From the Chicago Tribune:
Ed Loos, a junior at Lake Forest High School, said a common reaction among students to Chris Brown’s alleged attack on Rihanna goes something like this: “Ha! She probably did something to provoke it.” In Chicago, Sullivan High School sophomore Adeola Matanmi has heard the same. “People said, ‘I would have punched her around too,’ ” Matanmi said. “And these were girls!”
As allegations of battery swirl around the famous couple, experts on domestic violence say the response from teenagers just a few years younger shows the desperate need to educate this age group about dating violence.
Quoth Rebecca Traister at Broadsheet:
All these make a useful primer for some of the attitudes that must still be corrected when it comes to domestic violence, chief amongst them that there is any kind of shame or weakness involved in having experienced abuse. [Kiran] Chetry’s question about a “stigma” is one that should have been asked about Chris Brown, not about Rihanna, unless it had been she who was reported to have been the aggressor. The idea that Rihanna would carry any kind of stigma suggests an attitude that she either provoked her own attack or was somehow questionably weak in having allowed herself to sustain injuries or in reporting it to police, or perhaps most distressing, that there is something dirty or embarrassing about having had a partner angry enough to hit you. It perpetuates the myth — one that has clearly been absorbed both by writers like Egan and by high school students — that physical violence in the context of a domestic dispute should or could get boiled down to questions of fault and blame, that the question of “who started it” or what the fight was about could possibly quell or justify the use of physical force. Egan’s resistance to victimhood is nothing new in the history of feminist discourse, but her comparison of her own experience to the reports about Rihanna and Chris Brown reflect an all-too-common misunderstanding of the grave physical and psychological realities of physical violence and how they differ from (admittedly crazy-pants) fighting with your boyfriend.
Then of course there are the Chicago teens, and the vital lessons we must teach our children about abuse of power, and the abuse of physical power, especially when, as the Tribune reports, “1 in 10 teenagers has suffered such abuse and females ages 16 to 24 experience the highest rates of any age group.” Interestingly, the Tribune’s story ends with reports that some teachers are using the Rihanna story as an opportunity to talk to students about issues of domestic violence, butwhen students brought it up in an economics class at Lane Tech High School, their teacher “said the celebrities were getting too much attention and didn’t want us to talk about it.”
It’s a real-life example of the debate that is going on in the media and in the feminist blogosphere. While there may indeed be sad and exploitative aspects to the fact that celebrities are getting us to have this conversation — and while I do agree that leaking and posting the photo of Rihanna’s injuries feels extremely skeezy — at least we’re pay attention. It is vitally important that we take advantage of this heartbreaking opportunity to air out some of our long-held assumptions and do some actual teaching.