Time To Leave

Julia Sdrigotti is a 17 year old high school student from NYC

Time Magazine, you have exercised reckless judgment by putting Rihanna on your list of the world’s 100 most influential people. Why aren’t you putting up amazing women who are standing up to violence and corruption in Egypt and Libya, like Tawakul Karman? Instead, you are condoning a woman who is sending a wrong and dangerous message. Ever since she was beaten and humiliated by Chris Brown, Rihanna has failed to step up as the role model she is to millions of young girls who buy her albums. These young girls look up to her and want to be like her.

Her songs explicitly state a yearning to be victimized or play down violence, which is quite simply unacceptable. Domestic violence is no game and Rihanna will eventually be badly burned if she keeps playing with fire. I don’t want to support Rihanna and make her richer. I have no respect for a masochist woman who carries a torch for the man who beat her down. Her latest song, Birthday Cake, a collaboration with Chris Brown in which they praise possessiveness, is stupid and vulgar. A month ago, a 27-year old woman, Danielle Thomas, was beaten to death by her boyfriend. Like Chris Brown with Rihanna, Danielle’s killer had threatened to take her life. What makes Rihanna think Brown did not mean what he said? Danielle was beaten to death. Rihanna was beaten and is back for more. Danielle thought she could help her boyfriend overcome his violent tendencies, and she paid with her life for this mistaken judgment.

-by Julia Sdrigotti


Mason Dowling is a 19-year-old fine arts student from Santa Fe, NM, currently living in New York

For an abused kid, the graduation from Columbia University was a tremendous success. So too was the acceptance to University of Florida Law School and thejob at Goldman-Sachs. Yet on June 25, 2012, Jason Bohn, 33, murdered his girlfriend, Danielle Thomas, 27, in their Queens home, using text messages to her friends to give himself time to escape.

Neighbors remembered hearing Thomas scream many times as Bohn beat her including the night she died. “He’s going to kill me!” they heard. They did nothing. A social phenomenon known as the bystander effect posits that the greater the number of people who witness an emergency, the less likely it is that one will report it, since each bystander assumes a smaller percentage of responsibility.

The police, too, knew about the abuse: Thomas filed a complaint just weeks before her death. At the time, she was on crutches, her face terribly bruised. While at the police station, Bohn had the effrontery to threaten her, saying that he would “make her life impossible” and hunt her down “like a dog in the streets.”

The couple met in Florida when he was in law school and began a long distance relationship when he moved back to New York. Though Bohn had already beaten her several times, she got a job as a senior financial analyst at Weight Watchers in New York and moved in. The two fought, and Thomas’s friends in Florida tried to convince her to move back home. “Where would I go?” she reportedly said. “I have nowhere to go.”

She lasted three months.

As someone who has never lived with domestic violence, I have to force myself not to blame the neighbors, the cops, Hohn and even the victim. Throughout Hohn’s childhood, he said, his father was “addicted to drugs,” beating both the boy and his mother. When the mother left their family, the boy felt that she was “addicted to success” and did not value him. He channeled the fear of being deserted into his relationship with Thomas, becoming fiercely jealous. Bohn had several domestic violence convictions even before meeting Thomas, and in my opinion he knew, from his past episodes of violence, what he was capable of.

Thomas, on the other hand, was raised in a loving family; her upbringing was one of sharing, kindness, and respect. She was unable to comprehend the fact that someone she loved could be a danger to her life and sanity. Her grandmother called her “just beautiful inside and out.” Thomas seemed to think that she could help Bohn to overcome his past and move into a new phase of his life.

I believe that one of the most important ways we can react to such tragedies is, as a community, to look for weaknesses and flaws not in individuals, who we are powerless to change, but in our society. To me, this is not just another story of a childhood of violence and abuse manifesting itself in adult life, but a situation in which the elements of our society we trust to protect us: police, legal system, teachers, community, family-have signally failed.

Bohn’s journey from a violent childhood to a top investment firm was celebrated by the Jewish Child Care Association, a group that gave Bohn access to opportunity. They pointed out the “tremendous odds” he had overcome to succeed. To me, this seems an admirable sentiment but a dangerous one. It is one thing to celebrate success but another to assume that financial success precludes violence. Bohn himself reported that he had been “physically violent” against schoolmates but was “a very good student despite my behavior”. His teachers remarked on how “amazing” they found the juxtaposition of Bohn’s behavior and academic performance. Bohn said that inspirational figures helped him see that getting his “behavior and emotional issues under control” would help him to eventually “make it.” He saw changing himself not as a social responsibility, but as one that would help him navigate the system.

Well, now he’s navigating a different system. Bohn left notes at the crime scene saying, “It was an accident,” claiming that he was drunk when the murder occurred. He surrendered in Florida and was charged with murder. The cause of death of the woman he claimed to love was determined to be strangulation and blunt force trauma. In other words, she was beaten to death.

