It's official. Chris Brown and Rihanna are together again—musically, at least. This week they released two remixed collaborations, fueling speculation they've also reunited romantically, three years after their relationship came to a violent end. Brown's rep has denied the rumors, but it's clear the two are sending mixed messages and fans are concerned. While Rihanna may have forgiven Chris Brown, who pled guilty to felony assault, others can't forget the startling photo of a battered Rihanna and fear it could happen again. Which begs the question, can an abuser really change?
"Abusers can be rehabilitated, but they have to want to change," said Brian Namey, spokesperson for The National Network to End Domestic Violence ("NNEDV"). Though there are batterers' intervention programs across the country that work with abusers to change their behavior, "a very small number actually make that change," Namey said.
"About 95 percent of men who abuse a woman are capable of change. Only about five percent of men cannot change, and are without a conscience," says couples therapist Dr. Nancy Davidson, adding that an abuser must first accept responsibility for the destructive behavior. Relationship expert Dr. Margaret Paul adds that an abuser must be open to healing and change and able to find adequate help.
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Rehabilitation for abusers includes extensive education counseling and usually therapy, and results are never immediate, says marriage and family therapist SaraKay Smullens. "This abusive behavior is deep within this person and in intimate moments, it can come out again," she said, warning that anyone who returns to an abusive situation is in real danger. "It's life threatening." "My Sister's Husband Hits Her"
The National Dating Abuse Helpline reports that three women are killed by an abusive partner everyday in the United States. The danger to victims escalates when they attempt to leave the relationship.