From Rihanna to Nicole Brown: How to Spot an Abusive Relationship

Sister of Nicole Brown Simpson calls for more conversation about abuse.

ByABC News via logo
March 10, 2009, 9:54 PM

March 11, 2009 — -- The debate has raged in offices, school classrooms, subways, street corners and around the dinner table -- should R&B star Rihanna have taken Chris Brown back after he allegedly brutally beat her?

While domestic violence is a world many don't understand, experts say her actions are typical but dangerous.

Denise Brown knows the pattern all too well. She watched her sister, Nicole Brown Simpson, suffer repeated abuse, she says, at the hands of husband O.J. Simpson.

"I wish I would have known about the cycle of violence," she tells "Good Morning America." "I think it's so important for people to understand. ... It's a reoccurring thing."

Brown says the cycle starts with a chipping away of the victim's self-esteem before escalating into physical violence and ending with the "honeymoon" phase in which the abuser turns on the charm, apologizes and promises never to do it again.

But that cycle, she says, can be stopped.

"People can make choices not to hit, not to verbally abuse," Brown says.

Brown calls on the abuser and victim's communities to help stand up for the victim, to let that person know that it's not OK. She urges nonabusive men, stating that in 95 percent of cases the abusers are men, to stand up and say that abuse is not OK.

"Everybody needs to work together on this," she says.

As for Rihanna, Brown says she thinks even the superstar's choice not to request a restraining order, not to mention attempting a reconciliation, sends a bad message to teenagers who are following the story.

"I just hate to look at teenagers," Brown says, that they are likely thinking, "if she can go back, we can go back."

National Domestic Violence Hotline

Violence Against Women organizations by state

Alliance for Children and Families