March 5th, 2009
05:35 PM ET

Why Rihanna would go back to Chris Brown

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/SHOWBIZ/Music/03/05/chris.brown.charged/art.rihanna.brown.gi.jpg]Dr. Gail Saltz
AC360° Contributor

The police report of what transpired between Chris Brown and Rihanna was just released and the attack was far more vicious, violent and disturbing than anyone imagined. The explosion is said to have started over a text from an ex-girlfriend that she read on his phone.

Jealousy and domination often play a role in domestic abuse. In fact jealousy has been at the root of many crimes of passion, including murder. Details in a criminal complaint released by authorities today indicate this was not a sudden seconds-long lashing out, this was a continued and escalating attack complete with verbal threats that it was only going to get worse. When she tried to call for help, the threat allegedly turned to murder.

Weeks later, they are back together. Why? Why would a highly successful woman in her own right go back to a man who had so brutalized and terrorized her?

The truth is that this is really quite typical for the pattern of abuse. One partner (and the abuser can be a woman) maintains power over the other by isolating them, hurting them emotionally and physically, belittling them and convincing them that the abuser is the center of their world and the only one who will love them. The victim loses self esteem and feels emotionally dependent on their abuser.

After the abuse, the attacker feels guilty and remorseful, they say they are “so sorry, it will never happen again” and they also convince the victim that in some way they brought it on themselves (by reading his private text perhaps). Next, they idolize their victim, telling them they love them more than anyone ever will and that they will be nothing without this partner, this love. Meanwhile a victim often feels afraid of being alone and subsequently buys into the idea that this is love, it won’t happen again. Most often it does happen again, and again.

A few anger management classes is not the solution. Particularly if you have come from a home where domestic abuse occurred. Witnessing abuse or worse yet, being abused often results in becoming an abuser. It is the result of a psychic defense mechanism called identification with the aggressor. This means that rather than feeling like the powerless victim, the child imagines turning the tables and being the powerful one. They grow into ticking time bombs waiting to go off, unless they get serious treatment and understand what is driving their feelings and behaviors. It takes a lot of hard work and a lot of time.

A woman who stays in an abusive relationship often has her own masochistic psychic reasons for staying and she too often needs treatment to understand what drew her to such a man in the first place, so that she will never make such a choice again.

Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Gail Saltz • The Buzz
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Kristen-University Park, PA

    Janet I agree with you. Why people can throw support behind Chris Brown is beyond me at this point. Regardless of the circumstances for a man to beat on a woman to the extent described earlier today is outrageous.

    It makes me sick to my stomach victims of domestic violence are always being questioned about what they did. No body deserves to get beat on and have their life threatened and they surely don't need to feel like its ok to be treated in that way. It is wrong, disturbing and I pray Rihanna will find strength to do what is best for her in this situation not Chris Brown.

    March 5, 2009 at 8:44 pm |
  2. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    Thank you for recognizing that men can be abused as well. I understand all the Freudian analysis, but still it defies common logic. Watching from the sidelines unable to do anything when the abused refuses to listen, refuses to leave, refuses to heed the warning signs that abuse only gets worse is heart wrenching. It's like watching a train wreck as it unfolds and having no one hear your screams for it to stop. Screaming silently right now with a friend of mine. It's unreal that a brilliant man who needs no one to financially or physically take care of him suddenly doesn't have a functioning brain cell in his head. So we keep on. Maybe one day before it's too late, he'll get it. Maybe one day Rihanna will, too. After the discovery today of the body of the mother of one of my students who was a victim of domestic violence (the stepfather of this child is being charged with murder in this case), not holding my breath. I rarely cry because of what my kids endure (I learned to detach at work a long time ago). Tonight is different, though.

    March 5, 2009 at 7:56 pm |
  3. Amanda Walton-Fort Erie, Ontario

    Many women in abusive relationships don't have the money to leave, are afraid of reprecussions from the abuser or doesn't have family that understand and won't support them emotionally blaming the fall of a marriage on the abused instead of the abuser since abuser sare usually good con artists too and many times isolate family and friends from who they want to keep power over.

    This makes it very difficult for a woman (or a man) to leave a relationship, even more so when there are children the mother (or father) may feel utter devotion to and stay to make it work, pretending to be happy but inside dying and torn apart not feeling worthy of anyone's love feeling if they're spouse can't truly love them, who would.

    Being in the spotlight of fame and having the money she has to keep her independence and not having children with him makes me wonder why she would go back except in many cases ...love is blind.

    March 5, 2009 at 7:45 pm |
  4. Samantha

    It upset me so much to hear that Rihanna is back with Chris Brown, especially so soon after the incident. She is a role model to girls and women everywhere and by doing this she's practically saying abusive relationships are A-OK. I know I shouldn't judge when I don't know so many of the details, but they both must realize what this looks like to the outside world.

    March 5, 2009 at 7:24 pm |
  5. Annie Kate

    Emotionally Rihanna may not be as strong as she seems when you look at her career. And if this is the first time this has happened she probably thinks it will never happen again .... that she can reform him and they will lead happy lives. The truth doesn't sink in the first time – you desperately want to believe it was a one time only event. Probably both of them need psychological therapy; I just hope that Rihanna doesn't end up like so many women in abusive situations .... dead.

    And no, girls do not like violent drama in their relationships – especially when the violence is against their own person.

