Rihanna and Chris Brown: The Abusive Cycle

rihanna, chris brown, rihanna and chris brownRihanna’s racy remix “Birthday Cake” has created a public frenzy ever since the song was released. But it’s not just the inappropriately sexy lyrics that have people talking; it’s the man she sings it with. Her one and only, lover and abuser: Chris Brown.

No one can forget how that duo ended. A day before the Grammys in 2009, Chris Brown was prosecuted for brutally assaulting Rihanna and threatening to kill her. After a media-filled court case, he was issued a restraining order and court-ordered community service. He was ordered to stay away from Rihanna, and his record sales and concerts plummeted. Rihanna, on the other hand, flourished with a new strong, independent identity. She became a woman that wouldn’t take any bullshit from any man. And the media loved her for all that she’d been through. However, she recently reduced the restraining order, giving Chris Brown a chance to reconcile with her and get back in the industry. Everyone thought she was being civil so he could perform at the Grammys and go to industry events that she also attends. And then just in time for Rihanna’s 24th birthday, the two released two new collaborations: Rihanna’s “Birthday Cake” and Chris Brown’s “Turn Up the Music.” In this incredibly controversial move, they joined forces again for the first time in 3 years.

With the release of these new songs, it looks like Rihanna and Chris Brown are doing more than just putting the past behind them. Lyrics like “been a long time I been missing your body” and “give it to you in the worst way, can’t wait to blow your candles out” in Rihanna’s “Birthday Cake Remix” left listeners wondering if the sex and violence between them is really over. Then in Brown’s “Turn Up the Music” Rihanna added the line “I love you baby” amidst her flirty giggles, only encouraging these rumors. And to add even more controversy to this already heated issue, Brown and Rihanna, who have been publicly promoting their songs together, have been seen spending time alone as well. Some seem to think that Rihanna and Brown just want the money, fame, and controversy; others think the two have fallen back in love. One thing’s for sure though: something’s going on between the two of them.

This has left fans, friends, and the media flabbergasted. With the release of their two songs, an outpouring of opinions followed, ranging from emotions of excitement and happiness to disappointment and distress. But most of all, Rihanna has been strongly criticized for publicly flaunting her reconciliation with Chris Brown. With millions of girls looking up to her as a role model, she has set a bad example by demonstrating that it is okay to return to an abusive relationship. However, condemning Rihanna may not be the answer. The problem lies much deeper than her. Returning to an abusive relationship is a common problem among those that have been abused. Rihanna, along with many others, may have fallen into this cycle. Why do people so often return to these destructive relationships?

Love and Familiarity:
It’s hard to leave someone you love. Whether you like it or not, you originally fell for that person and sometimes it’s not so easy to end those feelings. Many people are paralyzed by the love they feel towards their partner, even though they may not be in a mutually beneficial relationship. It can be quite a struggle to move on, but the reality remains the same: if you are in a destructive relationship, you are not receiving the love and attention that you deserve.

Some people fail to see the benefit to leaving the relationship. Your partner is familiar to you and leaving this comfort zone may be scary and daunting. We frequently end up with the same partner or type of relationship over and over again because the interaction is familiar. We are conditioned to expect the same things, and it may feel normal to engage in this destructive behavior. Leaving your partner can be more intimidating than dealing with the unhappiness in your relationship.

Rihanna may well have fallen into this trap. Since breaking up with Chris Brown, she has had a tumultuous three years. She has not been in any serious relationships, yet has admitted in multiple interviews that she doesn’t like being single and really wants to find love. Many of those close to her say she was never able to fully move on from Chris Brown and is still in love with him. Perhaps the familiarity and easiness of being with Chris Brown brought her back to this relationship.

Denial of the situation:
Society often downplays the effects of destructive relationships and abuse. As a result, many people are unaware or unwilling to accept that they are in a harmful relationship. This is especially true when it comes to nonviolent forms of abuse (verbal, sexual, emotional….). Your partner may act charming and loving when you are with others, but then act demeaning and controlling towards you in private. People view your partner positively, and this may make them write off your complaints as irrational. Eventually, you write off your feelings as well and deny that there is any abuse.

Even when the situation becomes threatening to your safety, you may hold on to the belief that your circumstances are not as grave as others believe they are. The victims of abuse have a hard time accepting that they are in fact in a destructive relationship. We all want to believe that the one we love is as good as our idealized image of them. When they mess up, we underplay it and excuse it as an out-of- character, one time only instance. However, this is usually not true. Violence frequently escalates after the initial episode.

