Rihanna, Chris Brown, and Domestic Violence

Over the past few weeks, the domestic violence charges filed against Chris Brown have been covered in the media. On Feb. 8, 2009, Mr. Brown was accused of assaulting a woman in an argument. The Los Angeles Police Department later revealed that the woman was his girlfriend, pop singer Rihanna. Later, the LAPD leaked a photo of Rihanna taken after the altercation, showing her bruised face, to the gossip site TMZ.

There are many levels to this story and the narrative of how domestic violence plays out in the media, particularly when the people involved in the story are famous. We’re not interested in pointing fingers and commenting on an investigation still underway. But there are lessons to be extracted from this situation.

This story shows that domestic violence occurs across income levels, age, popularity, race, or family status. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PDF), 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. This story also demonstrates that young women (Rihanna was 20 at the time of the assault) are not immune to domestic violence; according to the NCADV, women ages 20-24 are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence. And, based on the police releasing Rihanna’s name and leaking her photo, it shows that we have a long way to go with how domestic violence cases, especially high-profile ones, are treated in the legal system.

Domestic violence is never acceptable. And the victims of domestic violence are never to blame for what their abusers do. If you are experiencing domestic violence, or someone you know is, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). It is free and confidential, and open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, in over 170 languages. The NDVH website also has helpful information about getting out of an abusive situation.

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The Women's Law Project creates a more just and equitable society by advancing the rights and status of all women throughout their lives. To this end, we engage in high-impact litigation, advocacy, and education.
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