BEVERLY — A survey of teenagers in Boston showed nearly half blamed pop singer Rihanna for the alleged assault she suffered at the hands of boyfriend Chris Brown while the two singers drove around Los Angeles last month.
Teens interviewed yesterday outside Beverly High agreed dating violence is wrong, but when it came to assigning blame, the issue wasn't so clear-cut.
While most local teens saw Rihanna as the victim, some could not believe Brown, a popular 19-year-old singer, could do such a thing. Others could not believe Rihanna has taken Brown back. Still others blamed Rihanna, the apparent victim in this case.
"I just believe everyone should respect other people and they shouldn't put hands on anyone else," sophomore Brianna Ward said. "If the allegations are true, then he should get in trouble for what he did, it wasn't right."
A fellow student had a hard time blaming Brown.
"I don't think Chris Brown did it," Jennifer Zamot said. "He doesn't seem like a violent person, and if he was a violent person, he would have done something before." She added, "I don't think it was right if he did do it."
Brown was arrested Feb. 8 in Los Angeles after a fight with Rihanna that stemmed from a text message he received, according to Associated Press reports. A detective's affidavit alleges he pushed her head against the window of the car they were driving in, punched her, hit her and bit her.
A Boston Public Health Commission survey of 200 teenagers conducted last month and released Thursday found:
44 percent said fighting was a normal part of a relationship.
51 percent blamed Brown.
46 percent said Rihanna was responsible.
52 percent said both were to blame.
"It wasn't Rihanna's fault," Beverly High junior Jamie Dooling-Kappotis said. "I think it was stupid she went back to him."
"I think that it's all his fault," sophomore Victoria Taylor said. "Even if she said something to make him upset, he shouldn't put his hands on her at all." Taylor said she is surprised so many are blaming Rihanna.
"Girl fans of Chris Brown try to blame her because they like him so much," Taylor said. "It's wrong what they are saying. ... It's who they like better, Rihanna or Chris Brown. I like both of them, but I still think he was wrong."
Freshman Chelsi Ringer put half of the blame on Rihanna for what went down.
"I think they are both equally at fault," Ringer said, "because if it happened before, as she is saying, she should've left him the first time."
Candace Waldron, the executive director of Salem-based HAWC, Help for Abused Women and their Children, said in a statement too much emphasis has been placed on Rihanna, instead of focusing on Brown and his actions.
"How do we teach boys to be men?" the statement read.
"Teens' attitudes have shifted," Waldron said in an interview. "They feel girls carry equal weight." Gone is the notion girls are the fairer sex, along with "an overall more aggressive culture." Often, gang culture treats women as property.
Prevention education has also been cut back, she said, and domestic abuse is one of the few crimes where the victim gets blamed.
Patrick Donovan, a school-based youth violence prevention coordinator for HAWC, said the Chris Brown-Rihanna case has teens and educators talking. Salem High, which had contacted him before this incident, has asked him to speak to a class at the school Monday.
"They are concerned about how the teens are processing it and how the teens are taking it," Donovan said. They are hearing from teens who are blaming Rihanna for not leaving sooner.
However, breaking up is hard to do, even in an abusive relationship.
"It takes five to seven tries to leave an abusive relationship," Donovan said. "When people are blamed for staying in the relationship, the big thing is to look at the barriers to leaving."
Beverly senior Lord Danielson has not been following the case, but said: "I think it was kind of blown out of proportion. It's everywhere. I know it's bad. It's not like it's wicked uncommon." Danielson condemned dating violence. "It shouldn't be accepted, no matter what."
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673 or firstname.lastname@example.org.