s incredibly damaging for victims of violence, and it’s also false security.
If you assume that you won’t be hurt or abused unless you “let” someone hurt you, you might miss warning signs of abuse or other dangerous behaviors. And if you’re hurt or abused after “not letting” someone hurt you, then who might you blame for the abuse? This attitude reinforces the idea that the victim is to blame for her own abuse or assault.
Joan Collins, it’s great that you recognize that abusers don’t change. But you might want to brush up on the rest of Relationship Abuse 101.