We all must stand with survivors of domestic violence
Regarding “Ray Rice suspension: Is NFL really serious about domestic violence?” (CSMonitor.com, Sept. 8): During the 12 years I have been in the domestic violence field I have often been asked why women stay in abusive relationships. That question has become exponentially important as the National Football League, the legal system, the media, and the public digest the timeline of events that led from a knockout punch in an elevator to the termination of Ray Rice’s NFL contract with the Baltimore Ravens.
Janay Palmer, who married Rice in March, fell in love with a man she thought was wonderful (she probably still thinks he’s wonderful) – not a man she thought was an abuser. Domestic violence survivors almost always feel love for their abusers, and each additional reason for staying is as individual as the women themselves. These reasons may include threats of more violence if they leave, fear for their children’s safety, instant poverty, shame, or the belief that the woman is the cause of the problem and must change. Statistics show it takes a woman, on average, seven attempts to leave her abuser for good. This means she will suffer through years and years of abuse before she gets away and begins to rebuild her dreams, often with lasting psychological scars.
We cannot waste this crucial opportunity at a moment when the whole country is talking about domestic violence to send a message to women in dangerous domestic situations. Through my work with Web of Benefit, a pay-it-forward network of domestic violence survivors, we remind women that they are worthy of being treated with respect and that they are not alone. But we all need to step up and say “No more!” to cycles of abuse.
This begins at home. Mothers and fathers need to teach their daughters and sons – but especially their little girls – that they have the power to follow their dreams toward a happy and healthy life built on respect for one’s self and others. When we hurt another, we hurt our society as a whole.
There are no innocent bystanders if we let this insidious epidemic of domestic violence continue.
Executive director, Web of Benefit