Today on Here and Now, the mid-day news program on the Boston-based NPR affiliate WBUR, reporters spoke with Boston-area teens about the recent news that pop singer Chris Brown allegedly physically abused his girlfriend (and fellow pop star) Rihanna. The idea for consulting local youths came from a recent survey conducted by the Boston Public Health Commission , which produced some surprising results:
- 51% said Chris Brown was responsible for the incident
- 46% said Rihanna was responsible for the incident
- 52% said both individuals were to blame for the incident, despite knowing at the time that Rihanna had been beaten badly enough to require hospital treatment
On Here and Now, students from Match public charter high school shared their opinions. “She must have done something to provoke Chris Brown to hit her like that,” says one male student, adding that he doesn’t know enough about the relationship to say whether it was “right” or not – somewhat disturbing sentiments, until a female student named Denise disagrees, as does another male student, who says Brown needs “anger management.”
Much like the survey indicates, this sampling of students is conflicted over the boundaries between arguing and abuse in a relationship. Here and Now guest Nick Shiggs-Quiroga, a third grade teacher at Neighborhood House Charter School in Dorchester, expresses that same thought, saying that he feels this is something he needs to discuss with – and to some degree, teach to – his students.
As someone who tutors Roxbury high schoolers (via 826 Boston), helping them to analyze and discuss required literature, this report made me feel like I should be spending less time on Hemingway heroes, and more time on the fact that no one (male or female) ever “deserves” – the word that several students used on Here and Now – to be physically abused. I recently had a conversation with a tenth-grade female student at English High, about how Frederic Henry from Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms is similar to men that she knows, in that they are both emotionally unavailable. That may be par for the course with tenth-grade boys – I don’t remember any of my sophomore year relationships being rife with outpourings of emotions – but abuse is an entirely separate issue, one that I hadn’t considered as a topic to be discussed during school hours before. But maybe it should be – or maybe we just need more groups like Girls Leap out there.