Chris Brown and Rihanna – Together Again?

So I guess now it’s official – Rihanna and Chris Brown are back together again.  The two made their first public appearance together as a couple on Christmas Day at the Lakers – Knicks game in Los Angeles.  Although the two are rumored to have reconciled months ago, this was the first time they have appeared in public since Chris Brown savagely beat Rihanna in the early morning hours of February 11, 2009.

Public reaction has not been positive, to say the least.  Here are a few of the choice comments that appeared on TMZ’s website after their story about the Christmas Day date:

 This chick is sick in the head and a mental case to be back with him. . It’s going to happen again


If she get’s the **** beat outta her again, I don’t wanna hear a ****in’ word.


Lovely couple….Rhianna and Chris are going to grow old together. Opps. I mean….Rhianna is going to grow black and blue with Chris.’


Rhianna’s message to domestic violence victims You deserve it . You love it. Disgusting. SHAME on Rhianna. He made HORNS on her head. How can she take him back. Her message to abusers We victims love it. SICK!

If this girl gets her a** kicked again, She better not say a word. In fact if she gets her a** kicked again and says something, the judge in the case should kick her a$$ to just to top her off

 Everyone, it seems, thinks this reconciliation is a bad idea.  Is it?  Who knows? 

What we do know is that Chris Brown has been held accountable for his actions.  He stands convicted of felony assault.  Many batterers are never charged, much less convicted, of more than a misdemeanor.  He completed a court ordered 52 week domestic violence program.  Many offenders are not sentenced to any treatment.  He has completed 1400 hours of “labor oriented” community service.  He was placed on probation for five years.  In addition to the penalties imposed by the court, Brown has been held accountable in other ways.  In June, 2010, he was denied entry into Great Britain due to his assault conviction.  This past fall, copies of his new album were mysteriously slapped with stickers that read “Do Not Buy This Album, This Man Beats Women.”  Last month Brown was forced to cancel a planned concert in Guyana after protests from women’s rights groups. 

In the world of domestic violence prevention and intervention, we look for offender accountability.  We believe that domestic violence is learned behavior; if it can be learned, it can be unlearned.  That is why we plead with judges every day to send batterers to treatment programs that will help them unlearn the power and control tactics that they use in their relationships.  We believe these men can learn to be better husbands, boyfriends, partners and fathers, but only when there is treatment and accountability. 

Has Chris Brown unlearned the behaviors that led him to assault Rihanna in February, 2009?  Rihanna probably believes he has changed.  She’s waited nearly four years to reconcile with him – until after he finished his treatment program and his community service.  Perhaps if she believes he’s changed and wants to give him another chance, the public should cut her some slack instead of spewing vitriol at her as though she were the convicted felon.  If she is wrong, she will likely be the one to pay the heaviest price. 

Of course, we have no way of knowing if Chris Brown has changed.  We only know that he’s done everything the court asked him to do and he’s done much more that most batterers are asked to do.  He’s had what we can only hope was meaningful intervention and treatment.   Has he changed?  Only time will tell. 

Many are talking about the negative message this reconciliation sends to young people about domestic violence.  But maybe, just maybe, the message will turn out to be a positive one.  Maybe Chris Brown won’t hit Rihanna, or any other woman, ever again.  Maybe this story will prove what we’ve been saying for years – offender accountability and treatment can work to stop domestic violence.