By Kyle Anderson
Updated October 11, 2011 at 09:40 PM EDT
Samir Hussein/

No one should be defined by a personal assault, and Rihanna has certainly proved that in her life post-Chris Brown, releasing two albums — 2009’s dark, artistically risk-taking Rated R and 2010’s pop bonanza Loud — touring the world, and generally retaining her position as one of the biggest stars in the Hot 100 universe.

But there is one thing about Rihanna that is becoming problematic, and it has a lot to do with her public relationship with Brown. In multiple interviews (the most recent coming in the new issue of Esquire, in which she was named Sexiest Woman in the World), the 23-year-old seems to go out of her way to compliment the dude who may or may not have bitten her face during an altercation a few years ago, and most certainly left her looking like this.

“It’s incredible to see how he pulled out of it the way he did,” she told Esquire. “Even when the world seemed like it was against him, you know? I really like the music he’s putting out. I’m a fan of his stuff. I’ve always been a fan. Obviously, I had some resentment toward him for a while, for obvious reasons. But I’ve put that behind me. It was taking up too much of my time. It was too much anger. I’m really excited to see the breakthrough he’s had in his career. I would never wish anything horrible for him. Never. I never have.”

Look, only Rihanna knows how she really feels, and ultimately it’s up to her to establish her own attitude towards various people in her life. But she really had the opportunity to say something bold about domestic violence in the wake of Brown’s attack, and she seems to have completely punted that opportunity away.

Letting Brown off the hook continues to soften what he did, and anybody who thinks that he has been rehabilitated may want to ask Robin Roberts, whose softball question about the incident sent him into a well-documented and very public rage.

Brown seems to have been given a free pass just because he put out a pretty good album; a man can obviously apologize only so many times in the press, but he’s yet to express a contrition for the episode that feels truly genuine, and has repeatedly shown poor judgment when asked to address that night, as much as it may (and clearly does) bother him to revisit it.

The idea that pop stars are role models is somewhat ridiculous. In this instance, though, Rihanna should probably be more cognizant of what she says regarding Brown. By no fault of her own, she is the face of domestic violence for a lot of young girls, and how she handles it does, in a sense, dictate how people feel in general about a massive problem in this country.

In the wake of Brown’s attack, a common argument among his defenders was “Rihanna started it,” as though there are a particular set of circumstances wherein biting, kicking, and punching someone is a perfectly reasonable reaction.

Has Rihanna bought into the idea that she was somehow in the wrong on that night? She says she has put the assault in her rear view, but let’s just hope she is doing it for the right reasons.

Are you vexed by Rihanna’s statements about Brown? Did he get off too easy, or are we being too hard on him? Sound off in the comments!