It's the story that has brought dating violence into the national spotlight. On February 8, 2009, police responded to a 911 call alleging domestic violence between singers Chris Brown and Rihanna.
Later that day, both pulled out of planned appearances at the Grammy Awards, and Chris turned himself into police. He was arrested on the suspicion of making criminal threats and was released on bail.
Weeks later, rumors of their reconciliation were reported.
On March 5, 2009, Chris appeared in court, charged with two counts of felony assault. His arraignment has been postponed until April 2009 while he remains free on bail.
Statistics say about one in three high school students have been—or will be—involved in an abusive relationship. "The message this story sends to teen girls and boys everywhere is disturbing, and it is also dangerous," Oprah says. "We need to try to evolve from this moment ... use this as a moment to allow our society to begin to grow."
Oprah believes this story can be a teaching moment for every teen and parent. "Love doesn't hurt," she says. "And if a man hits you once, he will hit you again."
Over the past few years, talk show host Tyra Banks has interviewed both Chris and Rihanna. "Rihanna told me her parents used to argue so intensely, she used to get these headaches, these migraines that were almost not even treatable with medicine," Tyra says. "The moment her parents separated, her migraines went away."
In his appearance on The Tyra Banks Show, Chris said he watched his mother suffer abuse from the time he was 7 years old until he was 13. The abuser was not his biological father. "I treat [women] differently because I know I never want to go through the same thing or put a woman through the same thing that the person put my mom through," Chris told Tyra.
When Tyra first heard about the alleged incident, she says she didn't believe it—until the police report was released. "I went back to that interview and I said, 'Oh my God, he's repeating [the cycle of abuse].'"
Tyra cautions against judging Rihanna for going back to Chris. "Sometimes we hold these celebrities up to a higher standard, but we have to look at her as a human being and understand that she is no better or no different than any other girl," Tyra says. "She is just as easily pulled into the cycle of abuse of going back."
"I think we need to send love to both of them," Oprah says. "For him to be healed, and for her to be healed also."
Tyra says she knows the cycle of abuse all too well. While in her 20s, Tyra says she was emotionally abused. "He never hit me, but I would say there were blows to my spirit, blows to my emotional well-being every day," she says.
On the outside, Tyra says no one could see the signs. But behind closed doors, she says he was jealous and blamed her for his bad moods. "He was a master at being able to be happy and nice to everybody else but whispering these negative things to me," she says. "I'd start complaining to my friends, and they're like: 'Well, he's fine, girl. He's fine with us. Everything's fine.'"
Although she was one of the top 10 models in the world at the time, she says her self-esteem sunk lower and lower. "I stayed because I felt like if I left and he didn't change and didn't treat me how I felt I deserved to be treated, I was a failure," she says.
One day, Tyra says she finally confronted herself. "I walked to the mirror in his bathroom. He wasn't there," she says. "Out loud I looked in that mirror and I said: 'Tyra, who are you? What the hell are you doing? Get out of here.'"
Although Tyra says she tried to leave her boyfriend many times, she managed to get sucked back into the relationship. At one point, she says she turned to her mother for help. "I said: 'Mama, please, just take me. Pull me out of this relationship. Tell me to leave him. Hole me up in your house. Unplug the phones. Protect me from him.'"
Her mother refused. "[She said:] 'You have to do this on your own. I will be here as somebody to support you in this. But I will not tell you to leave, and I will not cut you off from him, because you'll just run out in the middle of the night and go straight back.'"
Tyra says she then had to make a plan for herself—which is what she says every woman in a similar situation needs to do. "If she would have done it, Oprah, I probably would have distanced myself from my mom, especially when I wanted to go back," Tyra says. "I would have probably closed her off."
Dating violence doesn't just happen in Hollywood. It can take place in any neighborhood—including yours.
Friends say high school senior and cheerleader Charney Watt was one-of-a-kind. "She was very intelligent. She made good grades. She had a spunky attitude and was very energetic," says Charli, a friend. "She was also a leader in her community, and being a cheerleader, you have to influence other people. She influenced people at school and also in her neighborhood. You know, if she [had] seen you looking sad, she would come ask you what's wrong and make sure you're okay."
