#WhyIStayed: ‘Leaving Was a Process, Not an Event’

So writes one Twitter user in a post that neatly sums up much of the reaction to the Ray Rice domestic abuse scandal, involving a video of him punching his then-fiancée, now wife, in the face and then dragging her out of the elevator of an Atlantic City casino.

The video is shocking. Horrifying.

And, as we are all so quick to do whenever a narrative doesn’t progress exactly as we would like it to, we commenced pointing fingers.

First — and most deservedly — at the NFL, which initially reacted to the incident by suspending the Ravens running back for a mere two games. (This week, they announced that they would be suspending him indefinitely.)

But then the fingers turned toward wife Janay Rice, whose public sympathy and goodwill morphed into anger and judgment when she issued a statement on Instagram condemning the public for its reaction to the video.

“To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing,” she wrote.

“To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his ass [off] for all his life just to gain ratings is horrific.

“THIS IS OUR LIFE! What don’t you all get. If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels.”

We all would like the fairy-tale happy ending for Janay Rice — the neat, cut-and-dried scenario in which she promptly kicks Rice to the curb, takes off her wedding ring, throws it on the ground and rides off into the sunset, an independent woman following the approved You Go Girl message.

Then we could all cheer and feel good about ourselves, secure in the generally agreed-upon script: Person Gets Hit; Must Leave Spouse, Or They Only Have Themselves To Blame.

If only it were that easy.

Domestic violence is no Ice Bucket Challenge, raising awareness by merrily dousing ourselves with water, writing a check and then patting ourselves on the back, confident of our good deed, before moving on to the next Thing To Be Outraged By. #SolvedThat, we’d say.

Domestic violence tries our patience and understanding — the very commodities victims need most. These victims take an average of seven to nine attempts to leave their abuser, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and that’s if they leave at all.

One of the most positive things to come out of this news story is the hashtags #WhyILeft and #WhyIStayed, currently trending on Twitter, wherein domestic abuse survivors share their own stories in terms both moving and horrific.

“I can’t speak for Janay Rice, but I can speak for Beverly Gooden . . . Leaving was a process, not an event. And sometimes it takes awhile to navigate through the process,” wrote Beverly Gooden, who created the #WhyILeft hashtag.

“He said he would change. He promised it was the last time. I believed him. He lied. #WhyIStayed.”

Jessica Yaffa, 23 at the time, knew she had to leave when her husband went after her with a closed fist while she was holding their 2-year-old son. He missed — and hit their child instead.

“It was at that moment that I figured I’d rather be homeless, in a shelter, or even dead than have me or my son be subjected to another day of that,” says Yaffa, co-founder and president of the nonprofit organization NoSilenceNoViolence and author of the book “Mine Until: My Journey Into and Out of the Arms of an Abuser.”

Her husband, now ex, is currently serving 29 years in prison on 14 different counts of battery, assault, sodomy, rape and threats of terrorist activity.

“This has become my life’s work,” says Yaffa. “He’ll be released in 2025 and I will continue to talk about this for as long as I can.”

While Yaffa stresses that every abused person has their own story and their own reasons for staying in a violent household, she’s able to provide startling insight into what people are thinking when they endure this sort of abuse.

Financial dependence often plays a big role, she says — many women have no capacity to think about how they might be able to physically survive on their own.

Fear of what might happen to their kids is another very real fear.

“If they are unable to financially provide for their children, custody could be — and often is — given to the abuser,” says Yaffa.

“An abuser might threaten to take the children away, or say they will make up stories and lies about the victim [in court]. And you have to understand that many people who are abused have experienced the consequence of the abuser’s threats: When they say they will lash out at us, they do so. When they say they will follow us to and from work, monitor our phone calls, they do that, too. Those threats come to fruition.”

She also mentions the delicate dance that so many abuse victims do on a daily basis — hoping that if they do X, Y or Z, the abuse will stop.

Keeping up a public face is a big part of that situation management, which might explain Janay Rice’s Instagram post, which puzzled so many.

“While saving face and looking good on the outside is important to most of us, it is that much more important to someone who has the makeup of an abusive person,” says Yaffa.

“I imagine she is feeling paralyzed by the fact that this has been made public, and now she’s trying to save face for him, to maintain control. The more aggravated the perpetrator feels, the larger the consequence at home.”

None of us can say how this story will play out, whether Janay Rice will leave or stay. But the kind of sharing and listening that is being encouraged by #WhyILeft/#WhyIStayed is half the battle.

For those who have experienced abuse, speaking up is brave and incredible. For the rest of us, there is the issue of #WhyWeAreSoQuickToJudge.

And why we’d presume to know immediately what it feels like to be in another person’s shoes.



You can view the original article here.