Watching Video of Janay Rice on ‘Today’ Reminds Me that While the World Has Mostly Moved On, I Haven’t
“Did you see the Ray Rice video?” the text read. It was a Monday morning. I was sitting in class, blissfully unaware of what happened in the world in the last 10 hours since I had gone to sleep — so no, I hadn’t. I rushed onto TMZ and watched in horror.
“Of course I did,” I texted my mom back.
“Just checking. One punch is all it takes,” she replied.
“We got the order. We haven’t talked. Don’t worry,” I furiously typed. Because I needed to see that first thing in the morning, I thought.
“OK. Just a good reminder,” she wrote back. The conversation between us was over, but the worldwide debate over Ray Rice and Janay Palmer's relationship was just getting started.
Soon enough, Twitter and blogs would be posting about how Janay should have left her husband, and how Ray should be banned from the NFL for life. And while interest in Janay and Ray Rice has since mostly died down, just this week, a Today show interview between Janay and Matt Lauer was released in an attempt to give fans closure. Perhaps the media and fans have now mostly moved on from the story. But I haven't.
When I didn’t end the relationship immediately, my friends and family privately shamed me until I finally found a way out months later, just in time for the Rice scandal to break.
Every day, victims of domestic violence, like myself, still feel uncomfortable and confused as people continue to condemn Janay Rice for "letting" herself be a victim in this scenario.
As Dave Zirin pointed out in his piece for The Nation, “The Revictimizing of Janay Rice,”
No one cares that she is now going to have to relive this incident over and over again. No one cares that the world has now become privy to what may be the most humiliating moment of her entire life. No one cares that she's basically now being used as a soapbox with otherwise apolitical NFL commentators using her prone body to get on their high horse and safely blast the league. There is video, and those who never raised their voice publicly about the axis of domestic violence and the NFL before are now bellowing the loudest.
Rice gets to publicly relive her abuse each time she googles her name. But what about girls whose abusers aren’t sports icons?
We hide because we’re scared the same thing can happen to us.
In a society where one in four women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime, television shows have the potential to help women by seeing that they are not the only ones suffering. But instead, the media is forcing women to relieve their horrible abuse — and in some cases, shifting the blame to them — which has the complete opposite effect.
Television shows have portrayed domestic abuse for a variety of reasons — ratings, awareness, and even simply just for plot. Reality shows have also touched upon domestic violence, as seen in The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills through Taylor Armstrong's tumultuous marriage to Russell Armstrong.
The blonde housewife prided herself on being a volunteer at the 1736 Family Crisis Center, helping victims of domestic violence, as her husband physically and verbally abused her. She filed for divorce in 2011, and Russell committed suicide later that year. Somehow Taylor was blamed on Twitter for portraying him in a negative light and leading to Russell’s downward spiral as the last year of their relationship unfolded on the third season of the reality show.
Taylor endured the media backlash she received and moved on to marry John Bluher this year. I hope to, eventually, no longer live in shame like her.
But now, the verbal abuse replays in my head constantly, and I remember my physical abuse like it was yesterday.
It was a rainy Friday night, but my boyfriend and I went out to celebrate my best friend's birthday anyway. He had too much to drink, and I hadn't had enough. He wanted to leave the bar, and I wanted to stay. He pushed me into a cab while yelling at me that I should respect what he wants more. My leggings ripped at the seams from the impact and the friction of the cab's leather seat. When we got home, my neighbors called the cops on my screaming boyfriend. They asked me what he did to me. I said nothing. I lied. They knew. That was the first time.
The second time was in the comfort of my own bedroom. He "had a feeling I was cheating" and wanted to see who I had been texting. He stole my phone from my hands and hid it in his back pocket, hoping I'd admit to the crime before he had the chance to look. I went to grab my phone back, and he pushed me onto my bed so hard that I bruised.
When my friends and family found out, they were enraged and insisted I leave him immediately. But I couldn't understand why, when to me, the good times still outweighed the bad.
When I didn’t end the relationship immediately, my friends and family privately shamed me until I finally found a way out months later, just in time for the Rice scandal to break. Each time a critic shamed Janay, I felt embarrassed for her. I felt her embarrassment, her pain. But when I saw the statement she posted on her Instagram after video of her attack leaked, I was sad for her. I grieved through her.
“I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I’m mourning the death of my closest friend,” Janay wrote. “But to have to accept the fact that it’s reality is a nightmare in itself. No one knows the pain that the media & unwanted options from the public has caused my family. To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret everyday is a horrible thing.”
But then I froze as she continued — “to take something away from the man I love that he has worked his ass off for all his life just to gain ratings is a horrific.”
My friends would go on to ask me if I would also ever defend my ex-boyfriend who I had to get a restraining order against. I would respond no, but that Janay's choice was her own. We're all different, and we can't judge other abusive relationships.
My family would go on to point out that a month and three days later, Modern Family actress Sarah Hyland was granted a permanent restraining order against her ex-boyfriend, Matthew Prokop. My aunt would tell me, “At least you’re not alone.”
I was never alone. No abused woman is ever alone. I was scared to come forward with my story, and I still am. I’ve watched enough Law and Order: SVU to know the signs — to know when and how to leave. But I stayed much longer than I should have, and so do countless other women, for their various reasons. Nobody but the person abused understands what they're going through.
So while I don't really know Janay's story, she has helped me reshape mine. It took my mom dragging me to a family court for me to leave my relationship, and every once in a while, I still feel uneasy about the decision to file a restraining order. But then I see women like Janay Rice get attacked over and over again, and know I did the right thing.
Editor's Note: This article was posted anonymously for the author's safety.