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March 9th, 2009
01:00 PM ET

Rihanna: Role Model? Yes.

Amy Holmes | Bio
AC360° Contributor

Wow. I did not expect the overwhelming response to my blog post about Rihanna and Chris Brown. It seems that I am far from alone in being disturbed by this story, and terribly concerned for the young lady at its center.

After reading through all of your posts, all 304 as of this writing!, I come to conclusion that Rihanna does have a moral obligation to her young fans. So many of you wrote so movingly about your own experiences, what you would do if someone busted up your baby girl, what you've been hearing in classrooms and school hallways, and why it is so important that we, as a society, declare that domestic violence must never be tolerated.

Stephanie wrote: "I have a 14 year old boy who I am trying to teach right from wrong and I have clearly told him that it is not okay to abuse women. He said that everyone in his school is talking about this incident which means that Chris and Rihanna may have been successful in getting their very bad message across."

T shared her personal story: "I can understand how she is feeling, I stayed in an abusive relationship for 14 long years. My husband didnʼt start the abuse until after we were married. I finally relized [sic] that no matter what I did, how much I loved him, he was never going to change. What made me wake up was the last time he went after me, my daughter saw the whole thing and the look and fear in her eyes was the biggest wake up call I could have gotten. I was thinking is this the way I want to live the rest of my life? Is this the way I want my daughter to think she is supposed to be treated? Is this the way I want my sone to think he is supposed to act. The anser [sic] to all three questions was NO!!"

What tipped the scales for me was the youth factor. This celebrity couple markets their music and their lifestyle to kids - many of whom do look up to them and take their cultural cues from these teen icons. Chris Brown is still, as of this writing, being promoted on Nickelodeon to compete in the Kids Choice Awards. And he has even gone to his Facebook page to encourage young fans to cast their votes for him!

Were these adult entertainers with an adult audience, the issues of public moral responsibility would be different. Plenty of celebrities fall down, have well publicized lapses of judgment, and live complicated and unenviable lives. As adults, we have the privilege and responsibility to own our own conduct and our own mistakes. We often let ourselves down, but we can't blame public figures for our lapses.

But with kids, it's different. They're just forming their impressions of what's acceptable and admirable behavior - what gets you ahead, what is right, and what is terribly wrong.

And that is why I believe that Rihanna and Chris Brown, whether they like it or not, have a responsibility to all of those young people who are watching them and identifying with them so closely.

It is also important to note that the behavior was not self inflicted. It's not a story about one person's foibles and self destruction. It's a story about battery and assault. One person maliciously harming another. And we, as a society, have to band together and declare unequivocally that vicious predation on another human being is wrong, no matter who's involved.

So, thank you AC360 readers. You helped me to think through a difficult issue. I hope we had a productive dialogue, all 305 of us!

And I hope that Rihanna makes the right decision about her safety and well being - not for us, but for herself. I fear that her life could depend on it.


Filed under: Amy Holmes • Women's Issues
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Gina G

    Chris and Rihanna are not our children's role model. This is a teachable moment for others to teach like teachers and parents. We should use these celebs names to make our case. We teaching stick to the issues of domestic violence.

    March 9, 2009 at 8:57 pm |
  2. Alisa T

    Fame, glory, wealth...she just may not realize what a good life she has, until it is swept away from her. Hopefully she can make the right decision to walk away from Chris Brown and advocate for the lost voice of domestic violence, which is such a profound issue amongst American women. Only then should she become a real roll model, until then her fame should cease to continue.

    March 9, 2009 at 6:32 pm |
  3. Mave

    So sad for both of them. Apparently, Chris watched his mother being abused as a child. I hope people are listening. It's true. Those sweet little boys and girls hiding in their rooms covering their heads with pillows wishing it would stop do grow up the continue the cycle, both as victims and abusers. I was a domestic violence counselor 20 years ago when we barely admitted there was a problem. A few months ago, I was contacted by a former colleague to see if I would be interested in heading up a domestic violence department. Regretfully, I had to decline. I left that job when I lost my first client. She did everything right and her abuser still found her. I notice more and more each day that the violence ends in homicide. THAT I could not face again. Without consistent laws and persistent intervention, the cycle does not change. The abusers beats and terrorizes, the victim leaves, the abuser is remorseful, the victim forgives – until they can no longer forgive. God help these men and women and most of all, protect the children trapped in their chaos.

    March 9, 2009 at 5:08 pm |
  4. penny

    'THEY arent good for each other. They are hurting both of their careers."

    March 9, 2009 at 4:26 pm |
  5. Luis

    No not a role model.

    Who goes back to the person who beat them up like this? Chris Brown should be ashamed to ever come out in public again. If Rhianna wants to ruin her career, she should go back with Chris Brown.

