Rihanna and other abused women on the rebound
Why must they return to the scene of the crime?
That’s a question I’ve wondered about more times than I count: Rihanna has apparently done it (in the past) with Chris Brown, just as Whitney Houston did with ex-husband Bobby—that other infamous Brown. Ditto for Tina Turner, whose escape took 16 years, two more than Houston’s own.
I’ve learned the answer to that question, having returned to the scene myself, many times. But it has nothing to do with wanting to be slapped, punched or shoved around. Nor is it because women like me are gluttons for punishment—though God knows we’ve all experienced doubt and self-blame, questioning whether such gluttony might not be at the root of our need to return.
I don’t know a single woman who likes being battered, including myself. But having been a police reporter, I do know it’s not just criminals who return to the scene of a crime: so do victims, showing a strong emotional bond that onlookers can’t see and don’t understand.
The psychology of returning to a crime scene is different in these cases. For women who have been abused, the desire to regain the upper hand, to walk away with a different ending—on our own terms—is quite strong.
So what’s wrong with that? Well nothing really, except … it rarely happens. Because the truth is, you go back, you get sucked into your bad boy’s cycle, and before you know it, you’re more than bruised and cut. Instead, you’re laying on a cold metal slab that’s moving you into a long cylindrical container used for diagnostic purposes—because, while X-rays can show broken bones, they can’t show serious and sometimes permanent muscle damage. But MRIs and CAT scans can and do.
The cycle of abuse involves the honeymoon phase, which might include flowers, candy or a romantic card over a candlelit meal and promises that it won’t happen again. Worse, it includes all that EXCEPT the promise: Bad-boy-turned-good denies the violence happened at all, or implies, insinuates or outright accuses it of being YOUR fault.
Rihanna is fortunate: she’s still alive. Many, many women, are not. Hopefully she’s learned the lesson other women before her have, and hopefully, it won’t take her several years, like it has so many of her sisters.
So Rihanna, please, please, PLEASE, trust your own reality and listen to your father. Then take a line from one of your hit songs, “Take a Bow,” and don’t forget this is the reality for most batterers: “Don’t tell me you’re sorry ‘cause you’re not … you’re only sorry you got caught.”
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My next book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, comes out November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.
For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.
Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!
Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”