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03.06.09

Robin Givens on Why Battered Women Stay

As Chris Brown faces two felony charges—and new details emerge about the brutality of his alleged attack on Rihanna—many women are asking why she’s reportedly reconciling with him. But the story of Robin Givens, who spent years in an abusive marriage to Mike Tyson, offers clues.

As a police report detailing Chris Brown’s brutal alleged attack on his girlfriend Rihanna leaks onto the Web—including allegations that Brown banged her head against the car window, repeatedly punched her in the face, and threatened to kill her—many are outraged that Rihanna is still spending time with him.

Click Below to Watch Robin Givens’ 2007 ABC Interview

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But independent and successful women frequently return to their abusers. Why? In 2007, Robin Givens offered an explanation, telling Oprah why she stayed with her abusive husband, Mike Tyson: “With Michael, I felt like I had a purpose. I really felt like I had to protect him and love him and convince him that the world can be an OK place— I wanted to love all of his hurts and all of his pain away.”

In the interview, Robin said Mike was physically abusive even before they were wed. "After that, I said, 'I'm not going to see this man anymore.' And then the phone calls started coming.… And he was crying, telling me how much he loved me. And I'm going to say something that might sound very, very, very, very strange: I honestly thought, 'Wow, this man must really love me.'"

Domestic-abuse advocates say such behavior is extremely common. “Women of means stay in an abusive relationship because it’s the man that she fell in love with, and she is typically hopeful that the abuse will stop,” said Brian Namey, director of communications at the National Network to End Domestic Violence. “Oftentimes, she is afraid of letting the relationship go because of the change in situation. She is hopeful of living that perfect dream.”

Isabel Wilkinson is a Daily Beast intern who attends Columbia Journalism School. She has written for New York magazine and Women’s Wear Daily.