Rihanna opened up about her tumultuous relationship with Chris Brown, his assault and the unfair treatment she and other victims of domestic abuse often face in a new interview with Vanity Fair. "I just never understood that, like how the victim gets punished over and over," the singer said.
Rihanna did not dwell on the infamous 2009 incident, though shared some sharp words for "the very nasty woman" who leaked photos of her bruised and swollen face to TMZ and "thought a check was more important than morals."
More concerning to Rihanna was the way the assault has continued to follow her in egregiously unfair ways. Last year, CBS nixed her performance of "Run This Town" on Thursday Night Football at the height of the Ray Rice domestic abuse scandal (that night's game featured Rice's old team, the Baltimore Ravens).
"It's not a subject to sweep under the rug, so I can't just dismiss it like it wasn’t anything, or I don’t take it seriously," Rihanna said. "But, for me, and anyone who's been a victim of domestic abuse, nobody wants to even remember it. Nobody even wants to admit it. So to talk about it and say it once, much less 200 times, is like … I have to be punished for it? It didn’t sit well with me."
Still, the singer was forthcoming about her attempt to reconcile her relationship with Brown after the assault, admitting she believed she was the positive force he needed to turn his life around.
"You realize after a while that in that situation, you're the enemy," she said. "You want the best for them, but if you remind them of their failures, or if you remind them of bad moments in their life, or even if you say I'm willing to put up with something, they think less of you — because they know you don't deserve what they're going to give. And if you put up with it, maybe you are agreeing that you [deserve] this, and that's when I finally had to say, 'Uh-oh, I was stupid thinking I was built for this.'"
Rihanna said she doesn't "have much of a relationship now" with Brown, but said she does not hate him, and would "care about him until the day I die." It's a somewhat cloudy, but ultimately optimistic, outlook that permeates the rest of the Vanity Fair profile, in which Rihanna also discusses the difficulties of cultivating relationships, let alone a normal life, in the public eye.
"This is scary and sad all at the same time," Rihanna cracked at one point. "I literally dream about buying my own groceries … Because it is something that is real and normal. Something that can keep you a little bit uncomfortable … Life is not perfect, and the minute you feel it's perfect, it's not real.
"Artists sign a deal to make music; we didn’t sign to be perfect or to be role models," she added. "We're all flawed human beings who are learning and growing and evolving and going through the same bullshit as everybody else. The fact that people expect the day we sign we're supposed to be perfect does not make any fucking sense to me. Even tragedy, every trial in your life, is a test. It's like a class — you take an exam, and if you pass, you move on to the next. You still have to take another test and prove yourself again."