Rihanna speaks out on Good Morning America

This morning Good Morning America aired a portion of a Diane Sawyer interview with Rihanna in which the singer discussed (for the first time on television) ex-boyfriend Chris Brown and his assault on her in February of this year:

While I commend Rihanna for speaking out on behalf of victims of domestic violence, the blame she puts on herself in this interview broke my heart a little bit. The hurt and embarrassment she feels over Brown’s attacking her is understandable (and is felt by many domestic violence victims, not just famous ones) but also incredibly sad. I really appreciated her starting the interview with a statement of how strong she is, but I hate that her strength was called into question by Sawyer because of the actions of a violent man. How does her getting punched in the face equate her being weak? And so what if she is weak? That has nothing to do with it. Until we can stop victim-blaming and put the blame where it belongs (you know, on those who attack others) we won’t be able to truly deal with domestic violence. Rihanna is a strong woman, and I for one am glad that she is willing to speak out about these issues. What did you think of this excerpt? The full interview will appear on 20/20 tomorrow night.

by Kelsey Wallace
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Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

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4 Comments Have Been Posted

I watched this and came

I watched this and came immediately over here to see what Bitch had to say. Because on the one hand, I am impressed with Rihanna for being so brave (a word which I'm sure will used a lot to describe her attitude in this interview). But on the other, the way Diane and her co-host cooed pity over the singer back in the newsroom made me uncomfortable.

Personally, I thought Rihanna was laudably honest while also being careful with her words. You can tell by watching her that she's still working through the largeness of what happened to her and trying to not only heal, but acknowledge that because she is in the public eye her actions in the wake of her assault can potentially influence other women. That's a lot of weight to carry.

Jennifer K. Stuller

I disagree.

Voiceover: "The whole world wondered how it could happen to someone so strong."
Rihanna: "I am strong. This happened to me. I didn't cause this. I didn't do it. This happened to me and it can happen to anybody."

Diane Sawyer's voiceover seemed to set up some sort of victim blaming, but Rihanna quashed that herself. I don't see any emphasis on weakness OR victim blaming, but the opposite. She didn't cause this, and it can happen to anybody!

So, I'm curious to what specifically you see in this excerpt that you feel is victim blaming, because I saw a woman who survived a horrible incident of domestic violence, who's talking about how that wasn't the first incident of domestic violence in that relationship, and being really honest what she felt and is thinking now.

I actually got a little teary-eyed, because you can see how Rihanna's dealing with the enormity of this, and what high standards everyone is holding her up to, including posts like this at Bitch. The fact she knew the statistic about women who return to their abusers, "actually it's 8 or 9 times" before leaving for good, and to talk about her love, HIS abuse and her mistakes on a really human level makes her so accessible. And to walk away from her abuser, someone she loved because "even if he never hit [her] again," it could lead to another girl to stay with her abuser, that's huge.


I agree with you that Rihanna is right to say that this could happen to anyone (because that's true) and that this was a moving interview. I just bristled a bit at Diane Sawyer calling Rihanna's strength into question because to me, that implies that somehow Rihanna should have been able to prevent this from happening to her. By starting the segment off with "everyone is wondering how it could happen to someone so strong" Sawyer is planting the seed in the audience's minds that if Rihanna were strong she wouldn't have been abused. Good for Rihanna for standing up against that type of thinking, which is a form of victim blaming.

Admiring Rihanna

I am not a fan of Rihanna's music and never even knew who she was until all this happened, but I have to say I now admire her and think she comes off as amazing in this excerpt. This is an incredible document of someone who has a realization that makes her see her personal decisions as bigger than herself, part of a larger pattern. I agree with her that people put too much pressure on her as far as her personal decisions, but at the same time, it's pretty clear than being a celebrity and thus having an impact on young women is what made her have this realization, so for that reason, I'm glad she was a celebrity when it happened. You know, I also have a tendency to think most celebrities are milking their tragedies rather than speaking out for victims, but something about her really seems believable and so honest. Unfortunately, I agree with what everyone else has said about Diane Sawyer's tone. She comes off as almost patronizing. I imagine it's hard to strike the right tone with such an interview, but Sawyer seems like she's sentimentalizing this, putting it back into a personal realm. It's a real testiment to Rihanna that she resists this.

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