Janay Rice and the #WhyIStayed Movement

On September 9, the NFL decided to suspend Ray Rice indefinitely after footage of him abusing his then-fiancé, Janay Rice (née Palmer) was released by TMZ.

Many people have applauded the NFL for the harsh punishment. The NFL’s previous decision to suspend Rice for only two games caused uproar for being too lenient.

However, many people did not stop at applauding the NFL and decided to criticize the victim, Janay Rice, for deciding to marry an abusive man.

This victim-blaming sparked an online movement propelled by the hashtag #WhyIStayed, where women have shared personal stories of why they decided to stay in abusive relationships – oftentimes for their personal safety. The movement was started by writer Beverly Goodman. On her blog she explained why she started the hashtag:

“When TMZ released the video of Ray Rice punching, dragging, and spitting on his wife this morning, the internet exploded with questions about her. Why didn’t she leave? Why did she marry him? Why did she stay? I can’t speak for Janay Rice, but I can speak for Beverly Gooden. Why did I stay?…Leaving was a process, not an event. And sometimes it takes awhile to navigate through the process.”

It’s not easy for many women to get out of abusive relationships. In a segment on MSNBC’s “All in With Chris Hayes,” Liz Plank, a Senior Editor at Mic.com, and MSNBC contributor Goldie Taylor discussed the costs and benefits of staying in an abusive relationship. Leaving, as Plank says, “is the most dangerous moment” in the life of a woman who is abused. Plank goes on to explain that women of color are only eight percent of the population, but make up one-fifth of homicide partner victims. Half of those women are killed when they try to leave.

I personally find Janay Rice’s decision to stay with Ray Rice to be very confounding. I understand that many women decide to stay in abusive relationships for their own safety, but Janay has all the money and resources in the world to get herself out. Perhaps she worked things out with Ray, but most abusers don’t abuse just once. It’s in their DNA. If Ray beat up Janay once, chances are he’s done it before and has continued to do it after. Also, why would you want to work things out with an abusive man who publicly apologized to everyone but you, the victim?

That being said, we should not focus our attention on Janay. Ray is the abuser and who Janay decides to spend the rest of her life with is none of our business. All we can hope is that Janay has a strong support network to protect her if Ray abuses her again. In addition, we need to hold institutions like the NFL accountable for their players’ criminal acts. Instead of covering up players’ crimes, the NFL needs to acknowledge these crimes directly and address them fairly and in full accordance with the law. Though the NFL did ultimately decide to suspend Rice indefinitely, a law enforcement official said he sent the footage to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell months prior, thus before Rice was suspended for only two games. That means that the footage only made a difference in Goodell’s mind once it was released to the public and only after the NFL received backlash from fans and women’s rights activists.

The biggest lesson we can take from this incident is to look out for your family and friends and most importantly, yourself. If someone you know is in an abusive relationship, be their support network. Help them find a safe time to leave and report the abuser to the authorities. No one deserves to be abused, nor should any woman be judged for her decision to stay in an abusive relationship. None of us really know Janay Rice. All we can hope is that she is getting the help she needs.


In other sports news, this kitty won MVP of his soccer team!

 

  • I recently shared my personal story of why i stayed in an abusive relationship and I’d like you to take a look at it. It is really hard for outsiders to understand why we don’t just run but it’s never that easy. My heart breaks for every person stuck in this place. It really does.

    http://www.sincerelyalaska.blogspot.com/2014/09/whyistayed.html

    • Corinne Falotico

      Thank you, Alyssa for sharing your story. It is incredibly difficult for people to understand why women stay. Your story has certainly struck a chord with me and made me understand the issue a lot better. <3

  • Meghan Meints

    I shared your post on my blog and added my two-cents; thank you for posting about such an important topic!
    http://meghanmariesite.wordpress.com/2014/09/19/janay-rice-and-the-whyistayed-movement/

    • Corinne Falotico

      Thanks for sharing, Meghan!

  • Thank you for posting this! So many people have misconceptions about domestic violence. Just to respond to the part of your post in which you were confused by her decision to stay since she has money: domestic violence is not just about being financially stuck with this person. Sometimes people delude themselves into believing everything is okay. It’s easy to think you’re in a loving relationship when a person is showering you with gifts instead of punching you.

    HCXO, Mandisa!
    http://www.curl-power.com

    • Corinne Falotico

      Thank you, Mandisa! It’s an incredibly difficult issue to understand. I find it really sad that someone with the breath of resources that Janay has can’t even get out. I just hope that she is safe and has a strong support network to help her through this difficult time.

  • I agree wholeheartedly with this. Our attention should be on Ray Rice for being an abuser, and the attention we give Janay should be support and understanding.

    I nominated you for a Liebster award! 🙂 Check it out here: http://lavieenzoe.blogspot.fr/2014/09/liebster-award-2.html

    • Corinne Falotico

      Thank you, Zoe! I hate how this issue, like so many others, has turned into victim blaming. Just because Janay decided to stay does NOT mean she “deserved it” and “must have been asking for it.” We need to support her and hope that she’s getting the help she needs.

  • This was so perfectly written!! Yes, thank you!!

    • Corinne Falotico

      Thank you, Raewyn!!

  • Em

    I have known a woman that was abused by her husband and when she told me her story, I couldn’t judge her decision to stay with him until he tried to kill her. Getting out of this kind of relationship is hard, especially when kids are involved..

    • Corinne Falotico

      Yes, it’s a very difficult type of situation to understand and people should not judge. I hope that your friend and her children are getting the help that they need to leave safely.

  • I’ve wondered about Janay Rice as well. The media bashing the victim did not help at all. Some women are still emotionally connected to their abuser, and leaving is not something they can just up and do. They built a life with that person, they love that person. It’s not easy to say “He hit me, so I don’t love him anymore.” I agree with Goodman in that it is a process that continues even after the victim has left her abuser.

    • Corinne Falotico

      Yes, the victim-blaming needs to stop. Ray is the criminal, not Janay.

Posted in: Culture, Social Justice