In a recent survey of 200 teenagers by the Boston Public Health Commission, 46 percent said Rihanna was responsible for what happened; 52 percent said both bore responsibility, despite knowing that Rihanna’s injuries required hospital treatment. On a Facebook discussion, one girl wrote, “she probly ran into a door and was too embarrassed so blamed it on chris.”
This reaction has alarmed parents and professionals who work with teenagers, and Oprah Winfrey was prompted to address violence in teenage relationships on her show. Boys who condone Mr. Brown’s behavior disappoint, but don’t shock Marcyliena Morgan, executive director of Harvard’s hip-hop archive. “But it’s the girls!” she said. “Where have we gone wrong here?”
Underneath harsh, judgmental bravado, teenage girls themselves seem perplexed by the unfolding story, whipsawed by allegiance to their celebrities, fantasies about romantic relationships, and the terrifying mysteries of intimate violence — the savagery of the beating as well as the speed with which Rihanna apparently agreed to see him again.
Mimi Valdés Ryan, former editor in chief of Vibe magazine and the one who put Chris Brown on the cover in 2006, said the defense of him by so many young girls can be understood in part because they are adoring fans.
Even before this incident, Mr. Brown’s core fans didn’t like Rihanna, said Ms. Valdés Ryan, now editor in chief of Latina, a magazine for young women. “His posters are on the bedroom wall, the last face they see before they sleep,” she said. “They’re feeling, ‘Why is he with her, not with me?’ ”