Stop Blaming the Victims of Domestic Abuse

Ray Rice with wife Janay Palmer

Why did Janay Palmer marry ex-Raven Ray Rice, even after the elevator incident? Dude, let’s talk.

Excuse me? I don’t think I heard you correctly.

Because it sounded like you just said, “Well, I don’t get why she married him! How stupid …”

As you’re nodding your head, let’s just sit down for a quick spell while I explain something to you, and yes, you’re going to listen.

While all the sports announcers and analysts are debating about who knew what and when they knew it – as if that really makes a difference – I’m going to let you in on some secrets. And I say secrets, because it seems like so many of you don’t have a clue when it comes to abuse.

Yes. Let’s call it what it is. It’s not a bad temper. It’s not a problem with “anger management,” but that sure sounds more palatable, doesn’t it? It’s abuse. Mental … physical … psychological … emotional. It’s Intimate Partner Violence, and it’s everywhere.

So let’s get back to your question, shall we? Why would a woman stay with the very man who knocks her out in an elevator and drags her out like a dollar-store toy? She’s weak, right? She’s just after his money. She lacks intelligence … street smarts … and it’s easy to blame her, right? It’s easier to blame her than to look at ourselves in the mirror and stare at that reflection – you know the one – where men with the right kind of muscle memory and play-making abilities are treated like kings, regardless of their character? Where most kinds of abuse are shoved in the closet, as long as the scores and impressive stats are there at the end of the game?

No, don’t get up. You need to stay seated for this. Look in my eyes. Are you ready? Are you paying attention? Yes, this gets uncomfortable.

You see, abusers are cowards. They don’t have the balls … athletic or otherwise … to deal with the world as it is. So they need somebody to dominate. They need to make their targets feel helpless … useless … less than. They chip away at their target’s self-esteem little by little, until there’s nothing threatening left.

You are nothing without me.

You tell anybody and you’re dead. I will turn you out on the street. I will hurt your family.

But I love you baby … I’ll get better.

And that’s only the beginning. The victim gets confused. She – and yes, sometimes it’s a man – but let’s stick to women for today. She gets used to her version of normal. Her reality becomes the cycle of hurt, then loving adoration and hope for a better future. Then hurt.

Victims lose sight of their own strengths, and the reality that you and I know is but a distant dream to them. They feel helpless, with no idea of how to get out. They believe it when they’re told, “That’s the last time, I swear!”

Victims feel isolated and alone. They feel confused. They lack resources, or options. They don’t know what to do. Some victims were abused themselves, or they watched loved ones endure the same things. They feel like they don’t deserve any better. They think it’s normal. They are afraid.

No wait … don’t get up … just one more thing I need to make sure you understand. Did you know that one in twenty people per minute are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in the U.S.? Here’s a flyer that tells you more about it … you are able to read, right? Because I’m beginning to wonder.

When you blame the victim … when you question her judgment or point the finger at her instead of the perpetrator, you are part of the problem. You need to get educated, my friend. Can you do that? Can you shut your misinformed lips for just a minute, and learn before you speak?

You can? That’s good … and once you know what you’re talking about, please go share with your friends who are saying the same things. You need to talk to your sons and nephews and buddies at the bar. Don’t be silent.

Yes, I’m about done … just one more thing. If you know of someone being abused, you have a responsibility to get involved. Don’t look the other way. Reach out to the victim. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Contact authorities. Be a part of the solution.

I’m glad we had this talk, aren’t you?

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©2014 Michelle Freed

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