It always concerns me to see one of God’s creatures wounded, so in the wake of the recent Ray Rice incident, I feel compelled to weigh in on the domestic violence conversation. Unless you have been locked away from all forms of communication this past week, I’m sure you’re aware of the incident where NFL star Ray Rice delivered a devastating punch to his fiancé’s face during a domestic dispute, and luckily for her the incident was caught on tape. First and foremost, I hope both Ray Rice and Janay Rice get the help they need as individuals, and then as a couple.
This past Monday, my friend and I watched in horror as we, like the rest of the world, saw Ray Rice’s knock out video and reacted with pure shock. However, we didn’t realize that his wife married him shortly after the incident until listening to the broadcasters discussing it during Monday night football. “What, she married him after he knocked her unconscious, how crazy is that!” My friend yelled at the television. But I wasn’t the least bit surprised. I told her I’d seen that play out many times before. As a former domestic abuse counselor I have accompanied numerous women to court for restraining orders, helped them get the resources they needed to create a new, abuse free life, only to see them voluntarily go back to their abuser in a few days to a week. To make matters worse, the video didn’t show Ray Rice in a defenseless position, or at a point where his life was in danger, so his vicious left uppercut wasn’t impulsive. I don’t believe this was the first time Janay has been abused by Ray Rice, I think this is the first time that he’s been caught!! This screams of a woman who is stuck in an abusive relationship.
I am equally disappointed in the NFL for not reacting swiftly enough when this incident was first brought to their attention in April of 2014. Even though the NFL claims that they didn’t see the “entire” tape initially, they did see enough to determine that Ray Rice beat his fiancé unconscious in an elevator in Atlantic City. What does this say about our society when a corporation as large as the NFL doesn’t take swift, precise action when it comes to domestic violence? What does it say when the prosecutor viewed this barbaric display of violence and gave Ray Rice a deal that includes no jail time? Ray Rice isn’t the first domestic violence case in the NFL, nor is he the only current case pending…. the NFL viewership is over 50% female, and I think they need to display a better sensitivity to woman’s rights!!
Domestic abuse is similar to mental health issues in the sense that neither discriminates. I‘ve worked with women who were getting away from their abusive spouses who were lawyers, doctors, judges like U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller of Alabama, police officers…etc. For those women, their fear was that because their husband’s / boyfriend’s positions were so prominent that it was too difficult to report them, or get the help and support they needed to find a safe place to escape to.
I have also had personal friends who are well-educated doctors, social workers, and blue-collar employees alike; all financially independent women, yet they still found themselves caught up in abusive relationships. Luckily, most of these individuals have managed to overcome their abusive situations. So while some women stay because of finances or prominence, for many others the issue is far deeper.
If I may, allow me to share a brief story with you:
When I worked as a counselor for a foster care program, one day we took a group of foster children on a fishing trip. Once the captain found a great spot for us to throw out our lines people began baiting their hooks. One older girl didn’t know how to do that, so one of the boys, 11 years old, volunteered to bait it for her. When he was done he gave her the rod, and without checking around her, she cast the line, and the hook went right through the boy’s eyelid. Immediately we called for an ambulance and headed for shore. Being that I was also a nurse, I took charge of caring for the child until we got back to shore and the waiting ambulance. That child lay on my lap the entire time while we rode back to shore, and not once did he cry, or show any signs of being in pain.
After the child received the medical attention he needed, I expressed to the doctor and his social worker how shocking it was that he showed no pain. His social worker then told me that at that point in his life he had been through so much mental and emotional abuse, that the physical didn’t bother him anymore.
We often wonder how/why a woman stays in an abusive relationship. Sometimes that woman has lost her spirit, self-esteem, and any thoughts of her life having value or worth. She’s an empty vessel. As a result, she’s happy to hold on to whatever might give her a glimmer of hope and happiness, even if it’s only in bits and pieces.
Depending on a woman’s upbringing, she may not know what real love looks or feels like. It’s possible that she never felt good about herself as a child, a teenager, a young woman, and this carries on into adulthood.
The first step in getting out of an abusive relationship is to believe that you deserve better, understand that no one can love and respect you until you can love and respect yourself! You have to make the decision that you want better, and when you do, the help is out there for you! Is it scary?? YES! Will it be work? YES! When you have been conditioned to believe that your life has no value, when your self-esteem and belief in yourself has been non-existent, it will take time to change that thought process. It will take time to get rid of the negative thoughts in your head, remove the negative people from your life, and come to the realization that you are priceless, and worthy of the best that life has to offer!
How do I know this to be true? I know because for years I experienced emotional abuse as a child, through my teenage years and a young adult. Then my breaking point came and I realized that it was up to me to take responsibility for the happiness in my life. When I began to change…things around me changed. The old me died years ago and I love who I am now!
Janay Rice, if you’re out there reading this, just know that NO man, NO amount of money, and NO amount of fame is worth your life, and unfortunately when you’re in a domestic violence situation you really are risking your life. I truly hope that you and Ray seek the help that you need, and be mindful that domestic violence doesn’t just go away; it is a disease that can be treated, but only if you take the first step.
If you or someone you know needs immediate help with domestic violence call: THE NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE: 1-800-799-7233
From the desk of Ameenah
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