If you’re anything like me then every time you see mention, photos, or video footage of Janay Rice something in your skin crawls. There is something that bubbles up inside of you, fast and hard. Go with those feelings. Feel frustrated, pissed off, disgusted, and angry; but feel these things for Janay, not towards her. Since the release of the full assault video and the NFL’s decision to let go of Ray Rice, I’ve seen a lot of misplaced anger directed towards Janay Rice. The operative words here being MISPLACED. If there’s one thing I was taught about violence, it’s that you never blame the victim. Period. To see both men and women getting upset with Janay Rice, calling her an idiot for the decisions she made, is disheartening. Do I hate that this woman is standing by her husband after he physically and publicly harmed her? Absolutely. What I don’t hate, is the woman.
Domestic violence is a woefully neglected topic in society, and in my opinion right up there with mental illness. Nothing in domestic violence is black and white, ever. When I re-watch the video of Janay’s apology for “her role” in the incident, I focus on how uncomfortable she looks and my mother comments on her lack of eye contact. I genuinely don’t believe in her heart of hearts that she wants to be there apologizing, but there’s a reason she is. What the reason is we may never know. When she made a statement saying that she would stand by her husband and show everyone what a real marriage and what true love looks like, I couldn’t decide whether she believes her own words or if they were fed to her by her abusive husband. Either way it’s a problem.
When people are abused physically you should automatically assume they are abused mentally as well, because the two go hand in hand. Something in your brain has to have been battered to instill in you the belief that you are deserving of the physical abuse you’re receiving. There are excuses made and defenses go up. It is really easy to be upset at the victim or say that if she stays she deserves whatever she gets, but it really is just not that simple.
Since Janay has been unable to illicit any public display of outrage for the harm done to her, whether she has wanted to or not, feel free to feel that for her. Feel free to feel that outrage for all victims of domestic abuse. I’ve seen way more defense for Ray Rice than I have for Janay Rice. I read a few posts that said that people understand punishing Ray Rice, but that we shouldn’t be trying to ruin his life, because he definitely isn’t the first celebrity to have been discovered as an abuser. As I browsed the list of other celebrities who had been exposed as domestic abusers, I must admit I was surprised I didn’t know about a few of them, but I think that what inflates this situation more than the others is the extreme visibility of this case. It’s not a photo of Janay’s bruises and wounds as we typically see in these cases. This time we have a video, a video where we could watch this man cold clock his fiancé and drag her unconscious body, her backside exposed to the camera, out of the elevator and across the floor. We watched this man drag his wife like a sack of potatoes. It’s like watching an episode of Law and Order SVU and feeling like a frustrated Olivia, trying to convince the victim that she is in fact the victim.
The whole ordeal is graphic, I don’t even have to discuss that, but I don’t want to see it echo rape culture, where we start blaming the victim and discussing how sad it is that this situation is ending the abusers prime. No one forced him to hit his wife like he did. Everything in life has consequences and the consequence for hitting your wife so hard that one blow knocks her unconscious, is not being given the opportunity to bask in the glory as an athlete. Past the ability to earn a living, being an athlete is one of the most highly celebrated positions in American society. We revere them as some form of role model. In all honesty, I don’t understand how catching a ball makes you more of a role model than someone who can successfully cut someone open, fix them, and sew them back up, but I won’t even go there. I know people think you shouldn’t ruin anyone’s life over one mistake, and I agree, but you don’t allow them to be celebrated either. Removing him from the league was the right decision.
At the end of the day we have to remember one very important thing. Janay Rice is a victim. She is a victim of an ugly, despicable circumstance. She has been harmed by the person who is supposed to love her the most. She was devalued by her life partner, and as foolish as we all feel it is for her to stand by the sanctity of marriage when her partner clearly does not, we cannot shame her into changing her position.