Via Steps to HOPE. (Click link to see enlarged view.)
There's been a lot of dissection of what Janay Rice did or didn't do regarding being very brutally punched in the face, and questions about why she didn't leave former Baltimore Ravens footballer Ray Rice. I'm not going to add to the chatter, because she has reasons, and they make sense to her. This is the private business of her family even if it's a pretty clear-cut assault. I don't know her relationship, or what steps they are undergoing together or separately. I hope they are getting good counseling--even though in some situations where there is abuse, it doesn't always help.
The bottom line is, I don't think anyone knows enough to judge her for her behavior and speculating about it is like trash-picking the neighbors' cans. But I do think the conversation about abusive relationships is useful and healthy to have, and I do think it's worthwhile to question the standards we have publicly regarding known cases of abuse.
So long as anyone wonders when seeing her go down in that video what she did to get hit, and not why her husband hit her, I think our conversation is problematic. He could have talked to her, restrained her, got out of the elevator and never looked back. There are options that are not hitting her. And if she seems like she is "giving as good as she got" before the hit, there are even reasons why a victim might instigate where there has previously been abuse. Because when you already know what is coming and that it's unavoidable, why not pick the time and place for a little control? It feels less like victimhood. It makes the narrative that you had it coming make sense.
And there is that narrative that abusers create to try and make the abused feel like it was their fault. Above is a graphic showing the numerous ways an abusive partner in a relationship can dominate and control their partner's life to the extent where they don't have a lot of autonomy left to avoid their abuse. The graphic leans towards the somewhat societally-normalized picture of male on female abuse, but the reality is that this dynamic can take place where women abuse male partners, or in same-sex relationships. (Although the numbers do seem to skew towards a prevalence of male abusers.)
But the takeaway needs to be that if you are looking for why someone doesn't behave "like they should" in a situation where they are being hit, it's because rational choices like that stop making sense. That doesn't negate whether being hit like that was wrong. It still is--but to the actors involved in the abusive dynamic, they don't necessarily see it that way. All the more reason, I think, that it needs to be discussed as a thing anyone might experience; just while giving Janay Rice her privacy, to some extent, if we can.
There's also some question about how the NFL responded to the obvious broad outline that one of their players assaulted his spouse-to-be in a way that left her insensible for some time. There's a possibility there is a culture there that simply saw what happened, and did not see the problem with it. In other words, a business did not understand its asset was toxic until there was bad word of mouth on the street.
This is not to reduce Ray Rice's humanity to being an asset of the NFL, but if he was Ray Rice, guy who sells shoes, he'd be incarcerated. So some of his post "revelation as a woman-beater" experience no doubt depends on the status that being an elite athlete conferred.
To my line of thinking, in an industry--athleticism, where fit younger men coming from all backgrounds are subjected to all kinds of stress and the benefit of good money, there is no way the NFL didn't have to address domestic violence before. Yet it was only a wee while before the TMZ elevator video dropped that the League made DV punishments stricter. But this is a culture in sum where competition and exposure to violence results in an uptick in actual violence in the home anecdotally and in some testable degree.
I hate that we have to talk about this in roundabout ways--but it is helpful to get the information out there that this is not a unique thing and it is wrong. I think it's helpful if people who haven't familiarized themselves with the details of domestic violence just listened. Don't expect that the experiences of people who have been through it will be rational, just hear them out until you see the sense.