After TMZ’s Monday release of a video from February showing New Rochelle native Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée Janay Rice (née Palmer) unconscious before dragging her from an Atlantic City elevator, Ray was quickly released from his spot on the Baltimore Ravens. While Ray’ termination is not surprising—the NFL’s original disciplinary action was criticized by some as too lenient—Janay’s response on Instagram sparked a larger discussion on social media asking why domestic violence survivors choose to stay with or even defend their abusers.
Using the twitter hashtags #whyistayed and #whyileft in the wake of Janay’s statement, many domestic violence survivors shared their reasons for why they either stayed with or left abusive partners. Some experts argued that even questioning a survivor’s choice to stay is counter-productive since it shifts responsibility from the abuser to the abused to explain their actions.
To help Westchester residents better understand the complicated nature of how domestic violence is perpetrated and perpetuated, two organizations that offer support for domestic violence survivors locally—Hope’s Door in Pleasantville and Westchester Jewish Community Services (WJCS) in White Plains—offered their insight on the situation.
CarlLa Horton, executive director of Hope’s Door in Pleasantville offered the following statement.
“As the executive director of Hope’s Door, an organization that has worked with thousands of domestic violence victims over the years, I can’t tell you why Janay Rice or any other victim stays with a violent partner, as there are as many reasons as there are victims. In our support groups, we hear women state that they stayed because they wanted a father for their children, they wanted the relationship they had in the beginning, they wanted to believe his apologies and promises to never do it again. Others stayed or returned after leaving because they faced enormous financial barriers or the very real threat of escalating violence. Indeed, 75% of domestic violence homicide victims are murdered after leaving or announcing a serious intention to do so.”
“Moreover, emotional and psychological abuse can be even more devastating than physical abuse, leaving unseen wounds that may take a lifetime to heal—longer than the blackest of black eyes or the most broken of broken bones.”
Liane Nelson, Director of the Treatment Center for Trauma and Abuse from WJCS said it was important to get away from the focus on the individuals and place more examination on the culture of the NFL, which, she said, might be facilitating behavior like Rice’s. Nelson said she believes the NFL promotes young men with incredible athletic talent but there’s nothing in place that tell them to develop as responsible human beings, or stay in school.
“I certainly know this kind of situation that is amplified certainly makes it far worst and I feel really sorry for the Rice family.”