On March 1, 2009, police say the 18-year-old from Charlotte, North Carolina, was gunned down by her ex-boyfriend.
Charney's ex-boyfriend Gary Daniel has been charged with her murder and has not yet entered a plea.
Her friends say they saw no signs that she was in an abusive relationship. "When she came to [cheerleading] practice, her personality overcame all of that," Charli says. "She was just herself."
Keisha, Charney's friend since the eighth grade, says Charney's boyfriend used to come to all of her games. "He used to come and see her cheer and come with her mom," she says. "We always thought he was a supporter, and he was a sweet person to her."
Now that they've had to bury their close friend, Keisha and her friends hope others will learn from Charney's experience. "We're hoping that Charney, what happened to her, people will look at it and realize that this type of situation isn't for you," Keisha says.
Hundreds of miles away from Charlotte, another young woman is struggling with the realities of dating violence. Brittany says she was just 16 years old when she met her abuser.
At first, she says, their relationship seemed perfect. "We had so much fun when we were together, but it seemed like when we were separated, that's when things started heating up," she says.
If she didn't answer the phone, Brittany says her ex-boyfriend would sometimes leave threatening voice mails. "I was addicted to him," she says. "He was someone that I couldn't live without."
Over time, verbal threats escalated to physical violence. "We got into an argument, and he threw me out of the apartment without any clothes on," Brittany says. "He pulled sheets over my head and tried to suffocate me."
The young couple broke up and got back together many times. Each time she went back, Brittany says the abuse got worse. Once, she says he pinned her down with such force, she could barely make a sound. "Every time I would scream, it would get weaker and weaker," she says. "The last time I went to scream, nothing came out. He said, ''If you scream again, I'm going to kill you.'"
Brittany and her parents, Ken and Darlene, are Skyping in from their home because Brittany isn't able to travel. She's 7 months pregnant with her abusive ex-boyfriend's child, a baby girl.
Currently, Brittany's ex-boyfriend is in jail. Though she doesn't want to go back to him when he's released, she says there's still a chance. "Today I feel strong in knowing that I won't go back, but I've relapsed before," she says.
Why does she keep going back? Brittany says she feels disconnected from the abuse—like it never happened to her. "I feel like that wasn't me that he did that to," she says. "I feel like I'm going to wake up ... and be able to start over. And that's not the case. It just feels like I'm in a nightmare."
As she prepares to become a mother, Brittany says she has more motivation to move on. "I feel strongly that it's my job to protect her," she says. "A baby doesn't know when to stop crying or when her dad has had too much. He could do something to her, and she's my responsibility now."
For the past three years, Brittany's parents have stood by her side, offering support and sending her to counseling, but they couldn't stop the cycle. If Brittany goes back to her abusive ex again, Ken, her father, says they'll continue to be there for their daughter. "We'll be there to help support her and try to keep her away from him as much as we can," he says.
Darlene says she and her husband learned in counseling that they've been enablers...but not anymore. "There's been many times that she's left and come back," she says. "Ken's been angry. I've been upset and sad. I think that now we've just told her these are the choices that she's made, and we've backed off."
Brittany's parents have also taken steps to protect themselves. Before going to jail, Brittany's ex allegedly threatened her and her family. "He has told Brittany before some things he would do and how he would do it," Ken says. "So we've kind of taken precautions to keep things safe around here."
Vicki Crompton-Tetter, a mother Oprah says she never forgot, knows exactly what Ken and Darlene are going through. In 1993, Vicki came on The Oprah Show to talk about the death of her teen daughter, Jenny. In 1986, Jenny was stabbed to death by her abusive high school boyfriend, Mark Smith.
After hearing Brittany's story, Vicki offers advice to Ken and Darlene. "It seems like they have done everything possible. They are terrified for their daughter's safety, and yet, it seems to me that they've almost done too much," she says. "I know from all my years in working with this issue that parents who are trying to control and keep their daughter out of the relationship, it's not going to work. So my heart breaks because I know the fear that they're feeling."
Tyra says Vicki reminds her of her own mother.
If you're involved in an abusive relationship or know someone who is, there are many people you can turn to for help.
Call the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at 866-331-9474. It's totally anonymous and is staffed by teen and adult advocates.