Rihanna not alone in relationship abuse

When talking about abusive relationships, a physical punch or a verbal bashing are the sorts of things that come to mind. Unfortunately, what many don’t know is that abuse can be sexual, financial, emotional and social as well.

Police photos of a battered Rihanna were leaked onto the Internet on Thursday. The photos show the diva’s face marred with bruises and scratches.

The attacker? R&B superstar boyfriend Chris Brown, according to the police report.

While it’s negative publicity for both artists that these photos are circulating the Web, the event has brought attention to the prominent issue of dating abuse.

According to a Harris Poll, 15 percent of adults have admitted to being abused in a relationship at some point in their lives. A 2000 study by the Bureau Justice Special Report on intimate partner violence found that of 500 women, ages 15 to 24, 60 percent were currently involved in ongoing abusive relationships.

Sadly, even these statistics can be underestimated.

Many surveys on domestic and dating abuse are worded or interpreted as referring only to physical, instead of all forms. And even in today’s open society, a lot of men still do not like to admit that they are victims of abuse by women.

Anyone who has been forced into sex or restricted from seeing friends and family has been a victim of abuse.

Another issue is that some women won’t reveal if they’re in abusive relationships even when they are. Some fear further abuse, and some believe that the aggressor loves them and will someday change.

What the Rihanna/Brown case exemplifies is that relationship abuse can happen to anyone — even to a woman who embodies success and confidence with numerous singles on the top of the Billboard charts.

Dating violence does not discriminate. It can happen to men and women, the pretty and the plain, the leader or the follower and even, as evident, the famous and the anonymous.

People in abusive partnerships should know they’re not alone.

Liz Claiborne Inc. sponsors an organization called “Love is not abuse,” which works to raise awareness for women and men on dating and domestic abuse. The organization’s Web site has statistics and handbooks about the prominence and the dangers of abusive relationships.

The site also has a listing of help resources for people trapped in violent relationships or even people looking to help a friend.

The Spring House (thespring.org) is a safe house for victims of any type of violence located in Tampa.

The key to fighting domestic violence is to know the facts. The Center for Relationship Abuse (stoprelationshipabuse.org) lists early signs in a partner that can hint to future violence.

Keep in mind that it’s easier to end an abusive relationship before it starts. If you see the signs, walk away as soon as you can.

Unfortunately, 80 percent of women in abusive relationships will stay with their partner, according to a study by Teen Research Unlimited.

Though Rihanna’s only official words are through her publicist, thanking fans for support, polls are circulating the Internet asking if fans think the couple will stay together. If the allegations against Chris Brown are true, the best thing Rihanna can do is leave the relationship, setting a good example for all the people who need the courage to do the same.

Emily Handy is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.