My Letter to Janay Rice on Her Abusive Marriage.
“Kim, it’s brutal,” my friend warned me. So I braced myself as I watched the latest footage of former Ravens player Ray Rice knocking his wife out cold in an elevator. I have to admit I wasn’t all that shocked though. The only thing I said was, “I hope Janay doesn’t pay for this.”
When the first video came out a few weeks ago, and I saw Rice drag his wife out of the elevator by her feet, I knew it was bad. It didn’t take much for me to imagine what preceded it. So I posted an article on Your Tango, Thoughts On Ray Rice & The Secret Life Of Abused Women. In that piece I put it out there that I was pretty sure Janay was in an abusive marriage. The whole thing felt too familiar.
But now as this second video has emerged, and my article has gone on to be shared more than 700 times on YourTango and Facebook, I am certain. Janay is in an abusive marriage and a lot of people are concerned. Some even see themselves in her. So rather than talking about Janay Rice this time, I want to talk to her:
I want to say: Janay, listen to me.
I know you love him. I know there are wonderful, amazing things about Ray and I know you’ve had good times together. You have a beautiful little girl. You have a lot invested in your family. I know it’s hard to imagine walking away, and I know you don’t really want to. But you have to.
I am sure that on many levels, Ray cares about and loves you. But at the same time, he fundamentally doesn’t respect you. No one who respects you would hit you with such force and such venom, ever. He crossed a very important line in that elevator and it’s impossible for either of you to go back. He showed you and the world that he is violent man. And no amount of love or time will change that. The potential for him to snap will always be there, like a giant hammer waiting to come down. Things will never be the same, ever again.
What will you say when your daughter sees this video one day? How will you justify staying in a marriage to a man who so brutally attacked you? How will she feel when she sees that video of her father? How will you keep her from marrying into her own abusive marriage, if you are sending the message that it’s ok to stay after this?
Luckily, you have been given a gift, though I’m sure you cannot see this either right now. You literally can’t, because you are in the middle of the forest and you can’t see the trees. I know you have rationalized his behavior somehow in your head. Maybe you’ve told yourself it will never happen again. Maybe you believe you deserved it, or that you started the fight. I’m sure you’ve told yourself he would never hurt your daughter. But a little part of you knows that he will lose his temper again eventually, if he hasn’t already.
The gift you have been given is in fact an exit ramp. It’s right there, paved with help and support. You have PROOF, yes for others to see, but more importantly, for yourself. Did you see what he did to you? It was bad Janay, really bad. Most of us don’t get any proof. We don’t get a video to point to and say– “Look what he did to me. Look how he treats me.” Most of us don’t have millions of men and women and ESPN behind us, rooting for us to break free. YOU DO. Please Janay, take advantage. If not for yourself, for your daughter.
I wish I could have had proof. Many times I took pictures of the bruises, but then I would panic and delete them, knowing he would find them and lose his mind and come after me. I thought about writing about it in my journal, but I was too afraid he’d find that too. My black and blue proof would fade. And so I had nothing to point to or look back at. And after awhile, the memory would soften and it didn’t seem like such a big deal anymore.
Way down though, I knew it wasn’t right. Unconsciously almost, I waited for someone to notice. Once or twice someone asked quietly, “Does he hurt you?” But it was always at a moment when he was nearby and my instinct would kick in and I would lie. Because what were they going to do if I told them the truth? Eventually, my Ex’s behavior escalated and things got really ugly. I had to leave in a hurry for my own safety. Don’t wait that long Janay, don’t wait for things to get worse than getting knocked unconscious before you realize you deserve more. Don’t stay in an abusive marriage, hoping for years and years that things will change, like I did.
And it can be so much better Janay. There are men out there who would never in a million years dream of hitting you. Men who don’t have tempers that get out of control, and men who will respect you as an equal.
Oh, Janay, please call me. I know that even if you happen to read this, you will think I’m just another person capitalizing on your personal pain. But you know what? I’m not. I’m just a girl who has been where you are. And when I got out, I decided to dedicate my life to helping other women get out, too.
I know this: sometimes it is hard to do things for yourself. You can ignore your own feelings and hurt because you love him. But if this is how you feel Janay, you must take this opportunity to show your daughter what it means to be brave. Show her a strong woman who not only deserves respect, but insists upon it.
To read my original article “Thoughts on Ray Rice and The Secret Life of Abused Women” follow this link to YourTango.com.
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