race + gender + politics

Considering Why Janay Palmer Would Stay

September 10, 2014


Much of the commentary I’ve noticed around Ray Rice starts with condemning Ray Rice’s abuse and finishes with condemning his wife Janay Palmer for staying and marrying him. Not only has Janay been forced to relive her abuse very publicly with the release of the elevator footage (something no victim should have to suffer), but she has to relive her abuse through shame and judgment in the process. Not to mention, of course, the probable domestic abuse that she still faces in the aftermath of Ray’s subsequent suspension.

It’s not altogether shocking that people – women especially – think that abused women are weak, stupid, and/or compliant if they stay with their abusers. It’s easy to pass such judgments from the outside looking in and not having a firm grasp on the reality of domestic violence. But despite it not being surprising, it’s very very very sad. It’s sad to see people – women especially – spew disgust for Janay being knocked unconscious  by Ray in one breath and then spew disgust for her marrying  him in the next. It’s sad that the onus of not being is abused rests squarely on the victims shoulders. It’s sad that women are expected to be “strong” enough to leave an abuser while their abuser is not expected to be “strong” enough not to continue the abuse.

It seems to me, the most simple Google search on domestic violence will, at the very least, reveal some basic statistics that shed some light on why someone like Janay Palmer would stay with her abuser. To be slightly knowledgeable about domestic violence is to know things like 1 in 3 women have experienced violence by an intimate partner; intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crimes; the number 1 cause of death for African American women is homicide by an intimate partner; women are 70 times more likely to be killed after leaving than any other time in the relationship. Meaning, women who leave aren’t safe from further abuse.

And what, pray tell, do these numbers tell us? That (a) there are a shit ton of women who have been abused by a person they trusted and cared for and (b) many abused women do in fact try to leave, but often end up in a pinebox as a result. Having worked closely with a domestic violence agency (and housing facility), I have learned just how difficult it is for women who have left their abusers to navigate the a myriad of legal, financial, economic, and judicial obstacles, of which is even more difficult if children are involved. Many of these women also have to deal with a lack of family support – either because they aren’t around (often due to isolation as orchestrated by the abuser) or they side with the abuser. Not to mention the emotional and psychological trauma abused women tend to combat in addition to any physical abuse.

That’s just scratching the surface of the complexity in women “just leaving” their abusers. But that’s still a whole hell of a lot to overcome!!! And yet, there are people – especially women – who think that walking away from an abuser is an easy, repercussion-less task that.

I don’t know Janay Palmer, I don’t know about her relationship with Ray, I don’t know if she’s been abused before, I don’t know if she tried to leave Ray (before or after marrying him), I don’t know what circumstances are keeping her with Ray. But I do know that she has been abused by her now husband, Ray Rice. I do know she has to relive her abuse while the public replays it over and over. I also know that there are people who are sick and disgusted that she has the audacity to be alive, living as a married woman to her abuser. And most importantly, I know that Janay Palmer is one of very many women who are in similar situations. In fact, you can read about their stories from the hashtag #WhyIStayed, that are highlighted here and here.

And to those people who assume the worst of the Janay Palmers of the world, without making the tiniest effort to understand the burden of responsibility and accountability that is placed on those who experience domestic violence and not their abusers, I say chile BYE, GTFOHWTBS, STFU, and SYAD please read, think, listen and learn.


Thank you for your consideration,

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  • Reply Wu Young, Agent of M.E. September 10, 2014 at 10:11 am

    I learned about domestic violence through the words and stories of two of my friends. Their mothers stayed for a long time. There’s a lot that goes into a person staying with an abuser and I wish people would get that.

    I just left this comment on http://trulytafakari.com/ about why people stay.

    “The chorus of “Why didn’t she leave” in reference to the Ray Rice situation began to anger me. I was too busy trying to explain to folks (men and women) singing this song that there are terrible levels of psychological experiences involved. I finally told one of the people questioning Janay what a victim who spoke out in a week long series in the Charleston Post & Courier about SC place at the top of the nation’s domestic violence problems. (http://www.postandcourier.com/tilldeath/). After 18 years of abuse the woman simply said that she didn’t leave when she was weak but when she finally became strong.”

