#WhyIStayed, Ctd

The conversation about domestic violence continues, with several reflections on Janay Rice. Robin Givens shares a personal experience:

People ask why I didn’t leave after the first time he hit me. But you feel such inner turmoil and confusion. You want it to be only one time. And for three days after that incident I did the right thing. I said: “Don’t call me. I never want to see you again.” But then you start taking his phone calls. Then he asks to see you in person, and you say yes to that. Then you have a big giant man crying like a baby on your lap and next thing you know, you’re consoling him. You’re the protector. One minute you’re running from him, the next you’re protecting him. And being a black woman you feel you want to protect your man. You think, the black man in America has it so difficult anyway, so now you’re turning them in. It feels like the ultimate betrayal.

Feminista Jones expands on the race angle:

These events have forced the country to face difficult truths about how prevalent domestic and intimate partner violence (DV/IPV) is in America.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, an estimated 1.3 million American women experience DV/IPV each year. Women make up 85% of the victims of DV/IPV. Despite this, most cases are never reported to the police and most women are victimized by people they know.

And for Black women, it’s an even bigger problem: Black women are almost three times as likely to experience death as a result of DV/IPV than White women. And while Black women only make up 8% of the population, 22% of homicides that result from DV/IPV happen to Black Women and 29% of all victimized women, making it one of the leading causes of death for Black women ages 15 to 35. Statistically, we experience sexual assault and DV/IPV at disproportionate rates and have the highest rates of intra-racial violence against us than any other group. We are also less likely to report or seek help when we are victimized.

Emily Bazelon considers Janay Rice’s position:

As Jodi Kantor wrote in the New York Times, “it’s not at all clear that she views herself as a victim of abuse.” Palmer married Rice the day after he was indicted for hurting her. She has stood by his side at news conferences and rallied to his cause on social media. She tried to take the burden off Rice’s shoulders in the spring when she said, “I do deeply regret the role that I played in the incident that night.”

Rice and Palmer met in high school. They have a child together. She’s probably financially dependent on him. She has a lot of reasons to back him up. But that doesn’t mean prosecutors should take her statements at face value, Gandy said, or excuse Ray Rice because Janay Rice is still with him. Maybe she’s staying because she’s afraid to leave. When domestic violence ends in murder, it’s often after the victim tries to get out of the relationship.

Caitlin Dickson focuses on the impact of Rice’s firing on his family:

Almost everyone except Janay Rice applauded the move, though questions remained as to whether, contrary to what Goodell has said, the NFL saw the second video prior to its public release. But Monday’s news, and Janay Rice’s subsequent response, raised a different set of questions for domestic violence experts that highlight just how complicated the issue of domestic violence is.

While Rice inarguably deserved to lose his job, could the NFL have done more to ensure that he gets help? By suspending him indefinitely, did the NFL do more to disassociate itself from Rice’s heinous actions than to make the player, their employee, take responsibility for them? After all, the new domestic violence policy does not require offenders to go through any kind of counseling before they can petition for reinstatement after a year. What incentive does Rice have to change his behavior?

Dr. Benjamin S. Carson, the controversial GOP pundit flirting with a presidential run, describes another reason why some abuse victims stay:

There are situations in which domestic abuse is so violent and dangerous that nothing short of a total separation from the abuser is the only way of assuring the physical and emotional safety of the victim(s). But there are situations, especially where there is strong spiritual and community support, in which the best option may be counseling or mediation or other less drastic measures. This does not in any way excuse the act itself, but it may help prevent further harm: the harm caused by children growing up without a parent; the harm of losing economic opportunities that would help to strengthen the family; the harm to the community of destroying a family unit. While I firmly believe that individual freedom is essential to a healthy democracy, I also believe that a strong family is the foundational unit of a healthy society.

Often the knee-jerk reaction to the shock of violence and other betrayals of trust within relationships is for the aggrieved party to leave and never look back. In the heat of the moment separating two highly emotional people might be the best option until their emotions cool. But to imply that a woman or man is displaying weakness by staying in a relationship, or conversely, showing strength by leaving, is far too simplistic. Often it takes great strength to overcome difficult issues in a relationship. There should be a determination on the part of both parties– as well as sometimes courts, counselors, pastors and other community resources – as to whether the relationship is worth saving, and if so, what steps should be taken to try and heal the wounds and rebuild strong bonds of trust. When a family is involved the stakes are too high not to try.