Family, Self

A Domestic Violence Survivor's Advice For Rihanna

rihanna chris brown oprah domestic violence

Forget the $50,000 forgiveness bracelet. Don't record the duet. GET OUT NOW!

Kristen Rambler should know. The petite brunette spent two years, beginning when she was 17 and a high school senior, desperately in love with her first boyfriend—tall, dark, handsome Keith. At first, it seemed like the most loving romance in the world. But gradually the relationship turned increasingly violent.

Like Rihanna, Kristen wouldn't listen to her parents who begged her to break up with the man who was battering her black and blue. Like Chris (allegedly), Keith's favorite punching spots were her face and head. Many batterers prefer to hit their victims where the bruises can't be seen, but when Kristen saw Rihanna's beaten face, it was like looking in the mirror at what her own used to look like.

Now she hopes that the Rihanna/Chris Brown relationship doesn't come to the same deadly end as her own. When Kristen finally summoned the strength to break up with her boyfriend Keith, he came after her with a gun. He broke into her parents' home and chased her down the street before catching up to her and putting the gun to her head.

"Don't do it, don't do it," Kristen pleaded. Seconds later Keith turned the gun on himself and blew his life away.

Kristen, now 26, considers herself lucky to have survived that day.  Rihanna—she wants you to hear her story and learn.

Kristen's Story

"I had moved to Pennsylvania from South Carolina and had just started at a new high school. I noticed Keith the first day—he was the best looking guy at school and seemed very sweet. After a bunch of us went out to a hockey game together, he walked me out and asked me to be his girlfriend. When he told me he loved me a couple of weeks later, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. I'd never been in a relationship before, didn't know what to expect and I fell hard.

One day though he pushed me up against a wall and said that my school uniform —the same one I'd been wearing since he met me a couple of months before—was too short and made me look like a slut. I was confused, but then he apologized and I just shrugged it off and thought maybe my skirt was too short after all.

When he started insisting a little while later that I stop having any 'girls nights out' because 'we'd all go out dressed like sluts and guys would try and take advantage of us,' I just felt flattered that he loved me so much that he was jealous. Besides, he was bringing me flowers and cooking me dinners so it was easy to start spending almost all my free time with him.

The first really violent incident happened one day when he came to pick me up in his car. He was mad at me because the school principal had actually asked him to pick me up early for school because I had a detention. When I went to open the car door, he floored it, throwing me to the ground. My hands and knees were cut up and one of my front teeth was knocked loose, but he just drove off.

My father made me file a police report about the incident, but when Keith asked me out a week later I forgave him and went.

After graduation that year, the violence really escalated. He insisted that I accompany him, against my parents' wishes, while he traveled from town to town working for the Census Bureau.

One day when we had a disagreement, he threw me on the bed, punched my face, grabbed my hair and broke a wine bottle and held the jagged edge up against my neck. He was shaking with rage. I broke free and ran for the elevator in the hotel we were staying in while he screamed that he'd kill me if I made a scene. He followed me down to the lobby and started apologizing, so I finally went back upstairs with him. He cried and held me and promised never to do it again if I forgave him... so I did.

But a few days later he blew up and accused me of cheating with one of his co-workers whom I barely knew. This time he punched me in the face and plugged an iron into the wall and held it up close to my cheek. I kicked him and knocked the iron out of his hands and ran down to the lobby to try and call my mom from a pay phone. He followed and screamed at me to get off the phone. Someone called 911 and the police came. I was shaking and hysterical, but I refused to press charges.

In my mind I was making excuses for him. He had only done this because he thought I was cheating on him. I was so young and naive. My parents talked to his parents and we agreed he would drive me home the next day.

Once we were both at college—different ones—the beatings on our weekend visits became even more frequent. He'd beat me in his dorm room, my dorm room, the car. He'd hit me with a water bottle, a coke can. He'd choke me. One Valentine's Day he beat me because he was angry that I brought him a rose and he hadn't gotten me anything.

That time was really bad—the beating went on and on until I could barely move. I was screaming for help but nobody heard me. Finally, he called his mom to tell her 'I think I really hurt her this time.' When I tried to escape while he was talking on the phone, he threw it and hit me on the head.

Sometimes after a weekend with him, I'd look so bad I couldn't go back to my college. I'd have to hide out in his room for a few days, sneaking down to the girl's bathroom at night. I'd stand there and look at myself and cry. 'What am I doing? Keith did this to me,' I'd say that over and over.

I didn't know what to do because despite everything I felt like he was still my best friend and only love. My family and friends all wanted me to break up with him, so I couldn't turn to them for help. They'd just lecture me. And his parents knew what he was doing but they didn't intervene. I felt too alone to leave him.

Finally after two years, my parents managed to persuade me to come on a family trip for two weeks. For the first time, I was really away from him and they wouldn't let me call or email him.

I still loved him, but I decided I wanted him to get professional help and I wouldn't see him in the meantime. He called my mom's house for hours on end, and I wouldn't pick up.

That's when he came after me with a gun.

So Rihanna, don't let it come to this. I know Chris has apologized and he's doing everything he can to make you trust him again and you think he deserves that second chance. Don't do it. It will only get worse."

After Keith shot himself, Kristen discovered an email he'd sent her, minutes before barging into her house. Chillingly it read, "I'm sorry. Your new life is about to begin. I will be gone. You were my kitten. I'll see you in heaven."

For more on Rihanna and Chris and relationship abuse follow Bonnie at