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,