Disturbing video of ex-Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancée out cold in the elevator of a popular Atlantic City hotel spawned more absolution from his brutal actions than sympathy and protection for the victim.
The first offense came with the release of the video showing the brutal incident — a release that surely came without Janay Palmer’s consent. In the same way that we protect sexual abuse victims (or fall short doing so), domestic violence victims should also be shielded from the public until they are ready and willing to tell their story.
But the video couldn’t be ignored. Rice’s hitting and punching of Palmer was shared across the internet and in turn, so was the victim blaming that perpetuates domestic violence and excuses abuser behavior. Placing the onus on Palmer for refusing to leave Rice, for marrying him (presumably for money, according to victim blamers) and sticking by his side is a pattern of abusive behavior used by abusers — one that allows them to maintain power and control. One that attributes the abuser’s actions to that of the victim.
In many ways, the abusers are the outsiders claiming Palmer married Rice for money. The abusers are those calling Palmer “stupid” for staying with her abusive husband. The abusers are those who so passionately whip out the argument that she provoked him and deserved a violent beating.
The abusers clearly don’t understand how domestic violence works.
Here are a few domestic violence statistics that may make you think twice the next time you ask what the victim did to deserve a pummeling — or worse — contend she deserves it because she stayed.
85% of domestic violence victims are women. [NCADV]
Palmer’s abuse at the hands of her husband is not an anomaly. In fact, 24 people per minute experience intimate partner violence in the U.S. That’s something to consider when alleging you wouldn’t be the one stuck in a domestic violence riddled relationship. Trust, the 85 percent of women experiencing domestic violence surely didn’t set out to be victims.
Women are more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than men. [SafeHorizon]
Something to consider the next time someone tells you it’s “easy” to walk away from an abusive relationship. It may seem backwards, but victims tend to stay when their lives are being threatened in order to preserve just that. Before making the lazy argument that she’s silly for not walking away, consider the psychological hold abusers have on their partners before suggesting that it could never be you. Consider the woman who is told every night that she will die if she leaves her abuser. Consider the woman whose abuser uses their children as a pawn to make her stay. Consider the woman whose abuser makes her depend on him for financial stability and a home. Then, think about what you would do to stay alive in such a situation, even if that meant staying with him/her.
Women are most vulnerable to violence when separated from their intimate partner. The second most vulnerable group are those who are divorced. [feminist.org]
Thought leaving would solve the problem? There’s this idea that real, strong women leave their abusers when the violence begins. The truth is, it takes an average of 35 hits for a victim to muster the courage to leave or alert the authorities. And if a victim does have the resources and help to leave, the abusers don’t magically stop abusing. With the loss of control of power comes rage, a rage that has too often taken the lives of victims who choose to leave the home. In fact, three women are killed everyday by their spouses in the U.S. Ninety percent of victims identify their stalkers as their spouses. And in the end, a whopping 75 percent of women are killed while trying to leave an abusive relationship.
Lest we mention the number of men who threaten suicide if their spouse leaves.
Let that marinate the next time we ask the victimized to rectify the damage an abuser has caused. And think about how ridiculous it is to ask the victim why she chooses to be a victim, not why the abuser is engaging in violent behavior.
It’s time to stop rewarding bad behavior, derailing the fight to curb domestic violence with patriarchal and misogynistic rhetoric and stand next to domestic violence victims instead of shaming them.
And if you’re still confused about victim blaming and its dangers, check out the heartbreaking #WhyIStayed hashtag to hear personal stories from brave victims of domestic violence.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty