Over the past month, I’ve heard more and more commentary on Chris Brown and Rihanna’s alleged rekindled love.  For any of you parents that have been living underground, about three years ago, Chris Brown allegedly hit his then girlfriend, Rihanna’s, head against the passenger window of his Lamborghini during an argument.  Brown then continued to drive the vehicle, while punching Rihanna repeatedly in the face.  The police report said that Brown later put Rihanna in a headlock, nearly forcing her to lose consciousness after Rihanna called her assistant and requested police presence. 

In the time since, Rihanna has painted an often twisted picture—explaining that her father physically abused her mother, while also talking about her love for all things S&M and glorifying complicated, and even abusive relationships in several of her music videos.  Rihanna also explained that she forgave Brown, and most recently, there have been many rumors that the two are back together. 

While it may not be a celebrity’s job to be a role model to our children, it is our job as parents to do what we can to help curb the tide of increasing dating violence.  Statistics show that one in three teenagers have experienced violence in a dating relationship.  I’ve also worked with many teens who have learned their social and sexual cues from the media, and who have “experimented” with hardcore, porn-influenced sexual acts, often causing distress and trauma to the sexual partner involved. 

Sadly, repeat offenders often believe they have the right to “control” their partner; they believe they “possess” their partner and that they should and can demand physical intimacy at any time.  Many teenage girls can begin to believe that abuse is “normal” because their friends are being abused, or because they have a twisted notion that their boyfriend’s jealousy, rage, possessiveness and even physical abuse is romantic or just part of their “passionate” relationship. 

Parents, it’s critical that you help your sons and daughters understand that dating abuse is NEVER ok.  Help them to understand that if they have been exposed to hardcore, violent pornography, it does not represent a healthy form of sexual interaction, and it is NEVER ok for their boyfriend or girlfriend to demand that type of behavior form them.  If your son or daughter ever is threatened, abused or uncomfortable in a dating relationship, let them know they should always come to you. 

Also, watch out for some of the common warning signs that your teenager may be experiencing dating violence, including:

  • Physical signs of injury
  • Truancy, dropping out of school/change is grades
  • Use of drugs or alcohol
  • Sharp change in mood or personality
  • Emotional outburst
  • Isolation