    March 5, 2009 at 7:17 pm |
  6. KB

    I have been in an abusive relationship, and I will be completly honest, its almost like the attacker has a hold on you and they pull you back into their web. Until your strong enough to stand up and put a stop to it and leave (b/c thats the only way it will stop no doubt, no matter what they say or the distance in between attacks it will happen over and over again) they will continue to beat on you.
    Soon it will happen again and maybe she will be wise enough and realize she dont need him his love or abuse.

    March 5, 2009 at 7:14 pm |
  7. Sandra

    There is NO excuse for Chris Brown beating her to a pulp like he did. If she goes back, it will happen again.

    March 5, 2009 at 6:56 pm |
  8. Caroline, Los Angeles

    I have seen Dr. Saltz give her evaluations of famous relationships and situations on TV before and she's always right. All I can say to this one is, "Yup."

    March 5, 2009 at 6:49 pm |
  9. sharon, sydney, cape breton, ns

    I am saddened by the fact that she may go back with him. It doesn't matter how famous she is, she could be racked with insecurity. It comes in many forms. The thing I think that saddens me most are the people out there that are willing to hear his side of the story. Yes, there are always two sides to the story, but he could have very well killed her. It was a very violent attack. There is no side of a story that justifies that. None. I don't care what kind of home you grew up in. When you reach adulthood there are things that you know about yourself, good and bad. You choose which road to follow. If he had that kind of anger in him, he should have sought out help long ago. I hope he gets the help he needs and I hope she has the courage to move on without him.

    March 5, 2009 at 6:47 pm |
  10. Sam M., Ewa Beach, HI

    My view is, Rihanna is successful and inspiring in so many ways. Yet that doesn't mean she doesn't have her own insecurities. In the public eye, someone can come across as successful and strong but in the private eye they could be the opposite. Bottom line, Chris Brown hit her and that crossed the line (whether he is an previous abuser or not). Also, their reconciliation occurred very quickly. I don't know the whole story, but when bruises are involved, I wouldn't expect such a fast reconciliation in a healthy relationship. Rihanna is beloved by so many people and so many of the celebrities have supported her. If their relationship is unhealthy, I'm sure people will reach out to her.

    March 5, 2009 at 6:44 pm |
  11. ChicoJess

    I don't see blaming Rhianna for the abuse she endured. No one deserves to ever be beaten like Rhianna. She needs help (as does Chris Brown) and let us not forget that another famous musician endured years of abuse from her partner before she escaped with only her name, Tina Turner.

    March 5, 2009 at 6:42 pm |
  12. adrienne ford

    There is something deeply wrong in our society if we can find some way of excusing Chris Brown's behavior. It is never ok for a man to hit a woman, period. I hope young girls do not get the idea from Chris & Rihanna's reunion that this type of behavior is acceptable. Ladies, do not take this type of abuse. Young men, act like men. Chris Brown deserves prison time.

    March 5, 2009 at 6:36 pm |
  13. janet

    I find it incredibly interesting how many people back Chris Brown on this. There is no wiggle room here...he TRIED TO KILL HER. He even said he was trying to kill her. The fact that anyone stands up for HIM is not only ridiculous, it's so typical of what happens in these relationships. She is not at fault in ANY way but somehow she's being blamed and successfully too. People are saying things like "Well I'd like to see what SHE did to him." She didn't do ANYTHING to him...that's the point. It's not forgiveable and she cannot be blamed even for going back to him...she's a victim of severe abuse.

    March 5, 2009 at 6:32 pm |

    There is NO two sides to the story about a man beating a woman to a pulp. none, nada, no sides. The guys is an animal, 1st class A # 1 ANIMAL. And she is just dumb, dumber than a box of rocks.

    Both should be taken out of the limelight and never ever be in front of any young people again. This situation is absolutely beyond the comprehension of any civilized human beings.

    March 5, 2009 at 6:28 pm |
  15. HypnotiqOne

    @Neo - You "don't get insecurity from Rihanna" because you're looking at her celebrity. Materialism (wealth, power, fame) has nothing to do with her internal sense of (in)security. And "girls thrive off of drama" is such a misogynistic statement in itself. Most couples in abusive relationships do that dance together, so I wouldn't blame he staying on her gender.

    But where you are right is that there are so many pieces missing in the story. However, the police report and photos are a VERY STRONG case for Chris as an ABUSER.

    March 5, 2009 at 6:23 pm |
  16. Sharon S

    I would like to hear both sides of this story because she is making it very obvious there are two sides!
    There is something going on we are not aware of and I seriously doubt it is Chris being some woman beater!

    But to say this I'm sick of celebrities as a whole they get paid way too much, are drama Kings and Queens and do basically nothing for me or society!

    So lets get back to politics and this country in its worst hour!

    March 5, 2009 at 6:22 pm |
  17. Neo

    I'm definitely from the camp of hearing both sides. Methinks that there is more to this story especially if she is back with him. I don't get insecurity from Rhianna, her being as big a star as Chris Brown, if not bigger. I don't get where she needs to rely on him, for anything. So it's tricky. Girls thrive off of drama, I know that, I've seen that, so many girls tell me that. Like I said, they're young and it's tricky. I feel so many pieces are missing here so I'll have to wait to make a correct diagnosis. But observation wise I feel this is drama gone awry.

    March 5, 2009 at 6:00 pm |