Surely, Rihanna does not realize the intensity of her situation. She has forgiven Chris Brown for his one-time offense against her and all is reconciled. She has put it in the past and is moving forward with a “new” relationship. Although her friends and family are incredibly concerned and worried of the two becoming closer, she continues to deny the gravity of abuse.

Fear and Manipulation:
In many cases, the abusive partner uses fear and manipulation to keep the abused one from leaving. The victim becomes is stuck in the relationship, because they know that if they leave, there will be major consequences. The perpetrator uses threats of physical punishment, committing suicide, taking away the victim’s money or children, even killing them, to keep the victim in the relationship. The victim feels as if they have no choice but to stay. Through fear and control, the victim becomes completely dependent on the abuser.

The abuser also manipulates the victim into making them feel guilt, shame, and low self esteem. By consistently insulting and undermining their wants and needs, victims often become helpless and desperate. They start to believe it is their own fault that they are being abused. Consequently, they think they are not good enough to leave the relationship and they stay with their partner through abuse, belittlement, and control.

Rihanna may have fallen victim to fear and psychological manipulation. Chris Brown made promises to her, and she became dependent on him for love, self worth, and happiness. Following the assault, she felt guilty that she had ruined his career and ashamed, both of herself and that the entire world knew her story. These issues resulted in lasting psychological damage that continue to be present today in her relationship with Chris Brown.

About the Author

Yael Kent Yael Kent is a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara majoring in psychology and global studies. Yael is actively involved in intimacy and relationship research and works in the Close Relationships Lab for UCSB’s psychology department. Yael also works on campus at the UCSB Children’s Center and plans to pursue a Master’s in child development.

Related Articles


Ole Jakob Undheim


Just wanted to say that I think you have a good analysis. You manage to explain this in a plain and simple way, yet informative. Very interesting.

I have been in such a relationship myself. Yet, I did not recognice how much of a victim I actually was, before now.

I think people that have had this kind of relations in their upbringing, are more vulnebrable to ending up in relationships like this.

I have had a mum and dad that has been emotionally unavailable and violent. Then you are desperat for love, confirmation and recognition. You have low self worth and self esteem, and you take responsibility, and feel guilt and shame, when it`s not yours.

When it comes to Rihanna, I think her father has been a real bad influence. I think he is inconsiderate and are fast to criticise. I remember when she was heavier, her father told her so, and she got thin… I think he has a lot of power over her – because she craves the love and affection she never got – and never will get – and the craving gets worse… Chris Brown may very well be the same type as her father. I am pretty sure he is the type that loves himself more, then he loves Rihanna…

I am a lover – I wish I could love everybody – everyone who needs it. When you learn to love yourself, you can perhaps find that healthy balance.

Thanks for a good article.


28 year old male from Norway (The name is not my real name, but the e-mail is).


Chris Brown is the real victim of this relationship. You really have no knowledge on how relationships are nowadays or what type of relationship they were in. Rihanna isn’t really the victim in this relationship. She was the instigator cause she is a very manipulative person. She got a young, carefree guy in Chris Brown to snap. Don’t you question what made Chris did what he did, eventhough it was wrong. There is alot of questions that still needs answers too but you already concluded that the problem started with Brown abusing her when it was vice versa. Rihanna’s abuse was physical while Chris suffered through a bit of physical but overall emotional abuse. Youth relationship today incorporates what I call “play of emotions” where they selfishly find enjoyment in making their significant other mixed with various emotions, from angry to sad. Rihanna got it to the point where it shouldn’t have gotten and what ever it was must have been big. Everyone is sympathetic for her cause she was the so called “victim” in the relationship and hate is diverted towards Chris. Don’t give me that crap about, “don’t ever lay a hand on a woman” cause domestic abuse is vice versa and it would be sexist if you say so. Rihanna’s guilt is from the he knowledge of the incident and what she did to instigate it which has destroyed CB’s image and almost his career. Don’t read into much of that psychological crap, she is the one manipulating the media and playing the victim.


cam may u are very baised, and no aaron forgiveness is not all that matters i dont like ri ri neither di i like chris but from what ive gleamed not only from this article but other articles and what chris says, chris does not respect rihanna and in a relatoinship where respect is lacking, the relationship is doomed.


Y’all victimizing Rihanna smh, Not saying what he did was right , but she shouldn’t have abused him first. And Judging people based on the things they did when they were kids isn’t normal

Leave a Reply