The Case of Rihanna: Why Do Domestic Abuse Victims Return to Their Abusers?

Rihanna on stage performingIf you are one of the few individuals who do not tweet or blog, you may not be aware that Rihanna and Chris Brown have recently reunited. The fact that he violently assaulted her three years ago does not seem to be of much concern to the couple or to the enthralled crowd of virtual onlookers who follows their every move. Why are we so obsessed with such drama? And why would Rihanna return to the man who exacted such an emotional and physical toll from her?

In a recent article several relationship experts, including Gilde Carle, Ph.D., Sheri Meyers, Psy.D., and Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., were all questioned about this interesting conundrum. The first question posed to the panel was, “Why are we, the national peanut gallery, so vehemently disturbed over their reconciliation?” The experts said that first, none of us knows what has happened since, or what type of help Chris Brown has received, if any. But a big part of our sick obsession is the powerlessness we collectively feel. “Part of the outrage is the helplessness of being the bystander and watching it,” said Firestone. “Part of being the bystander is that we encourage it by being part of the crowd.”

The relationship experts were also asked what they would say to Rihanna if she asked their advice. Firestone said that the behavior of returning, of repeating the same mistake, is probably deeply rooted in her childhood experiences. Meyers said she would ask Rihanna to take a look at what changes Chris has made. And, what would happen if he were pushed to his limit again? Finally, Carle would ask Rihanna to look into her heart and carefully evaluate her feelings for him. Even though she may love him, love is a subjective term. Each of us has our own definition of love and how it should be expressed. Understanding that is a big key to understanding why people make the choices they make, despite what has happened in the past.

Lee, Youyoung. Chris Brown, Rihanna back together again: Why we can’t look away. (n.d.): n. pag. The Huffington Post. 7 Dec. 2012. Web. 10 Dec. 2012.

© Copyright 2013 All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Black Sheep

    January 1st, 2013 at 6:29 PM

    In my case I was born into domestic violence. I kept taking my abusers back because I watched my mother do it with my father. Monkey see…monkey do! I thought abuse was normal because that’s all I seen all my life. Now my daughter takes her abuser back, but I taught her how to fight so she is physically abusive putting him in the ER. I fought back also, so it’s my fault. I tried to protect her from abuse, but dysfunction attracks dysfunction. She did not see not even an 16th of abuse I did, but one incident can ruin a child. I pray I can save my granddaughters ending this cycle of abuse that has been in both side of my family trees for over a century & probably beyond when my maternal great-grandpa named his son, Adolph, who did the same. Then my paternal great-grandpa hung himself after the Civil War. I was doombed from the womb!

  • lesley

    January 2nd, 2013 at 3:46 AM

    I don’t understand it myself, have never gotten the rationale of continuing to stay with someone who so violently hurts you.
    But. . .
    we can’t judge her or anyone else in that situation. Sometimes I think that it all boils down to you love who you love, and there really is no controlling that. I hope that they are going through some kind of counseling together to ensure that this kind of attack does not happen to her again. There is just no way to know what goes on with other people in their relationships.

  • Foster

    January 2nd, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    Maybe she loves him?
    Who knows, who cares?
    Not my business
    She is the one who has to live with the ramifications of her decisions, not us.

  • bradley

    January 2nd, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    its the same with those that live with an abusive partner but never take a step to end the relationship.only here she has had the time to think over it but still got back.I hope it is because he has changed and not because she is addicted to him,that can happen in a relationship!

  • Linda

    January 2nd, 2013 at 11:27 PM

    A friend of mine went back to her abusive boyfriend recently.She said she loved him too much and could forgive him for everything he had done.I am still governed about her because he can get REALLY violent.I know she is putting herself into trouble by going back but she doesn’t want to listen to any advice.

    I think she has issues within herself,issues of insecurity mostly,that she needs to resolve first to see the truth.What can I do in this situation?Please help.

  • francis

    January 3rd, 2013 at 3:50 AM

    oh this celebrity gossip never interests me.I never follow such news but this topic is something that can affect any of us,or our loved ones.

    it may seem stupid for someone to go back to their former partner who hurt and harmed them.but as they say,’love’ (or rather whatever feeling is mistaken for love) is blind. its like an addiction that can be so hard to get over. and for some people, even getting ovver once is not enough. they may relapse and go back to the person, just like Rihanna has here. just like a drug addict. there is far more to this than a simple going back. there is so much going through the person’s mind, his/her mind itself can become a foe leading them into a trap (of going back to an abuser)!

  • Carey powell

    January 3rd, 2013 at 4:00 AM

    The reason that I care about this is that I am concerned that this sends a really negative message to our young girls. Sure it’s okay to take him back even after he has assaulted you, because you love him. Puh-leez! How do you even continue to love someone when they have treated you like this? I want my daughter to have self esteem and a positive enough feeling about herself that she would be able to easily turn and walk away from someone who treats he rlike this, not come back for more.

  • Adonna Seals

    January 3rd, 2013 at 5:52 PM

    While this article attempts to be controversial if one analyzes the situation at hand you can see a positive. God has the power to change people and make them anew. We have all done things that we are not proud of whether we like to admit to them or not. We all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. While I do not suggest that a victim immediately take back their abuser, there are circumstances where it is appropriate. After an abuser has had counseling, repented, and ask to be forgiven of the fault whatever it may be a victim can pray-fully be reconciled to the abuser. People can change so we should not be so quick to blame others of their faults when we have our own.
    Adonna Seals
    Abused Twice

  • Steve H

    October 4th, 2013 at 8:31 PM

    I was born into a physically abusive family; My mother followed her mother in physically abusing me as her first born son, but not my other siblings! All through the years, this lead to my very low self-esteem and hate for myself. After I had begun to be involved in my own male-female relationships, I could not help to avoid my self-hatred to be recognized by my female partners who took advantage of this. I maintained my emotionally abusive relationships until my partners called quits, except for one who gave me the best sexual experiences, and I allowed her to keep returning and stealing from me. I stopped seeing her on my own accord. Then I felt a great void, but several years later I have learned to live with this as well. I am now 54 and I have not been engaged in any relationship for the past decade. My past lessons in life taught what I cannot forget, and no matter how good the sex was, the relationships’ difficulties were not worth either to continue, nor to start it up again, which I could have done two weeks ago.
    Low self-esteem, self-hatred, and reckless regards for one’s own life are sings of poor child rearing by parents that they don’t see forthcoming. I drove a car into a tree head on without a seat belt because I did not feel worthy of love from a woman.
    When my mother asked me why doesn’t she have any grandchildren from my side of the family, I told her that she abused and beat me so much that I could not take part in creating a child to be born into a World of family violance and hatred by my own sexual deed. I never want my own flesh and blood to experience the horrors I had experienced in my childhood and in his/her young adulthood! I am going to die without leaving my trace of DNA, but I know it is for the best for those possible off springs who will never suffer the agony and pain I have had.
    In closing, our World is turning into a sewer and even this calling is complimantary to what is going to happen to Earth in the next 50 to 100 years to come! Who would want to live here by then?!

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.