Does My Teenage Daughter Get the Rihanna/Chris Brown Thing?

04/12/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Mona Gable Writer and Journalist focusing on politics and parenting

It sure was a big news day. Between Bernie Madoff being led off to prison, Levi and Bristol mercifully breaking up (now there was a stunner!), and Oprah bringing on BFF Tyra and devoting an hour-long show to "all the Rihannas of the world," I had a terrible time deciding what to write about.

So I let Katie Couric help me out. During her broadcast last night the CBS anchor and mother of three daughters stared gravely into the camera and urged parents to talk to their kids about dating violence. Unless you've been in Gitmo or flying around in the space shuttle, I'm going to assume you know why Katie did. Briefly it comes down to two, actually, three words: Chris Brown and Rihanna.

And now, according to People and other sources, the two not only made up barely three weeks after Brown allegedly beat the daylights out of the pop star and threatened to kill her. They are secretly recording a duet for his next album. It's all good! So why was P. Diddy (or Diddy or whatever-his-name-of-the-moment-is) so ticked off on The Ellen DeGeneres Show this week, when she pressed him about the wisdom of lending the couple his Miami Beach mansion for a cozy, post-beating getaway? What kind of example to young people is that?

A little sensitive, are we? Try having someone squeeze his hands around your throat so hard that you nearly lose consciousness.

As it happens, my teenage daughter and I have been talking ad nauseum about the Rihanna/Chris Brown debacle ever since the night of the Grammys, when the baby-faced singer turned himself in to the LAPD. And then when those grisly photos of a battered and bruised Rihanna surfaced on the gossip and entertainment website TMZ. We live in Los Angeles, so it's impossible to avoid these things. In fact, my daughter knew most of the gory details about Rihanna's assault before I did through that impeccably reliable news source Perez Hilton. (This is where readers will undoubtedly berate me for allowing my daughter to go online. But at least I know who Perez is!)

I also know this. Given the statistics that anywhere from 10 percent to 20 percent of teens are physically or sexually abused by their partners, we clearly have done a lousy job of educating young women and men about dating violence. And how serious it is.

This is supposed to be one of those golden "teachable" moments for parents, when you sit them down and say, if a boy ever hits you, puts you down, follows you, endlessly texts you, if he starts trying to separate you from your friends, run like hell and tell someone. But in this case since we're dealing with celebrities, I wonder how much teens are truly going to learn? Especially when the adults around them are saying such enlightening things as, What did Rihanna do to provoke Chris? Didn't she throw his phone at him? Or, he just made a mistake. He's really sorry. He loves her.

Or, as a source told People, "While Chris is reflective and saddened about what happened, he is really happy to be with the woman he loves."

I guess this explains why the young singer didn't make a plea to the two felony counts when he appeared last week in court. He was too happy. Or maybe he had to rush off to Diddy's? At least he had the good P.R. sense to withdraw his name from the Nickelodeon Kids' Awards.

My daughter doesn't have a boyfriend. (Thank god for small favors!) Most of her friends don't either because they hang out with guys in groups. But they do have enough self-esteem to realize that when a boy punches you in the face, or puts you in a headlock, or says he wants to kill you, it's not love. It's violence.

"I'm not going to listen to his music anymore," one my daughter's friends said of Chris Brown.