Domestic Violence Awareness Series Part One- Why Did Janay Palmer Stay? Still Blaming the Victim

“She Thinks She Can Change Him”

I feel like death after having oral surgery yesterday and being highly medicated. Nevertheless, I felt compelled to write this post in support of all abuse victims. Unfortunately for Janay Palmer Rice, she is the current poster child for domestic violence due in large part to today’s media and being connected with a professional athlete. The sad truth is that had this incident not been caught on tape, she would be another unknown victim.

One of the things that bothers me the most about the commentary is the assumption that she stayed with (and married him) was because she was a gold digger. There may be at least ten other reasons other than her being money hungry. When I look at the picture of Janay and Ray Rice at that joint statement press conference, I don’t see a money chaser, I see someone who looks scared and broken. Given the footage from the elevator, I would not be surprised if she were forced into this relationship.

How do you know that when a woman stays with a rich man it is because she is a gold digger? Perhaps she stayed for the same reason a woman who is with Everyday Joe stays, such as:

1.) Fear for her safety. Some women feel it is safer to stay than to leave. This may seem counter-intuitive to those in healthy relationships, but for the abused, it makes sense. This is especially the case if they tried to leave and suffered harsher violence than when they were together.

2.) Fear for her children’s safety. Her children could have been threatened.

3.) Fear for her family’s safety. Her family could have been threatened.

4.) Fear that the man may kill himself (though he probably won’t) like he said he would if she leaves. This is a common tactic of abusers. They use it to manipulate the victim into believing that she will be to blame if he ends his life.

5.) Desire to keep the family unit in tact. When women with children leave relationships, even when they are dangerous, they are often faced with disdain for breaking-up the family unit. It makes no difference to these outsiders that the family unit was already broken because of the abuse.

Janay Palmer Rice

6.) She has nowhere else to go. If she has no job or money to physically re-locate, the thought of being homeless is less appealing than the thought of having shelter. She can convince herself that the abuse is “not that bad,” if it means she will have a roof over her head.

7.) Lack of emotional support. Many people say that it is none of their business and they do not want to get involved. When this happens, a victim feels as if she is alone and does not know how to seek help to escape the situation.

8.) She was told by someone in the church that it was a sin to leave your spouse. God hates divorce, but it’s okay for your husband to put his hands on you. That’s the message that comes from many in the church- men and women.

9.) She thinks she can change him.

10.) She thinks it is normal based upon her family history. When you grow up with violence, you fail to see how it is wrong. It’s not that you think you deserve it, you just think this is how relationships work. You have no healthy frame of reference.

No matter what the reason, perhaps we should shift the conversation from calling her names and the victim blaming question, “Why did she stay?,” to the statement, “It is not okay for someone to brutalize another person.”

Other posts in the Domestic Violence Awareness Series:

Part 2- 5 Things Not to Say to the Abused

Part 3- The Cover-up: Three Lies the Abused Tell for the Abuser

Why did Janay Palmer Stay? Still Blaming the Victim

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