Monday, September 15, 2014

What do YOU think?

Is there anything different that I can say that has not already been said? Haven’t we all heard it over and over this past week? Ray Rice did this, Ray Rice did that. That woman is a gold-digger, she must have deserved it. Why didn’t she leave? Why did she stay?

Is it any wonder that my teenage daughter is confused? She came to me and said that Janay Rice was stupid for marrying him. My daughter!! I’ve worked with domestic violence survivors for over 4 years, and my own flesh-and-blood feels this way! Oh how I have failed!

But wait a minute. If my own child (who is very smart, by the way) thinks Janay Rice made a mistake by loving and marrying an abuser, and she has a mother who is adamantly against DV, then what do other people think? What do YOU think?

Did you know that domestic violence is about power and control? It’s a pattern of abusive behavior used by one partner against another. And it comes in all forms: physical, sexual, emotional, economic, and psychological. So now think back to the awful elevator video we saw of Ray Rice striking Janay. We saw the horrible physical violence. But what was happening that we did not see?

Abusers use certain behaviors to influence another person: intimidation, manipulation, and humiliation. They isolate their victim, frighten, terrorize, blame, hurt, injure, coerce and threaten. So now think back to the awful elevator video again. What we see is that words were being spoken, an argument was going on. Ray Rice spit on Janay twice (which in and of itself is a highly offensive, degrading act), then he struck her. Hard. We don’t know what she said to him, but he didn’t like it. He didn’t have control of what was coming out of her mouth, so he struck her in an attempt to gain control. And it worked. She lay unconscious and boy did he show her.


And what he showed her is that he is the one in control. Now we see them married and she is standing by his side in the aftermath of his suspension from the NFL. We’ve seen the Instagram message she wrote, stating that she and Ray will “continue to grow and show the world what real love is.”

Breaks. My. Heart.

Here is my message to Janay Rice: Real love doesn’t punch you in the face. Real love doesn’t spit on you. Real love doesn’t drag your unconscious body out of an elevator and just step around it. That isn’t real love. Maybe you have no one to help you leave. Maybe you are afraid of being alone. Maybe you think you can change him. And I’m sure he promised to never do it again. And maybe, just maybe you are scared he will hurt you again. Not to mention that all eyes are on you now, so if you do leave, what will THEY say?

What can WE do to stop the violence? What can YOU do to stop the violence? The mission of Hope House is to save the lives of those affected by domestic violence. Today we offer not just shelter, but we work at prevention, education and we are here to support. Always. YOU can help us. You can speak out against domestic violence. This is a community-wide problem, affecting all income and social statuses. And children who witness domestic violence suffer greatly.  

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to continue working every single day to put an end to domestic violence. Tonight however, my first priority when I get home will be to sit down with my daughter and explain to her that Janay Rice is a woman in love with a man who hurt her. That doesn’t make her a bad person. And it doesn’t make her a stupid person. We don’t know all the reasons Janay Rice stayed, and we don’t have to. But we do need to give her love and support, and be here waiting to help when she’s ready for it.

Stefanie Shanks
Special Events & PR Manager - Hope House

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