We all know the unfortunate story: Chris Brown assaulted then-girlfriend Rihanna after a pre-Grammy party back in 2009. What followed was the leak of police photos depicting her beaten face and a barrage of rumors somehow placing the blame on her for his actions.
Three years after the assault, she asked a judge to dismiss a restraining order against him. That led the way to their brief reconciliation. That’s a part of the relationship she’s rarely spoken about, but she opened up for her latest Vanity Fair cover.
“I was that girl,” she told the magazine. “that girl who felt that as much pain as this relationship is, maybe some people are built stronger than others. Maybe I’m one of those people built to handle shit like this. Maybe I’m the person who’s almost the guardian angel to this person, to be there when they’re not strong enough, when they’re not understanding the world, when they just need someone to encourage them in a positive way and say the right thing.”
Rihanna fell into a trap many women do, believing they can change someone by loving them. She says she was protective of Chris and felt others just didn’t understand him.
But you know, you realize after a while that in that situation you’re the enemy. 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.’ Sometimes you just have to walk away.”
While that relationship did put a public face on how hard it can be for someone to completely free themselves of an abusive relationship, it’s also shown how callous survivors can be treated. Within a few hours of her assault, someone leaked a photo of her battered face to TMZ. Years later, the NFL and CBS decided not to use “Run This Town” during an opening-week broadcast, following the release of a video that showed former football player Ray Rice assaulting his wife in an elevator. Jay Z says the NFL thought playing the song would be “a distraction.”
“Well, I just never understood that,” Rihanna says, “like how the victim gets punished over and over. It’s in the past, and I don’t want to say ‘Get over it,’ because it’s a very serious thing that is still relevant; it’s still real. A lot of women, a lot of young girls, are still going through it. A lot of young boys too. 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. But, for me, and anyone who’s been a victim of domestic abuse, nobody wants to even remember it.”
Rihanna also talked about her love life. While she’s been connected with Leonardo DiCaprio recently, she says her brief reconciliation with Chris in 2012 was her last relationship. Before that, she also dated baseball player Matt Kemp.
With her busy schedule, Rihanna says she couldn’t be in a relationship right now, but she refuses to settle for anything less than what she deserves. In the meantime, she’s abstaining from sex because she isn’t comfortable with a casual relationship.
“I mean I get horny, I’m human, I’m a woman, I want to have sex,” she says. “But what am I going to do—just find the first random cute dude that I think is going to be a great ride for the night and then tomorrow I wake up feeling empty and hollow?”
While it seems common for women to put on a brave face when they’re single and pretend like they don’t feel any loneliness at times (of course, some definitely don’t), Rihanna is refreshingly honest about it.
“It is lonely,” she says, “but I have so much work to do that I get distracted. I don’t have time to be lonely.”