The Rihanna & Chris Brown situation has put a face to dating violence. This case provides educators with a perfect opportunity to speak about intimate partner violence as something that happens to everyone, regardless of, and at times due to their class, gender, race, sexuality and ability. In classrooms, tabloids and private spaces all across the United States victim blaming myths are being verbalized and proliferated.

The question for you this month and perhaps even this year is: what are you doing in your respective communities to dispel myths that blame victims for the violence they have endured? How are you using this case to support your antiviolence work and mobilize community members to take action? Here is an example from Prevent-Connect of one educator’s response!

From: Prevent-Connect@yahoogroups.com [mailto:Prevent-Connect@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of beth morhardt
Sent: Tuesday, February 17, 2009 9:41 AM
To: Prevent-Connect@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [Prevent-Connect] Youth Responses to Chris Brown’s Violence

I am a Prevention Educator. On the Tuesday following the weekend of the Brown attack on Rihanna, I was working with a group of 8th grade girls during our Healthy Relationships Program and we were discussing ways to show disrespect/respect in physical/emotional/sexual ways. During the presentation of their lists one group had “biting” on their list of physical disrespect. Several girls laughed and asked “who would bite somebody?”. I said that in violent relationships women/girls often are bitten. They did not believe me, said it did not happen, so I said that in released reports over the weekend Rihanna had bite marks from Chris Brown, so if we are to believe those reports, he bit her.

“Yeah, but she deserved that, she gave him herpes” was the response from several of the girls. I stated that I had not heard that, but even if it were true, she did not deserve to be bitten, they became very angry and were arguing and calling Rihanna names like “slut” and “whore”.

I stopped the activity and we came back to one large group and I asked them to think about what makes it Rihanna’s fault? I also said I understood Chris Brown is cute and many girls have serious crushes on him and so we want to believe he would not do something so cruel and disgusting. So what would they say if it was a boy in their school and a girl in their school? They said it wouldn’t matter, she would still be wrong because she gave him an STD.

I was saddened and hurt for them. I had a great talk with them about understanding that NOTHING they do EVER makes it their fault if a man/boy hits or hurts them. we talked of self value and victim blaming and I could see little by little and 1 by 1 they started to really understand how valuable they are. I am meeting with them again for the next few weeks and will follow up further.

Young people are getting so many unhealthy messages from family, media and peers I am grateful to be able to provide them with positive information, but it is disheartening to know they are so confused and in situations where they are making uninformed decisions.

Beth
May You Begin and End Each Day With Peace, Power, Passion & Purpose

There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.- anais nin