If the many media reports about the alleged altercation on Sunday between Chris Brown and girlfriend Rihanna are to be believed, she suffered a serious assault from her 19-year-old boyfriend. While police have not named the victim in the case or released details of the assault, a number of media outlets have cited sources who said that [artist id="1940303"]Rihanna[/artist] was the victim and that she suffered serious injuries.
Brown was arrested on Sunday and booked on suspicion of making criminal threats in what has been described as a domestic-abuse incident that was the culmination of a reportedly troubled relationship with an alleged history of previous abusive incidents.
Based on comments MTV News has received on the incident, a surprising number of people — some of whom are apparently female, although screen names often aren't gender-specific — are blaming Rihanna for the alleged incident.
For example, "I don't think Chris would just a hit a girl like that," wrote reader Nika2hot. "She had to do something or say something out the way for him to really hurt her."
"Blaming the victim has gone on as long as I can remember, both in sexual assault and domestic violence," said Kim Gandy, the president of NOW, the National Organization For Women. "When I started working on domestic-violence issues in the 1970s, women would not come forward because they knew they would be blamed, no matter how blameless they knew they were. Maybe they hadn't ironed his shirt right, or burned the toast, or 'done something' to justify being beaten."
Gandy said progress has been made since then, but the cycle of violence has continued, and in fact, has been on the upswing among teens over the past decade. "You hear teenagers now saying, 'He roughs her up when she gets out of line, but that's how he shows her he loves her.' "
She also noted that sometimes in cases of domestic abuse, even women will fall into the victim-blaming pattern, saying, "These men aren't really responsible, they must have been provoked ... a man wouldn't 'just beat her like that for no reason.' "
While the majority of commenters said they were shocked by the allegations and disappointed by the alleged actions of Brown, quite a few pointed the finger at Rihanna, 20, with a few alluding to unsubstantiated Internet rumors regarding intimate details of the couple's sexual relationship. (Some comments have been edited to correct grammar and punctuation.)
"Despite what we think, there are three sides to a story: his side, her side, and the truth. I don't know what that is, because I was not there," said MizDIva34.
"I don't wanna believe all this .... Chris wouldn't be that type of guy," wrote jb&weezyfan. "Well he doesn't seem like that type of guy ... this kinda reminds me of the Michael Jackson case ... Chris' career may be ruined forever ... just like Michael's ... sooo sad. I love all his songs. Well I'm still gonna support him. I just don't believe it ... until he says it ..... cause Rihanna is a ***** .. well she looks like one anyways."
While Rihanna has gotten an outpouring of support on her official MySpace page and Brown has gotten similar messages on his, some of the people posting on Brown's page and a few MTV readers were even harsher in their indictment of the alleged victim in the case.
Another reader, "Zjera_Boo," wrote, "If what I hear is correct and Rihanna gave chris an STD, then she needed it, but they are right he is only human." Also alluding to the Internet rumors, "Boogababe" added, "You guys seem to be forgetting the real reason why he did it in the first place ... He did that coz he was mad * a girl he trusted and which he was with ... which turned around to put his life in jeopardy by infecting him with an STD???!!!?? Comm'on guys Rihanna had what was coming to her...Brusies can heal ova some time but putting your health on the line like that is hectic!"
In keeping with what Gandy said was the typical pattern of victim scapegoating, "Alissa" argued, "Rihanna must have provoked it in some way, that still does not give Chris the right to do what he did so in the end, who's really to blame? They're both super young and need to remember who they were before the fame and who they are now."
Candice Hopkins, director of the Love is Respect Helpline, a national teen dating abuse hotline was not necessarily surprised at the large number of negative comments from females.
"Young people are not necessarily told what a healthy relationship looks like, so they're not sure if someone could or could not be abusive ... what is the line?" she told MTV News. "Domestic violence has been going on for so long, and it's such a part of our culture, on TV and in movies, that it's easy to say, 'She must have done something to deserve it.' "
Hopkins said there might also be a bit of a star factor that is influencing some of the young women calling out Rihanna. "There's a percentage who don't want to believe that this young man who has spoken out against domestic violence and seems to have a positive message can seem as abusive as this incident seems," she said.
And while Brown has not been charged with domestic abuse at press time, Gandy said the incident is an opportunity to talk about what men and women can do to avoid these types of situations in the future.
"It's awfully important for men to be involved in this," she said. "I talk with a lot of men about the joking and banter that goes on [about domestic abuse] and even when they're uncomfortable with it, they don't want to say anything because they don't want to be seen as a stick in the mud. But they need to stand up and say, 'Don't talk about a girl like that, that's not cool.'
"If your buddy is talking about doing something, you can't let it go," she continued. "You have to say, 'Hey, that's wrong. Why would you do that?' It's much easier to not say anything. But when you say it out loud you might get a bad reaction, but maybe he thinks twice about it if he knows his buddies are not backing him up."
What went on between Rihanna and Chris? Watch the MTV News special "Chris Brown & Rihanna: Love in Trouble" Monday night at 6 p.m. ET/PT, when we'll take a closer look at their relationship, the allegations against Brown and what this means for both artists' careers.