What is our responsibility as bystanders?

-by Mason Dowling


Further Information on Rihanna, Danielle Thomas, and domestic abuse:
July 24, 2012 5 Comments
  • http://Yourwebsite Latoya

    These are both very strong articles.

    I agree that Rihanna’s media portrayal is a dangerous one, filled with mixed signals to young girls and boys on their relationship rights and responsibilities as well as a disturbing, glamorized depictions of violent relationships. As a survivor of abuse, I initially sided with Rihanna, but then rejected her (and, sadly, even blamed her) once I saw how she capitalized on the public’s support of her. But even to admit that I blamed her, shames me because I understand why people stay…It’s just been hard for me to validate Rihanna’s reasons–someone with tremendous support, world-wide attention, and professional counsel–after every song prior supports violence in relationships. She fails to be inspirational and it’s unfortunate that she has left a mark on our generation. I’m annoyed by the media’s support of her. I wish that the voices of concern and discontent would scream louder than the praise for their partnership and billboard status ($).

    Danielle Thomas’ death saddens me. Her story is all too familiar and it’s the familiarity that frightens me. America investigates the life of the assailant to find reason, motive, a sparkle of good-doing to off-set the horror. America tallies the death of the victim, looks for flaws in their character, and walks away blameless. We should consider ourselves bystanders whether we are in close proximity or not. Our culture is saturated in violence and can no longer see domestic violence as an issue that stays in the home. And with much respect to victims and survivors, we should not water-down or silence their stories after a few weeks of rotation. For those who witnessed the abuse and chose to be indifferent or entertained, I’m certain they regret not having done something. Lastly, There needs to be greater sanctions for abusers and murders. We need more batterer intervention programs and tougher laws. We need dating violence prevention curriculum in our public education system and more positive media representations of women, men, and those of other identities. Abusers do not deserve a Hollywood special or a red carpet to their jail cell. Isolation is not enough to hold them accountable.

    • http://iamunbeatable.com d_ferrato

      Dear Latoya,

      You’ve pin pointed the worst problems our culture has with stopping violence against women. It’s not taken seriously. “Our culture is saturated in violence and can no longer see domestic violence as an issue that stays in the home.” Exactly!

      We must work together and strengthen the laws, not water them down as Congress is trying to do. Politicians are wasting time and money while battered women are dying without knowing that there are options. We need more public awareness campaigns to circulate the country like we had in the 1990′s when the Violence Against Women Act was active and well funded. It blows my mind to see the way Chris Brown got the girl back as well as a green light from the music industry.

      Your comments were so wise. I hope you will keep giving us a piece of your unbeatable mind.

  • http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2012/08/28/rihanna-is-still-doing-chris-brown’s-emotional-housework/ Katherine

    I post this story to show that Rihanna is a typical beaten woman, not worthy of our respect or admiration, but of our compassion and, more importantly our help.


    This is one of the reasons why this project is so vital, because the world needs to see strong and unbeatable women. We should put those women on pedestals and praise them loudly and publicly, so that maybe, just maybe, the young people of the world will realise there is a lot more reason admire unbeatable women of true beauty and bravery rather than a glorified karaoke singer who doesn’t even understand that she is a victim.

  • http://Iamunbeatable.com Donna Ferrato

    Thanks Katherine. Rihanna’s interview with Oprah is real depressing. In the interview Rihanna comes across like every battered woman. Confused. Her sadness is ultra weird because she has everything – including the man who beat her up. You’re right that she needs support but doesn’t she have it? Think about it… What kind of help does the average battered woman get when she goes to the police and the courts begging for protection? Believe me I do know. I’ve lived in those shelters and I lived in the houses with women whose ex abusers now want to kill them for leaving. What is bad is when you are on your own without a super hero like Jay Z right behind you.

    Fact: Society covers up for men who rape and abuse women. Fact: women are programmed from birth to shut up and put up with it. FAct: Nothing has changed in the 21st century. FAct: it’s getting worse. Men take what they want. It’s become noble or shall I say a spiritual option for young women in their child bearing years to accept sexual physical and emotional abuse. AFter November, it could likely become the law.

    The only way Chris Brown will change is through long term therapy and a positive commitment to changing himself. The only thing Rihanna needs to do at this point is get real. The princess of pain act is getting old. She needs to live in a battered women’s shelter and hear their songs. They would open her eyes. I bet they would tell her to forget about the bs she sings and sells to young girls i.e. I Love the Way You Lie. Its time she respects the voices of women who have been through it and thankfully can say they are done with it.

  • http://www.tanyabraganti.com Tanya

    I want to give Chris Brown the benefit of the doubt here — that his new tattoo of a battered woman (he’s denying it’s Rhianna) has a worthwhile significance of change, but he has yet to comment on it — and his track record too grim: