Charita Goshay: Teen angst shouldn't include violence, abuse
If you’re older than 50, Robyn Rihanna Fenty may be the most famous person you’ve never heard of. She’s a fashionista and pop-music princess who became a star at 16. Young girls hang on her every outfit change, every wild-child hairdo and music video.
Let’s hope they also will take notice of her warning.
Rihanna, now 20, has become a symbol, the unfortunate result of being beaten up in February by her boyfriend and fellow pop star Chris Brown.
Brown’s personal demons and penchant for roughing up Rihanna were obscured by his all-American good looks and talent — so much so that some of Brown’s female fans argued that Rihanna got what she deserved.
In speaking publicly about the abuse for the first time since the incident, Rihanna confessed to being ashamed for repeatedly reconciling with Brown, who she claims had assaulted her before, the worst incident being the final time, when he bit and bludgeoned her on a Los Angeles street in February.
Love and fear
When it comes to bad relationships, love and fear are the two leading causes of blindness. Admitting as much, Rihanna said she broke free from Brown out of concern that she was sending a wrong and dangerous message to her young fans, particularly girls.
There’s a presumption that celebrities are somehow immune to the kind of naiveté that would lead a 20-year-old down the path of an abusive relationship. But at 20, you lack just enough life experience to mistake jealousy and abuse for passion.
It’s actually a wonder that such incidents don’t occur more often. Our children are being force-fed a daily diet of violent and sexual images, by our own hand. After all, no teenager owns a TV network or radio station. Any kid these days will tell you they’re being pressed to behave and dress like they know what they’re doing, even when they don’t, and heaven help you if you’d rather just act your age.
In Richmond, Calif., a 16-year-old witness to the gang rape of a 15-year-old girl admitted he didn’t seek help because not being labeled a “snitch” was more important than helping another human being.
In what world does a teenage boy get the idea that it’s OK not only to watch such an atrocity, as if it were some video game, but also to absolve oneself of responsibility for stopping it?
How does such a disconnect from one’s own humanity occur?
We know and understand that secrecy is the lifeblood of the teen experience. As a result, abuse among young couples barely elicits a blip of concern until something extreme happens. According to the National Domestic Abuse Hotline, 33 percent of teens of both genders have experienced some form of abuse in a relationship, from name-calling to stalking. Twelve percent say they have endured physical abuse, including rape.
We know of Rihanna’s incident because of her celebrity. But teens and young adults who aren’t rich and famous, who lack self-confidence or familial support, who don’t get to tell their story to Diane Sawyer, are being beaten, bullied and even killed every day.
If you or someone you know is in the throes of a violent or obsessive relationship, GET HELP.
Talk to a parent, a teacher, a counselor or even your local police department. You also may contact the National Domestic Violence 24-hour Hotline at (800) 799-7233, or visit www.ndvh.org.
Charita Goshay writes for The Repository in Canton, Ohio. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.