The man who bloodied and bruised Rihanna three years ago can now be heard on the pop princess' sexually charged "Birthday Cake" remix, released Monday. Chris Brown raps about wanting to "f***" her and "give it to her in the worst way," in the new version of the song.
Listeners can also hear Rihanna's vocals featured on Chris Brown's remix of "Turn Up the Music," which was released Monday.
While some fans have expressed acceptance and even excitement about the collaboration, others are outraged, announcing their loss of respect for Rihanna after seemingly welcoming her former abuser back into her life.
"Deleted Rihanna off my iPod. Not being associated with that imbecile in any capacity," one Twitter user wrote.
"Ladies, don't be like Rihanna… if a man beats you stay away, call the cops, get help. Don't let him remix your face or your song," another wrote.
"Rihanna owes better to her millions of female fans than to sing/dance on stage with a man who put her in hospital," said another.
Without having treated Rihanna or knowing the full details of the continuing saga between the pop stars, experts weighed in on the rekindled music relationship. While some said the revived pair is inappropriate and dangerous, others suggest that Rihanna may have healed from the experience and now feels empowered to separate business and personal relationships.
"It is always a little worrisome to see an abused woman readmit her abuser into her life," said Alan Hilfer, chief psychologist at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn. "This is, however, quite common and we often see women willing to forgive men for some of the awful things that they have done. As psychologists, we are always working to get people to change their behaviors and hope we can be successful. We advocate the ability to forgive, but not necessarily forget."
The cycle of domestic abuse can be a confusing one for all those involved or witnessing it, said Dr. Sudeepta Varma, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at New York University's Langone School of Medicine and a member of the American Psychiatric Association. While common sense tells most people to permanently stay away from something so damaging, victims can fall back into their abuser's web of charm, promises of change and grand gestures of apology.
"The highs the abusers provide their victims are like no other, and the memory and potency of the positive experiences draws the victim back in for more," said Varma. "The victim is often someone who is psychologically vulnerable to this type of charm, deceit and grandiose behavior. Underneath the debonair exterior of the abuser lies a person with gross lack of empathy, disregard for rules and norms of society. [These are] many qualities we see in people with personality disorders."
Rihanna seemed to allude to the situation with her former flame Tuesday while accepting best international female artist at the Brit Awards.
"At times when I feel misunderstood, my fans always remind me that it's O.K. to be myself," she said during her speech.
Varma said society doesn't expect women who are beautiful, talented, wealthy, and who have many options surrounding her, to fall prey to such behavior, but "domestic violence is an equalizer."
It is more about psychological dependence, low self-esteem, and believing that this person, who is good to you sometimes, is really your best and only option out there, Varma continued.
"You are willing to overlook the bad, because the good feels so good," said Varma. "It sends a confusing message to concerned parties and continued contact with a former abuser sends a message that you have accepted, tolerated and maybe even condoned this type of behavior."
Nevertheless, Martin Binks, clinical director and CEO of Binks Behavioral Health, said women who are victims of abuse do not have to remain victims of their abuser forever. Perhaps Rihanna is strong enough to make that separation.
"Why must we insist on disempowering victims by questioning their judgment without all the facts?" said Binks. "People may be forgetting that perhaps she has recovered and is a strong independent woman who is empowered enough to make this decision thoughtfully and without there being some pathological explanation.
"Only she and her therapist are qualified to have an opinion on this topic, in my opinion," he said.