I Wasn't Going to Write About This

I wasn’t going to write about Ray Rice, the former Baltimore Ravens running back who was caught on video knocking his then-fiancee, now wife, out cold in an elevator. Yes, what he did made me angry and sickened me. I seriously doubt that the day that video was shot was the first time he’d raised his hands to a woman, or the last. All that makes me sad, but those comments have been made before, so I didn’t see the need to take to the Internet to reiterate them.
It makes me madder still that Rice wasn’t cut from the Ravens until this week, when additional footage was released showing what happened in that elevator. To me, the fact that he was abusing a woman in that elevator was enough, regardless of footage. It disgusts me that, so often even in our present day, acts of domestic violence are downplayed or downright ignored until there is too much evidence staring society in the face to be able to turn away from it. In this case, it was video footage. Often, it’s a victim being either severely injured or killed that spurs the wake-up call. And even now, amid the horror-stricken people crying out for Rice to not just be suspended from the NFL, but jailed for his actions, comes the question, “Why does his wife stay with him?” I hate this question. I suppose it’s one that you can’t really understand the answer to unless you’ve been the victim of violence at the hands of someone you love, and who claims to love you. But really, this question is just a form of victim-shaming. In my mind, asking a battered woman why she stays with her abuser is no different than asking a rape victim why she wore such a short skirt.
Even with all of that, I still hadn’t planned on writing about this. It’s very triggering for me and I would rather just acknowledge that it was a terrible thing that Ray Rice did, and move on. But then today on Twitter, I found the hashtags #whyIstayed and #whyIleft trending. And it justĀ brokeĀ me. I sat and read tweet after tweet, survivors and victims putting themselves out there and answering the question of why they chose to stay, and why they finally left. They were addressing, in one united strong voice, the answer to the question that has been asked so much about Janay Palmer Rice. I added my own tweets, to let my voice be heard.
And so, I am writing about Ray Rice. I am writing about domestic violence, because people want to understand the answer to the question, “Why does she stay?” She stays because she loves him. Because she doesn’t want to disrupt her family. Because being a victim of domestic violence can still make that victim feel ashamed, even though she has done nothing wrong. There’s still so much stigma out there. No one chooses to be a victim. We don’t choose to be mugged, or held up at the bank, or raped. We don’t choose to be hurt by the people we love, either, and yet it happens. And if one good thing is to come out of this whole ordeal, it’s that people are talking about this issue. They aren’t just asking a question anymore, that question is being answered by the voices of those who know the answer all too well. I am writing about Ray Rice to add my voice to a growing conversation that I think might actually have the power to change the way we look at this issue. I am writing this in hopes that maybe I can help even one person get the courage to take the actions to leave, so that maybe even one more person can be a survivor, and share the part of their story that will begin with #whyIleft.

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