    March 9, 2009 at 3:48 pm |
  6. Joe F

    What a role model!. Yes she is. Every woman will be looking at her and say, I wish I wont be looking like her.

    March 9, 2009 at 3:47 pm |
  7. Melissa

    Rhianna: Role model? No.

    The woman took her abuser back. As far as I'm concerned, that makes her someone no girl should ever look up to.

    March 9, 2009 at 3:29 pm |
  8. Tony

    He would be INCREDIBLY STUPID if he would to HIT her again!
    Especially after the WORLD-WIDE coverage of this! He should
    of NEVER hit her in the first place. Maybe this was good to happen to HIM, because obviously he has some issues... Some people
    just need to learn the HARD WAY !!!

    March 9, 2009 at 2:27 pm |
  9. Prtypoison

    Anderson, Most people might not want to hear what I have to say but I am the mother of a son and daughter and I feel like Chris was wrong but if you go to TMZ they have the real police statement right after the unfortunate incident and Rihanna states that she in fact did read his 3 page text message from an old flame and that she was the one that slapped him and repeatedly hit him first while he was driving. Shouldn't both have to receive anger management. Sometimes girls are just as agressive but right is right. We have been hearing so many lies even the one that they are together and now people are actually turning on Rihanna saying that she is foolish. Maybe she has realized that she was wrong also and taking responsibility for her mistakes. Noone is blaming the victim but right is right.

    March 9, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  10. Cristy Kirssin

    I was in a retail store this weekend and the woman in front of me was threatning her son who looked about 2 years of age, with beating him up after they leave the store. She kept saying, " I can't wait until we get off camera so I can beat you". It reminded me of Chris Brown theatning Rihana in a similar way. Parents that threaten to beat their children up, wether they do or not, don't deserve kids. To me, Chris Brown is a product of this. I just can't decide if his actions are his fault or his families who passed it on to him. Rhiana is rediculous for getting back together. She has freedom to make good decisions and obviously plenty of resources to do her own thing. Why would someone like that want to "enslave" theirself in abuse. I feel sorry for her. They both have major problems and she is making bad decisions as he is too.

    Cristy

    March 9, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  11. Chesney

    Thank you for your views on this. What is wrong with the world today. Children are looking up to both of them and they should not be able to get away with the impression that they are leaving on our youth. This hole situation makes me so mad. Everyone needs to speak up so that the children can hear that it is wrong in every way to both hit a woman and for a woman to put up with it. We are adults and we need to make sure that message overshadows the stupidness that Rihanna is showing right now. Chris Brown should be removed from the KIDS choice awards completely. Come on adults of america Stand up and do the right thing because obviously these two dummies will not. We do not need to raise a generation of boys that thinks it is okay to hit women. Young girls need to see that no matter what it is not okay for a boy to hit you!

    March 9, 2009 at 12:27 pm |
  12. Gloria

    Rihanna or Chris are not role models, your parents should be your role model. Why is cable news still talking about this... pathetic! This has been going on for a a while, they had movie on lifetime, now since Rihanna/Chris two black stars it's a big issue..pleeeassse
    This is really getting boring, mind your business..she took him back.... get a life....

    March 9, 2009 at 12:21 pm |
  13. NiNi

    Seeing as we don't really know what happened that night except Rihanna was abused..it was reported that she's suppose to testify on her involvement in the incident...its said that she attacked him first, saying how posessive she is...but its all speculation...yes she's a role model she has to show the young women that she can overcome this dilemma and come out on top...and btw Chris career will not hurt from this..Look @ James Brown he's beaten women for years...1 incident isn't going to hurt him...

    March 9, 2009 at 12:02 pm |
  14. OZ fest

    While i understand what you are trying to say you have to understand that this biased one sided slaying of a young mans character based on gossip blogs, rumors and speculation is highly irresponsible. New reports have come out via hollyscoop and TMZ that Rihanna did infact attack him first, hitting and punching him several times and even assaulted him with her stiletto heel..and also that this was she told police this was the first physical altercation they had even though she provoked him multiple times. So are we also to encourage young women that it is okay to assault a man and never expect to have any sort of retaliation because it is not okay for a man to hit a woman? They are both in the wrong..both irresponsible and immature and Rihanna should not be held up as some sort of hero either. Instead they both need to seek counselling and get the help that they need instead of this incessant bullying by the media and peoples rancid opinions. Remember these are just kids. Also for the record I would like to state that myspace/facebook pages are most likely not being personally run by brown, so people need to stop finding new ways of victimizing him.

    March 9, 2009 at 11:20 am |
  15. Kenneth Marlon Owen

    Amy,
    Rihanna and Chris Brown are young, but they are no longer children in need of surrogate parents threatening that they will loose their livelihood if they don't make the decisions they want them make . Rihanna and Chris Brown are both adults dealing with a state of being that is known to cause people do strange, unexplainable, and out of character things. It's a state of being commonly defined as love.

