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Understand Janay Rice's Situation Before You Criticize Her

Durga Ghosh |
September 11, 2014 | 12:05 a.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Janay Rice took to Instagram early Tuesday morning to defend her husband, and abuser, Ray Rice. (Telenews De Mexico/Flickr
Janay Rice took to Instagram early Tuesday morning to defend her husband, and abuser, Ray Rice. (Telenews De Mexico/Flickr

I can understand what Janay Rice is feeling. Not because I’m a woman, but because I’m a person.

Contrary to popular belief, women are not predisposed to being irrational in relationships. It seems that now criticism of Janay Rice is okay, since she defended Ray Rice, and therefore must be acting irrationaly.

But, can we remember for a second she’s still a victim here?

Janay standing up for her husband doesn’t alleviate their problems, but I think it’s her way of trying to rationalize her situation. She is remaining loyal to Ray Rice, loyal to her marriage and loyal to an idea perpetuated by society that men will always be more powerful. What Janay Rice calls love may seem right to her and wrong to the general public; but, what she may really be trying to do is make sense of the verbal abuse she is getting for the physical beating she has already suffered.

After Ray Rice brutally beat Janay earlier this year, she had no option to walk away. Because she was unconscious. Even if she were able to walk, or run, out of the elevator on her own, studies show that worse consequences may have happened - over 70% of domestic violence murders happen after the victim has left the relationship. It’s not a matter of men “losing” control, but rather a necessity to “maintain” control. If Janay left, who knows how Ray may have needed to keep his control.

In addition to not leaving, Janay took to Instagram on Tuesday to defend her husband. 

I can understand that. 

Yes, I think Janay should leave, or at the least, not be defending her abuser. However, I also understand that this transition cannot be at all easy for her. Instead, sticking to what she knows - whatever relationship she has with Ray - may be easier. 

Janay and Ray Rice were high school sweethearts. Leaving Ray means ending a relationship Janay was completely invested in for years. Dating can be rough. I personally believe it is mostly a waste of time, between the awkward first few weeks of timid flirting, subtle indications of how impressive someone is and a lot of unnecessary questions. Janay never felt that; she was immediately in love. Janay was so nervously in love on her first date with Ray, she could only eat a slice of cheesecake. Walking away would mean leaving what she thinks is love for something completely new, so why would she feel the need to escape? Quantity is mistaken for quality here, and longevity is taken as a sign of happiness - as it so often is. Craig Malkin, a clinical psychologist at Harvard Medical School, states that "the person being abused is focused on the positive and waiting for the next positive." When you've got history since high school, it becomes easier to find positives over the span of their relationship.

Janay Rice and husband, former Baltimore Ravens runningback, Ray Rice. (michael89156/Flickr)
Janay Rice and husband, former Baltimore Ravens runningback, Ray Rice. (michael89156/Flickr)

But, sometimes longevity could mean being trapped. In 2008, Janay enrolled in Towson University. She moved to be closer to Ray after he was drafted out of Rutgers University by the Baltimore Ravens. Janay wanted to spend more time with him, essentially giving up her independence to be a part of Ray's life. Given this, it becomes easier to understand her instagram post, posted Tuesday morning. 

SEE HERE: Janay's Instagram Post. 

In Janay’s post, she often refers to herself and Rice as a unit, as an entity, as one. “To make us relive a moment,” “THIS IS OUR LIFE,” “if your intentions were to hurt us…” Janay taking Ray’s side is almost more of an obligation than it seems a cognizant choice. Without even acknowledging her own pain and suffering, she jumps to the we, because since high school, they have been a we. 

Victims stay in a relationship often because they fear leaving - they fear more violent consequences, they fear change, and they fear being alone. Janay and Ray have a child together and have relationships between their families, responsibilities they are both facing. Wife of former NFL offensive lineman Marco Rivera, Michelle Rivera, weighed in on Janay's decision, emphasizing the difficulty in leaving. "You're there to support, and you uphold the image that you feel is necessary for your family," said Rivera. Having been in a long-term relationship, as well as being married, Janay may feel an obligation to put on a happy, strong face, and be a "we." 

All of this I can understand, but none of this understanding stops me from cringing when I hear anything about this case. What I cannot understand is why the statistics, the victims, and the awareness does not elicit change. Domestic violence isn’t new, public domestic violence isn’t even new, and public domestic violence by an athlete definitely isn’t new. Yet we continue to write and read articles on the subject, then move on. Oh, and, blame the victim.  

Janay and Ray Rice at a press conference, apologizing for their actions. (Telenews De Mexico/Flickr)
Janay and Ray Rice at a press conference, apologizing for their actions. (Telenews De Mexico/Flickr)

Victim blaming does nothing but ostracize an already sensitive person - as demonstrated by Janay's instagram. How is someone expected to get help when they already feel as if they are on display to be psychoanalyzed? Any progress towards ending domestic violence is eradicated by blaming the victim, and blaming the victim often comes from a crippling lack of understanding. Regardless of what Janay has said, done, or hasn't done, something must be done about Ray, not Janay. 

No one can speak for Janay Palmer besides Janay Palmer herself. Perhaps, though, if people shifted their focus from victim blaming to abuser prosecution, she would now be defending herself, and not her abuser. 

Contact Staff Writer Durga Ghosh here. 



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