Friday, as I was standing in line at the grocery store and scanning the magazine rack for something to distract me from how grossly I was breaking my budget, I realized six of the eight magazines on the rack were splashed (“blasted” is probably a better word) with pictures and an assortment of exclamations about the current “Chrianna” situation. Whether they were reporting rumors of marriage or Rihanna’s family’s reactions to the situation, six out of eight magazines had dedicated significant portions of their covers to Rihanna and Chris Brown.

It’s no secret the public has been shocked and outraged since news of Chris Brown’s abuse first hit the media, but Friday night, I couldn’t help but wonder why the public is so shocked and outraged. Why do we care about how Rihanna handles the situation? What does it matter to us how her family and friends have reacted?

Common sense and basic human compassion tells me we care about Rihanna’s well being; Americans as a whole are not cool with domestic violence and most people care about what happens to their fellow humans. We want to protect the abused and punish the abusers and we want to help stop situations like this from happening in the future.

But our outrage over the Chrianna situation suggests more than just concern about a fellow human being’s welfare and a need for justice – it also suggests fear.

What are we afraid of?

We are afraid Rihanna is sending the wrong message.

Rihanna and Chris Brown “reunited” after less time than it takes to start a decent blog. We expect victims of violence to seek justice and bar their abusers from their lives forever, so any reunion – especially one that took so little time – suggests to us that Rihanna is too mentally weak or unintelligent to recognize danger, and that she cares so little about herself that she’s “okay” with being abused.

What does that say to other abuse victims? Other abusers? That it’s okay if someone hits you? That it’s okay to hit someone? That’s what we fear.

We are afraid Rihanna’s father is apathetic and negligent.

If a parent doesn’t move in to “protect” his child, he obviously doesn’t care about his child…right? Wrong (or, not necessarily true in every case). A parent can only do so much, especially when his child is an independent, wildly successful 21-year-old adult. All parents come to a point when they have to let their children live their own lives. Rihanna’s father can’t control her, but he can offer advice and support in whatever she chooses to do (as well as in whatever successes or failures her decisions bring).

In other words, Ronald Fenty can no longer forbid Rihanna to cross the street, but he can advise her to look both ways. He can even hold her hand.

We are afraid Chrianna’s friends are conducive to future violence.

From P. Diddy offering the two a neutral refuge (though, now there’s some speculation about that) to Kanye West wondering why we can’t give Brown a break, we assume everyone who doesn’t drape a protective arm over Rihanna while simultaneously dragging Brown to the center of the village for a good ol’ fashioned stoning is dangerous. We believe only those folks who warn Rihanna never to speak to Brown again, like Oprah, are the ones who care about her.

It’s true that our peers’ reactions to what’s going on in our lives tend to influence how we view and feel about the situations. When it comes down to it, however, we each have to make our own decisions.

We are afraid Chrianna’s behavior will influence our youth’s behavior.

This is perhaps the biggest and easiest-to-understand fear of all. Whether they’re movie stars, musicians, or sports “heroes,” celebrities have a lot of influence over children (and easily influenced adults). If our children are going to look to celebrities for the latest behavioral trends, we certainly don’t want those trends to include abuse – nor do we want them to include accepting abuse or getting away with abuse.

In the end, Rihanna could very well be handling this situation poorly; however, she could also just be handling it the only way she knows how right now. So much of life – and our reactions to life – is trial and error. If Rihanna chooses to block Chris Brown from her life and make advocating against domestic violence her mission, then good for her. But we need to remember that Rihanna, Chris Brown, and all their family members and friends are imperfect humans just like the rest of us, and not one of them can really be held responsible for how the rest of us behave.

Image Credit: cj_slim per these Creative Commons License Attributions.