    Everyone's experience with love will not be the same. But anyone that has loved someone other than their self will know the joys and pains involved with loving someone, be that someone one's parent, one's sibling, one's sex partner, or one's child.

    Those of us that know the joys and pains of loving someone for better or worst, in sickness or health, for richer or poorer, and in the good times and the bad times won't take sides with either Rihanna or Chris Brown. Those of us that know the joys and pains of loving someone will advise both Rihanna and Chris Brown to search their heart and mind for within lies the truth of whether they are in love with one another or are just in lust with one another, for sharing with young lovers the necessity of distinguishing love from lust is essential to helping them get to the point in life when one knows that they are truly in love with someone.

    March 9, 2009 at 11:18 am |
  16. JET

    She needs to have her head examined!

    March 9, 2009 at 10:57 am |
  17. C

    Parents are ROLE MODELS, not celebrities. If its her decision to go back to him then so be it, that's HER personal decision, parents need to stop letting their children admire these entertainers and I really think this issue is receiving way too much media coverage. Here you have 2 young people in a screwed up situation. No woman or man - yes men get abused too– deserves to be beaten the way she did, but in the end she is going to do what she wants to do, bottom line, so just leave it be and lead by example in your own home, not through the television and airwaves.

    March 9, 2009 at 10:43 am |
  18. M

    Keep in mind, based on what was being reported, she was not exactly an innocent victim. Respect goes both ways. Women are becoming more and more aggressive/abusive. It irks me to no end that society still paints women as innocent victims and men as the abusers. That's far from always being the case. Many times, men don't report the abuse at the hands of women, and I would bet far less frequently than women. I also know from personal experience law enforcement are very slow and hesitant to react when accusations are made against women. I've been told by law enforcement personnel "The laws were designed to protect women."

    The police need to be involved EVERY time there's abuse, whether it's a man or woman who is doing it. Telling guys to deal with it because they're bigger, stronger, etc doesn't cut it. Many of these men and women go on to become parents and anyone who thinks their children will be spared is an idiot. Not to mention you can never tell when it will go from slapping, to fists, to knives, to guns, etc. There's just no place for it on either side.

    March 9, 2009 at 10:22 am |
  19. Dan

    I see why you hold your view point, but let me yell you a quick story. I was in a relationship that was physically and mentally abusive, pretty much from both sides. All our friends, even profesionals that we talked to said we should abandon the idea. There were several rough years. That was about 15 years ago. We didn't abandon our relationship. We worked on it and grew. Love plus honest work is what it takes. We hae an envy-able relationship that no one would have guessed was once filled with dark ugly days.

    I ,too, believe that Rihanna and Chris Brown have a responsibility to each other. That is to take seriously their problem and solve it. That would be of greater satisfaction to both of them and of greater moral importance to the masses. Change can and does happen. I am not claiming that this is always they way, many are not willing to change. but to have a pre made decision by society, along with the premade villian, victum and outcome is the very stuff that our dumbed down society has eaten up. I will respond to comments and answer questions. Please, consider though as a way to decide things instead of "pop" thought

    March 9, 2009 at 10:16 am |
  20. jesse rene cardona

    she is a good singer

    March 9, 2009 at 10:14 am |
  21. Teresa

    This whole Rihanna and Chris story doesnt make sense, but I guess hitting women doesn't make sense to me either. I hope Rihanna gets herself out of this as it will actually help PROMOTE her career and her role model status.

    Word has it that Chris witnessed abuse growing up. I wonder if Rihanna didnt also and that is why she "accepts" it as normal.

    Rihanna's parents: get off your arse and get this girl on track before you end up burying her. Britneys dad did it and you should too. Just because a gal is over 18 doesnt mean she has common sense and doesnt desperately need your help and guidance.

    March 9, 2009 at 10:01 am |
  22. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    Life has its playbook of "morals and values;" sometimes we don't always follow the playbook--but remember the playbook is always there.

    March 9, 2009 at 9:50 am |
  23. Cindy

    Any celebrity whether they like it or not are role models. When you have people who look up to you because of your work or fame then you do have a responsibility to try to be a good example to them. But now a days celebs are no where near anything that I'd want to set my life by or have any young person in my family look up to. Most of them are narcissistic and care about nothing but themselves and live that way.

    It's a shame that Rihanna chose to go back into a relationship where she will, make no doubt about it, get beat up again. It makes these young girls think that it's OK to be beaten as long as the guy says he is sorry and won't do it again. I wish her the best and hope she comes to her senses before he beats her again.

    Cindy..Ga.

    March 9, 2009 at 9:37 am |