Surrounding the media this week has been talks of NFL player Ray Rice and the video of him hitting, and knocking out, his fiancé, Janay Palmer. Non-stop talk from everyone about their opinions of his actions, his punishment from the NFL, as well as domestic violence in general has been circling the media. Janay, Rice’s now wife, finally broke her silence and posted a note on her social media account explaining how much this is affecting her and her family’s lives. Prior to this, Janay received countless messages asking how could she stay and get married to someone that would do such a horrible thing to her. But is that really the best question to ask? Due to the surplus of these messages, an author and domestic violence survivor, Beverly Gordon, tweeted why she was unable to leave an abusive relationship and used the hashtag #WhyIStayed (the tweet can be seen below). This hashtag started a ripple effect of others sharing why they too were unable to leave their abusive relationships.
#WhyIStayed is a great way for individuals to be able to tell the world what they experienced and why they couldn’t just get up and leave their relationship. It teaches and informs our society that leaving an abusive relationship is not as simple as it seems. Time Magazine published an article by Charlotte Alter entitled “Instead of Asking Women Why They Stay, We Should Ask Men Why They Hit.” In this article, Ms. Alter goes on to discuss exactly what the title says – we should not be focusing on and bashing women about why they would stay with someone who has done such terrible things to them, but rather we should be asking why would the person become violent with their partner in the first place. In the article, the author discusses how having the focus being on actions of the victim “puts the focus on the victim’s choice to stay rather than the abuser’s choice to hit her.” This idea is also mimicked in responses to the new rape detecting nail polish that has recently been created – “why is everyone focusing on ways in which a victim or potential victim can avoid one of these situations, instead of teaching people to not commit these crimes in the first place.” Of course this is a very optimistic outlook about changing people’s thoughts and behaviors, but I think it can be a start. Those of us who have never experience domestic abuse truly cannot understand what it is like to be in a situation where you are so scared that you feel unable to tell anyone about what is going on. We also cannot understand what it feels to have someone you love, and who tells you they love you back, hurt us this badly – they receive extreme mixed messages.
The University of Illinois in Chicago (UIC) published “THE CYCLIC NATURE OF INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE,” which explains the 3 stages of domestic violence (with examples) – tension building, explosion and honeymoon/reconciliation; and the frequency/duration of these cycles. On UIC’s page, you can also access intimate partner violence resources, including statistics and myths/facts. Huffington Post also has published an article by Melissa Jeltson, “‘Why Didn’t You Just Leave?’”, in reference to #WhyIStayed. However, included in the article are 6 personal and detailed survivor stories, explaining their reasoning for staying even with audio tapes of them speaking their stories. These stories allow us to further see what intimate partner violence victims go through, and why they feel they have to stay – all for different reasons. I would highly suggest reading these if you want to know more about what it feels like to experience this abuse.
Going through an abusive relationship is not something anyone wishes on even their worst enemy, nor deserves. It is already hard enough for victims to have the courage and strength to tell someone about what is going on. Having to move forward from a past such as this is also not an easy task. So instead of us bashing victims, we must lift them up and remind them that they have our support – we are here for them whenever they need us and will help them move past these traumatic experiences. And remember, not every abusive relationship is physical – one can suffer from emotional or psychological abuse as well.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, there is hope. You can reach a trained counselor 24/7 at The National Domestic Violence Hotline or call them at 1-800-799-7233 | 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). To learn more about abuse warning signs and red flags, and what is considered abuse, visit http://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/abuse-defined/.
So what do you think? Should we be asking victims why they stayed or asking why the act was committed in the first place? If you are beginning to see signs of an emotionally or psychologically abusive relationship in your own life or others’ lives, or have experienced domestic abuse in the past, give us a call to set up a free phone consultation with Life Skills Resource Group Orlando at 407-355-7378. All of our Orlando Individual Counselors would be happy to help you If you have a child who may be suffering from psychological and mental abuse, our Orlando Child Counselors, Orlando Teen Counselors, and Orlando Adolescent Counselors would be happy to help them through this difficult time.
We must not judge the actions of others when they are in crisis, for we must think of what we would do during these times. ~Sabina.