So I was sitting around listening to the podcast of a sports radio show out of Miami, and the conversation turned to how the Miami Heat fans cheered Chris Brown when his image was displayed on the jumbo-tron. The show’s host, Dan Le Batard, mentioned how he recoiled in disgust at the crowd’s reaction given the details of the police report filed following Brown’s physical abuse of Rihanna.
The conversation then went into the direction of, “If Rihanna can forgive Chris Brown, then who are we to judge?”
And that’s where my head exploded.
There are two components to domestic abuse; those who abuse and those who enable the abuse. Rihanna’s decision to forgive Chris Brown is her prerogative, and when looked at with greater and deeper perspective, it’s also the Christian thing to do. What I find appalling, however, and – well, unforgivable – is that she’s not using this experience, and the media frenzy surrounding it, to speak out visibly and publicly about domestic violence. Rather, when looked at through the prism of Rihanna as a public figure, her inaction serves, in my opinion, as implied tolerance for men who beat their girlfriends or wives.
I was driving my daughter to soccer practice recently, and a popular song I didn’t recognize came on the radio. I inquired out loud who sings the song (because the voice sounded familiar).
“That’s Pitbull with Chris Brown.”
“You know he beat up Rihanna, right?”
“Yeah, but they’re back together now. They’re doing a song together.”
I gave my daughter ‘the dad look’ as I asked her, “And what does that say about Rihanna?”
I don’t know if there’s a right way to approach your pre-teen daughter about the subject of domestic abuse, but I felt that was the moment for me. We talked about how serious an issue it is, and how there’s never an excuse for a man to put his hands on a woman.
I went on to tell her there are only three acceptable outcomes to a scenario – God forbid – where she’s the victim of domestic violence.
“You either A) pack your bags and get out, B) you throw his ass out (and subsequently throw out his stuff, change the locks, the whole nine yards), or C) make sure he ends up in the hospital.”
That’s it. No excuses. No trying to understand or justify why it happened. None of that garbage. The imperative I gave my daughter that afternoon is that the first time a guy puts his hands on her, it will be the absolute last time he ever puts his hands on her.
Maybe I’m being a stereotypical, over-protective dad. Maybe I could have couched the conversation a little better. Maybe I should have consulted with her mom (and step-mom) first. Still, I’ve seen firsthand the affects domestic violence, when left unchecked, can have on a family. My wife’s cousin Dee is no longer with us because of it. She was only twenty. I believe her tragic death, like most suffered at the hand of domestic abuse, could have been avoided.
So, no, I don’t think it’s too soon to talk to my daughter about this topic. The sooner I can get her to understand these types of realities, the more prepared she’ll be to face them should it ever come to that. My daughter will be going to college in five and half years, and it’s stories like those of Dee Curry, Yeardley Love, and this one that scare me to death.
I don’t think there’s one right answer or a one-size-fits-all solution to addressing these topics with our kids. I guess the important thing is that we make an attempt to address them.
After all, I’d much rather deal with my daughter being uncomfortable with me for several minutes than with my daughter being a statistic.