Though the couple reconciled and were together in Miami and L.A. after he was charged with assaulting her, a source says Rihanna, 21, and Brown, 19, are now spending time apart: "They are taking some time off; they haven't broken up but they are taking a break."
On Wednesday, Rihanna returned to L.A. after a trip to New York City, where she had business meetings and spent time with her manager, her mentor Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Brandy.
"She is looking forward to getting back to work and focusing on her career again," says a New York source, adding that Rihanna's trip was also designed to help her "clear her mind and take things one day at a time."
But Wednesday night was not without incident: After partying at Les Deux in Hollywood, Rihanna's rented Cadillac SUV was pulled over by the police "for not having a front license plate," says LAPD spokesman Richard French.
Rebuilding Her ImageRihanna's decision to spend time apart from Brown comes after she faced strong criticism for deciding to stay with him.
Oprah Winfrey directly addressed the couple on her show, saying, "Give it some time, get yourself some counseling, take care of yourself," and later dedicated an entire episode to dating violence.
Young fans were also upset by Rihanna's decision: "If she really loved herself, if she really had that much respect for herself, her family and her fans, she wouldn’t go back," says Doria Josma, 19, a college student in Brooklyn.
With her reputation – and, perhaps, career – on the line, staying away from Brown may be Rihanna's only way to win back a disappointed public.
"I think taking a break is her way of silencing the critics who have had strong opinions on her decisions," says entertainment and corporate brand strategist Marvet Britto, president of The Britto Agency. "Here's a girl that sings about girl power and women's issues, and she's beautiful, the face of an all American product. Yet you're letting a guy get away with what Americans feel is one of the most significant crimes against women?"
Britto believes that Rihanna now needs to open up about what happened to her – and what Brown has done to redeem himself. "The break should be time for Rihanna to heal and assess her life, her career and her relationship," says Britto. And ultimately, she adds, the singer should take the opportunity to speak to young people who "took away a very negative message from all of this."
Reporting by Elizabeth Leonard and Kathy Ehrich Dowd