LAST week, Oprah Winfrey didn't mince words when she took a few minutes of her top-rated TV program to address the Rihanna-Chris Brown domestic abuse case. "Leave him," she said, stressing each syllable as her mostly female audience cheered. "If a man hits you once, he will hit you again," she roared.
As someone who has suffered abuse in her past, Ms. Winfrey was not willing to let legal niceties get in the way of advice to the Grammy-winning songstress. "Heal yourself first," the talk-show host said, addressing the news that Rihanna, 21 - Robyn Rihanna Fenty - and her alleged abuser, 19, had reconciled. "Love doesn't hurt."
Mr. Brown, a popular R&B singer, was charged with two felonies including assault in the beating of Rihanna. A Los Angeles police report said he punched, bit, and choked her until she nearly lost consciousness.
Countless women tragically understand what Rihanna says she experienced in early February. Many news outlets have shown the heartbreaking photo of her bruised face.
Last week, Mr. Brown withdrew as a nominee from the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards on March 28. That's good. Now, parents are spared the awkwardness of explaining to their children why a young man facing felony charges was being honored as a role model. If he is tried and found guilty, he could face four years in prison.
There is a temptation to dismiss this story and domestic violence case because it is about celebrities. But these two singers are influential to young people. Their behavior is scrutinized in videos by impressionable fans who envy their success and glamour.
Yet the statistics for domestic abuse are sobering. About 5.3 million women are abused in this country annually, the Centers for Disease Control say. Many women fear that this teachable moment could slip away because Rihanna doesn't grasp the dangers. For that reason, many of her fellow celebrities also have weighed in. "Leave him for your own good while you still can," they seem to say. Some of it is counsel born of painful experience. Let's hope all women, not just Rihanna, are listening.