The Happy Trail

Response to offensive ad on Snapchat sends an important message: Don’t make light of intimate partner violence

By Lorraine Kelly

CW: intimate partner violence, mention of rape

“I’m going to beat the s—- out of you when we get home,” Chris Brown said after unsuccessfully attempting to force Rihanna out of a vehicle he was driving, according to a police report filed to the Los Angeles Police Department.

The aforementioned police report was issued in 2009 against Chris Brown after he assaulted and battered then-girlfriend singer/entrepreneur Robyn Rihanna Fenty (Rihanna) prior to the 2009 Grammy Awards. Pictures portraying Rihanna’s bruised and bloody face circulated the internet after the incident. Brown pled guilty to a felony assault charge, and was sentenced to five years of probation and six months of community service.

Since the publication of the police report, Rihanna has been outspoken about her experiences as a survivor of domestic violence. According to a 2013 Rolling Stone interview, she and Brown are on cordial terms. In the interview, she stated, “Even if it’s a mistake, it’s my mistake.”

This disturbing introduction is an intentional reminder of Brown’s unquestionably unacceptable behavior. Despite this, two weeks ago, Snapchat rolled out an advertisement for a game called “Would You Rather?” The screen displayed the question, “Would you rather slap Rihanna or punch Chris Brown?” The ad sparked a massive discussion about domestic violence. Snapchat has been heavily criticized for allowing the content on their platform, even by Rihanna herself, who posted on her Instagram story, “You spent money to animate something that would intentionally bring shame to DV [domestic violence] victims and made a joke of it!!!”

According to CNN, Snapchat has lost $800 million  since Rihanna publicly asked her fans to delete the app. Snapchat’s stocks have plummeted 4 percent in the past week. Snapchat has apologized for the advertisement twice, but Rihanna and those who stand behind her have not returned to the app. Several other celebrities have come out in support of Rihanna, including Chelsea Clinton and Chrissy Teigen.

The Department of Justice defines domestic violence as “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that have influence over another person.” Signs of an abusive relationship include jealousy, discouragement, controlling behavior, insults and financial deprivation. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, abusers often seem “absolutely perfect” early on in the relationship, but abusive behavior grows as the relationship continues. Abusive relationships do not always occur in the form of physical violence; they can also be characterized by emotional and psychological abuse.

Domestic violence affects one in three women and one in four men in the United States, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. 10 million people are physically abused by an intimate partner each year. Approximately 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States.The National Domestic Violence Hotline illustrates how difficult it can be for victims to leave abusive environments, citing fear, embarrassment and low self-esteem as reasons to stay. Often, leaving an abusive relationship is incredibly dangerous, since these relationships are founded upon skewed power dynamics.

There are many resources available on campus for those who have faced abusive relationships or are looking for a way out of one. Counseling, Health and Wellness Services (CHWS) offers counseling services, and there are several staff members on campus trained in dealing with abusive situations. Many bathrooms contain quarter-page sheets that list options for reporting sexual misconduct, assault, harassment, stalking and intimate partner violence. If you would like to remain anonymous, file a report online at, where you can choose how much identifying information to share.

In the era of social media, the Snapchat advertisement serves as a grim reminder that domestic abuse continues to be a struggle for many individuals, yet it is often trivialized in popular culture. Although Rihanna found her voice to speak out, many individuals do not have that opportunity. It is our responsibility to reject this behavior in ourselves and our social circles. In recognizing behaviors and confronting them safely, we engage in critical conversations that allow for us to move away from dangerous situations and relationships.




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