ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Well, now to a different but much more violent fight. When singer, Chris Brown, allegedly assaulted his girlfriend, Rihanna, the tabloids had a field day. But in the week since then, that incident has inspired a very serious new dialogue about domestic violence. This week protests from outraged parents prompted Brown to drop out of a music awards show on Nickelodeon. As NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates reports, the couple may have reconciled but their public is not ready to forgive and forget.
KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: Nineteen year old Chris Brown looks like the nice boy next door.
(Soundbite of song, "Forever")
BATES: He fills concert halls with screaming young girls who love his music and his sweet face.
(Soundbite of song, "Forever")
Mr. CHRIS BROWN (Singer): (Singing) It's you, and me, movin at the speed of light into eternity.
BATES: Twenty one year old pop star Rihanna is sometimes touted as the next Madonna.
(Soundbite of song, "Umbrella")
Ms. RIHANNA (Singer): (Singing) Now that it's raining more than ever, know that we still have each other, you can stand under my umbrella, you can stand under my umbrella.
BATES: But these two young people in the public eye have become symbols of something that's bigger than their music. Oprah raised the issue for the second time yesterday.
Ms. OPRAH WINFREY (Host, "The Oprah Winfrey Show"): All new, it's the story that put dating violence back in the headlines in a big way. Chris Brown charged with two felonies…
BATES: And it's not just Oprah. Parents and children are discussing the dilemma of the couple that tabs are now calling Crianna. And while parents are clearly indignant about Rihanna's assault, the children are often more measured. In Los Angeles, Carlyle Davis, Erin Hill, and Shalya Matthews are chewing over the latest details. All three girls are 17-year-old high school seniors. Carlyle says at her school some people refused to believe that Brown is at fault.
Ms. CARLYLE DAVIS: Chris Brown lovers defend Chris Brown till the day they die. They are basically like I don't know what happened, but like he must have had a reason. He must have been provoked.
BATES: Erin Hill says there's a lot of speculation about the chronology of who hit whom.
Ms. ERIN HILL: I think she threw the phone at him first and then she started hitting him while he was driving or something like that. I think for a lot of people that was the point of you know, in greater defense of Chris Brown, she started this, so she deserved what was coming.
BATES: When a photo leaked showing Rihanna's injuries, Erin remembers her reaction.
Ms. HILL: I was horrified. You know, there are a lot of stories going around that when people saw the picture it really hit everyone how serious it was.
BATES: It's precisely the role model status of both Chris and Rihanna that has domestic violence experts worried. Angela Parker does outreach with teens on domestic violence for the Jenesse Center at Los Angeles. She says many of the girls she counsels don't see themselves as victims.
Ms. ANGELA PARKER (Jenesse Center): A lot of young girls that I talk to feel like if somebody hits you and you hit them back, then you are not in an abusive relationship. You are fighting each other.
Ms. ADRIENNE LAMAR (Associate Director, Jenesse Center): Our position is its never okay to hit a woman.
BATES: Adrienne Lamar is Associate Director of Jenesse. She believes teen girls and boys have to be taught how to manage their anger and keep their hands to themselves, but they need help.
Ms. LAMAR: These are the messages that are lacking because of the absence of strong role models.
BATES: While a few black male celebrities have stepped forward to condemn Chris Brown's behavior, Lamar is frustrated that so many refused to comment initially or decided to reserve judgment. Brown will be arraigned on felony assault charges in April. Seventeen-year-old Erin Hill predicts Rihanna will eventually bounce back but believes the rebound will be harder for him.
Ms. HILL: He's already getting labeled as Ike Turner. There's no coming back from that.
BATES: Maybe there is, although the managers declined to comment, reports say the couple are currently in the studio recording a duet. The subject? Love's challenges.
Karen Grigsgy Bates, NPR News.
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