    • Reply gemmieboo September 10, 2014 at 1:28 pm

      i wish people would get it too. we’re so quick to throw ppls pain, experiences, and circumstances to the side for the sake of us being superior to them for not being where they are. i see it with the minimum wage argument, i see it with the domestic violence argument. its sad really.

      thanks for sharing tafakari’s post and your comment. that’s real.

  • Reply simplysope September 10, 2014 at 10:53 am

    During all of this I have been made painfully aware how many people don’t know what DV/IPV is, what it entails, how it works… Any of it.

    I have had to watch women (!!) on my Facebook feed say some hurtful, damaging things and all I can think is, “If a friend of yours saw this, why would they bother to come talk to you?” A lot of it smacks of superiority.. “I’m not an idiot like you, but I guess I can help you pack your shit when you’re finally ready to come to your senses”.

    DV is insidious and the toll it takes on lives is far reaching and scary. 50% of women who are killed by their abusive domestic partners are killed while trying to leave. Abusers always come back for their abused so even if you DO help a woman leave, please know you need to have plans (yes, more than one) when this person comes looking. Folks also have to realize that by the time physical abuse starts, emotional, verbal and financial abuse have been par the course.

    LAWD. I have 60 pages of Health Policy that I helped write for people who still can’t take the word of countless women tell you their stories.

    Not to mention men who claim to be BFFS w/Jesus saying we need to exercise grace and understanding for this man. *deep sigh* This kind of rhetoric literally costs women their lives and I don’t know why it is so hard for people to get.

    All I have in my heart for this woman is compassion. I pray for reals that whatever she needs she is able to get and that her life isn’t consumed in the process.

    Great read tho Gem (like always).

    • Reply gemmieboo September 10, 2014 at 1:34 pm

      thanks for sharing this. ive known a lot of surface level stuff about DV for some time. since i started working on the BOD of a DV agency, i started learning more and more about the intricacies of leaving, and the serious headaches that come along with making an escape. man listen – that ish is NOT easy and for anyone to say otherwise is a plain fool. my heart goes out to the women who can’t leave, who’ve tried to leave, who have left and still carry the aching scars of their abuse. there are far too many of us – men and women – who are affected and far too few of us who bother to care.

      also – men of the cloth who defend abusers (often because they ARE abusers)?? girl dont get me started. i know of too many so-called holy clergy who have used their position and bible to scare their women in to taking their beatings. sh*t is just unbelievable. smh

  • Reply Branden September 10, 2014 at 11:38 am

    “It’s sad that women are expected to be “strong” enough to leave an abuser while their abuser is not expected to be “strong” enough not to continue the abuse.” I think this is telling on so many levels. How can you expect one entity to be strong but the other not to be? It is a weird double standard to say the least. And while I understand that DV is something that women experience at a much greater clip than men do, it is telling how Hope Solo is close to being charged for domestic abuse and no one is none the wiser. I think people can change although history has proven that is not always the case but I loved that line.

    I do not condone what Ray Rice did at all. I do not condone what either one of them did prior to the last blow that brought about the outrage. I definitely don’t condone having to watch it over and over again. I think it is sad that when Paul George broke his leg, ESPN showed it one time and said that they would not show it again, and yet they show this video (what feels like) every 15 minutes! Something is very wrong there…

    • Reply gemmieboo September 10, 2014 at 1:42 pm

      see, i hadn’t even heard of Hope Solo’s DV issues. against her sister and nephew smh. i see her sports career has taken no action to discipline her? after having read her apology i cant help but wonder why in her or Ray’s “apology”, neither of them apologize or acknowledge the people they are abused. they apologize to the fans and their teammates first. smh.

      and what you said about them not replaying Paul George’s injury but constantly replaying the elevator video?!?!?! OMG its truly infuriating.

  • Reply madscientist7 September 10, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    It really bothers me when people say she must have stayed for the money or the fact that she stayed proves that this is an isolated incident. i’m not saying that these assumptions can’t be true but to speak with such certainty is problematic. i don’t know what goes on in the rice household but i do know what i saw on that video and it is inexcusable. and i know that if happened once then it can happen again. i pray that janay (and others in her situation) get the help they need and are safe.

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