Commentary: Stop Blaming Janay Rice for Her Abuse

Commentary: Stop Blaming Janay Rice for Her Abuse

Why is it so hard for some of us to be mad at Ray Rice?

Published September 9, 2014

We all knew what happened between Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice and his now-wife Janay Rice in that elevator even without having to actually see it. He beat her. 

But this week, TMZ — the same website that didn’t blink an eye as they posted up a pic of Rihanna’s battered face without her consent — got their hands on surveillance video of the Rices inside the Atlantic City elevator and released the footage.

Full disclosure: I haven’t watched the video because I refuse to play part in Janay’s revictimization. But it has been reported that Janay slapped Rice and he then punched her twice, knocking her unconscious before dragging her limp body out of the elevator and into the hallway.

Obviously, to avoid more embarrassment and further accusations of not caring about women, the NFL swiftly ended Rice’s contract. This is definitely a much harsher punishment compared to the two-game suspension he originally received this summer for this same attack.

But what’s even more disappointing than the NFL’s delayed (and opportunistic) firing of Rice is the disturbing conversation happening in Black America about domestic violence. 

All I have to do is go to my Facebook and Twitter feeds to witness my “friends” sounding off on how Janay is responsible for her own abuse, how staying in this relationship must mean it’s not that big of a deal and/or how dare Rice be fired from his job for a “personal matter.”

It’s really mind boggling how the same people that share images of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin with the words “No Justice No Peace” underneath their slain faces are the same folks who refuse to muster up an ounce of empathy for what Janay and countless other Black women like her experience every day.

Why is it that we can understand that Michael Brown didn’t do anything to provoke being murdered by a white police officer that fateful day last month, but because Janay slapped her fiancé she must have deserved to be pounded into unconsciousness? Better yet, why is it when violence against Black women happens by the hands of Black men, we instinctually protect that man at all costs and turn our backs on the woman by blaming her for her own victimization?

Rice’s inability to not use his wife’s face as a punching bag is not a result of Janay’s behavior. Yes, Janay still married Rice and has gone on record blaming herself for the “role” she believes she played and continues to defend her husband at any given moment. But none of that changes the obvious: Janay Rice is the victim here. 

And for some it’s completely unfathomable to understand why Janay continues to "stand by her man." But perhaps that because you don’t really understand how complex the cycle of abuse and trauma are. It can completely kill your spirit and sense of self-worth and make you believe that without this man, the same man that beats you, you can do nothing and are nothing. 

So what you may perceive as “loyalty” or “stupidity” or “consent” is more about the physical, psychological and emotional toll that a violent relationship can have on a woman over time. 

Do we care to have a conversation about how our communal silence and complacency breeds abusers and makes it easier for them to get away with violence? How do we move forward and educate Black men and boys about what healthy relationships look like and how to appropriately deal with anger?

These are hard questions with complicated answers. I guess it's easier to keep blaming women whose only “crime” is that their husbands love to hit them.  

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Written by Kellee Terrell

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