When I see a woman struck by a man, I instantly experience the intake of breath and the dread in the bottom of my stomach, like a slow motion video of a train crash.
The same feeling happened to me right before my husband hit me the first time. And every time after that.
Nobody talks about it really. Until someone like Ray Rice gets caught. NFL player, idol, super star. But it happens over and over. Mike Tyson, Mel Gibson, Chris Brown …it’s not a new story.
What I keep hearing from people when they hear this story of Ray and Janay Rice, is why would a woman, a sane and intelligent woman, stay in that kind of a relationship? The answer is the same but different in each case. But most likely, it involves a gradual break down of her self esteem.
A feeling that this man is the best you’ll ever find. That your love is like no other. He pumps you up emotionally and spiritually and then he systematically breaks you down.
Whether he tells you that you need him to rely on for financial advice, or guidance, or especially for love, the recipe is different every time. He will distance you from your friends and family. He will make it seem like the two of you exist in a magic bubble. It’s so lovely in the good times. And so very depraved in the bad times. Because sociopaths aren’t all found in prison.
The book sensation and pending movie release, Fifty Shades of Grey, only serves to justify and glorify domestic abuse. Others will say that consent is key to such a relationship. Two consenting adults enjoying a risqué sexual tryst is a healthy thing. But it’s not. Because before she met him, her abuser, she never would have done those things. He preys on her innocence and her belief in love.
It’s the fairytale of the knight in shining armour protecting her from the world. That’s what I was taught as a little girl. And it’s still prevalent today, even if we have reduced the sexism we teach our children by giving girls tools to play with instead of Barbie dolls and nurture their math skills.
It doesn’t matter how smart you are, this can happen to you. To anyone.
When you are in the lowest moment of an abusive relationship you feel you have nowhere to go. You can’t tell anyone because they will make you leave. Or worse, they won’t believe you.
The rational side of you knows the police will be involved. You’ll have to expose the bruises you tried so hard to hide. It will make it real. And when he apologizes and swears he will never do it again, you desperately want to believe it all. He is your everything.
And if you are good, so very, very good, if you walk the eggshells, your world won’t crack in two.
When we ignore videos like those of Ray Rice slamming Janay Rice like an old fashioned Bobo clown on Christmas Day, when we fail to publicize and remember the name of his wife, the victim, Janay (Palmer) Rice, then we fail to acknowledge her, to validate her. We fail to make her pain real. The hotel employee that witnessed the aftermath has that night on his conscience. Did he tell the police? Or was he blinded by fame, or fear?
People don’t want to know.
They call it a “lover’s spat.” It appears Janay hit him first, spitting at Rice. Is that abuse? Does that warrant a knock out punch? Victims of abuse will watch the story unfold and our collective reaction, or inaction to her situation, only shows that they are right to hide. Because there is nowhere to go.
Exposure means pain and turmoil. Exposure in her mind means he was right to call her stupid. Because when you are being abused there really is no horizon of escape from the abuse. You know you will carry it with you always.
If you are being abused, or know someone who is, please contact your local police or women’s shelter for help. They will help.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Kimby Maxson/Editor: Catherine Monkman