In Defense of Rihanna

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10:  Chris Brown and Rihanna attend the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on February 10
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Chris Brown and Rihanna attend the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on February 10, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for NARAS)

The Internet is abuzz about all things Chris Brown and Rihanna -- as per usual --and not only does everyone seem to have something to say, but people are quick to criticize and pass judgment on Rihanna for "forgiving" and getting back together with Brown.

For the first time, Chris Brown officially acknowledged his reunion with Rihanna in an interview with the Mirror at Elton John's Academy Awards Viewing Party. "That night was the deepest regret of my life, the biggest mistake," he said. "But she loves me, what can I say? I'm forgiven."

In addition to their recent reconciliation as a couple, Law and Order: SVU aired an episode that seems pretty clearly based on the celebs' romantic relationship.

People seem to be ignorant to fully understanding the dynamics of abusive relationships both in general and specifically when it comes to these instances in the public eye. There's something the world needs to realize, and the quicker we all come to terms with this fact the better off we'll all be.

Nothing Rihanna has done in this situation is wrong -- absolutely nothing -- and by continuing to say she's a "bad role model," "bad girl," and "rebel," the cycle of victim blaming is only perpetuated further.

The judgment needs to stop. Now.

Zerlina Maxwell challenged critics of Rihanna's decision in a Feministing post, "Rihanna going back to Chris Brown doesn't make her a 'bad girl.'" In it she wrote:

Rihanna's reconciliation with her abuser does not make her a "bad girl." Rihanna returning to her abuser makes her just like many other women who have been victimized who return to their abusers multiple times before they are able to walk away completely.

Back in 2011, Glamour Magazine released the results of an exclusive survey centered specifically around young women -- from the ages 18 to 35 -- and relationship violence. The study found that over 60 percent of all young women have experienced abuse: 62 percent reported some kind of physical violence and 94 percent recounted forms of emotional abuse.

The survey also revealed that "love" was the top answer when asked why they had not left abusive partners.

Is it heartbreaking and sad to see them together? Of course it is, in the same way it hurts to see people in real life -- who don't appear on red carpets and in tabloids -- fall into dangerous situations. It's an awkward and confusing position to be in as fans of Rihanna and spectators in the life she reveals to the general public, but placing blame on her simply isn't helpful. In fact, it's problematic.

Ann Friedman explained how the rest of us can grapple with these complex feelings in an interview with Katie Ray-Jones, president of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, for an article titled "Why Hating Chris Brown Isn't the Same As Supporting Rihanna." Ray-Jones encouraged fans to not pass judgment because it can cause more harm than good.

"If that's what she wants to do, and she feels he's changed, that's her choice. And we can't control her choice, because then we're no better than he is."

Friedman went on to say, "That's true in every domestic violence situation, but it's even more true when the woman in question is a celebrity. Most of us -- Oprah included -- are Rihanna's distant fans, not her personal friends. We have no right to tell her what to do."

There's no doubt Chris Brown is a troubled individual and has aggressive tendencies -- his violent behavior has never been an isolated incident but is indicative of an abusive nature. But having disdain for Breezy doesn't have to be intrinsically linked to a similar disdain for Rihanna's choice to be romantically involved with him.

When you judge Rihanna for getting back together with Brown, you're victim blaming. When you say Rihanna's a bad role model for younger women, you're victim blaming. When you say things like "she should know better" and "why doesn't she just leave him?" you're victim blaming.

There are more important -- and directly relevant -- things to take up an issue with when it comes to domestic violence and relationship abuse instead of reprimanding Rihanna for getting back together with Chris Brown.

The Violence Against Women Act took forever to reauthorize after months of limbo; a student at UNC will possibly be expelled after filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, claiming UNC violated the rights of sexual assault survivors and didn't assist them after reporting abuse; and our own government officials are saying things like, "Some people could make the argument that a lot of people like being in abusive relationships."

We need to shift our priorities and dialogue, individually and collectively, when it comes to violence against women in our culture. And we also need to leave Rihanna alone.