Many fans and observers were surprised that less than three weeks after Chris Brown is alleged to have beaten girlfriend Rihanna that the couple were reported to have reunited last weekend in Miami. Though they were not pictured together while staying at a Miami-area home owned by Diddy in what was believed to be their first face-to-face since the incident on the eve of the Grammys, Sheryl Cates, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline, said such quick rapprochement is not unusual in domestic-violence cases.
"I'm not surprised at all, it's a normal reaction," Cates said. (Cates has 25 years' worth of experience in the domestic-violence field, but stressed that she has no firsthand knowledge of the Brown/Rihanna case other than media reports.) "She's probably trying to see if he will actually change his behavior. There's probably hope there, and while the trust has been broken, there's a level of trust that says, 'I will give you an opportunity for change.' "
Brown was arrested and booked on suspicion of criminal threats and is scheduled to be charged this Thursday (March 5) in the case. But regardless of how the legal end of the matter emerges, Cates said that [artist id="1940303"]Rihanna's[/artist] challenge is not knowing if this kind of situation will happen again — though historically, Cates noted, there is a "high likelihood" that it could. "Nobody is sure that there haven't been other incidences, because usually there has been violence before, or an escalation of emotionally abusive behavior," she said. "The interesting question is, 'Is he serious about changing and will Rihanna know that he is?' "
Brown has said in a statement that he was "sorry and saddened" about what happened, without specifying what exactly transpired. Cates said her experience is that there is an 80 percent or higher risk that another abusive incident could happen in the future once an alleged confrontation of this magnitude has transpired.
"Just because there has not been physical abuse [that we know of] in the past, that doesn't mean there wasn't emotional abuse," she said. "And if that was happening, that possessive behavior that includes isolation from friends and family, jealousy and control tactics, that will usually occur again unless that person is really getting help and doing work to find balance in that relationship."
Following some criticism from fans and fellow artists such as Usher about Brown's decision to be photographed riding a Jet Ski and flexing his muscles during the couple's reported reunion weekend, Cates said it is clear that the extra layer of expectation and scrutiny the couple face as celebrities could add to the difficulty of navigating the situation.
"Her family has been very supportive and stood by her and his [Brown's] mom, who's been though this — if she talks about love and there is accountability, an understanding that this is not acceptable and if she's supportive of his change and not making excuses for it, that could help," Cates said.
The couple reportedly made their way back to Los Angeles on Monday and were said to be photographed by TMZ exiting a private plane together. And while Rihanna is said to have cooperated with police in the investigation — the photo of her battered face leaked by TMZ is reported to have been a police image — Cates said even if Rihanna decides not to further cooperate with the district attorney's office in the case, it might not make a difference.
"I don't want to say that [reconciling] is his motivation [to avoid charges], but it does happen," Cates said. "There's always that thought of, 'Well, maybe they won't testify against me.' But California's prosecution policies don't require the victim to testify." Both Brown and Rihanna's spokespeople have not returned repeated requests for comment from MTV News in connection with this story.
Get resources and information about domestic violence, or check out Think MTV for a video handbook on spotting the warning signs of abuse.