NEW YORK — Shock and denial were the emotions most expressed by a roomful of New York City-area young people who gathered on Friday afternoon (February 13) to discuss the alleged altercation between Chris Brown and Rihanna and its ramifications.
The conversation was a part of a forum held for the MTV News special, "Chris Brown And Rihanna: Love In Trouble," set to air Monday at 6 p.m. ET/PT.
"He seemed like a good guy," said Lee Charm, 20, a musician from New Jersey, of [artist id="1961441"]Brown[/artist]. "I hope that [the reports aren't] as bad as it seems, because domestic violence is serious."
A number of audience members were dismayed that the seemingly happy couple could even come to blows. Some, like Melissa Bucano, 20, a college student at the Academy of Art — who said that, as a child, she witnessed her father turning violent against her mother — talked about the lingering trust issues following a domestic assault. Others, such as Chandra Bonner, 19, of New York, were more blunt: "If she goes back to him, she'd be stupid," she said of [artist id="1940303"]Rihanna[/artist]. Bonner added that both singers have made her "mad" as a result of the incident.
The forum, moderated by MTV News' Kim Stolz, touched on a range of topics with two experts: Dr. Michelle Callahan, a relationship expert and developmental psychologist, and Juan Ramos, senior director of the domestic violence accountability program at Safe Horizon, a victim-assistance organization dedicated to helping men and women deal with abuse.
Safe Horizon provided some alarming statistics regarding relationship abuse among young couples:
* One in three teenagers reportedly knows a friend or peer who has been hit, punched, kicked, slapped, choked or physically hurt by their partner.
* 13 percent of teenage girls who said they have been in a relationship report being physically hurt or hit.
* If trapped in an abusive relationship, 73 percent of teens said they would turn to a friend for help, but only 33 percent of who have been in or known about an abusive relationship said they have told anyone.
The figures come from a study commissioned by Liz Claiborne Inc. conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited in February 2005.
"Dr. Michelle," as she was called, spoke to the audience about the importance of recognizing the signs of an abusive relationship.
"Any time there's fighting, restraining a person, jealousy, or control issues," is how she defined abuse. "A lot of stuff passes that we think is OK until a punch gets thrown, but it's not."
In Brown's case, the singer has said in the past that his former stepfather had a history of abusing his mother (a claim his former stepfather disputed this week). Dr. Michelle explained that young men often take two stances in such situations: Either they vow to maintain control over their actions, or they repeat the cycle.
Ramos echoed the sentiment and added that if the allegations are true, Brown should take responsibility and use his voice to lead a discussion among his and Rihanna's fans.
The issue of abuse isn't solely limited to relationships between men and women, as one woman in the audience was quick to point out. Dr. Michelle agreed, and said the same rules apply no matter the gender. She then issued a stern warning.
"Nobody should be hitting anyone," she said. "Keep your hands to yourself!"
MTV will air "Chris Brown & Rihanna: Love in Trouble" Monday, February 16, at 6 p.m. ET/PT.
Get resources and information about domestic violence, or check out Think MTV for a video handbook on spotting the warning signs of abuse.