Dear Janay Rice, I Know Why You Stayed, But It's Time To Go

little girl cowers from violent father

Dear Janay,

I am in fear for your life. Earlier this evening, while enjoying dinner with my boyfriend, my heart broke when I looked up at the TV and saw a woman being battered and then casually dragged out of an elevator and dropped face down like a dead piece of meat. And all by a man who claims to love her. That woman was you.  

My mind quickly flashed back to a time in my life when I was married to a violent abuser and I was often beaten down to the floor, having to cover my head to protect myself as I was being pummeled. I stayed in that abusive relationship for six years until I finally summoned enough confidence, inner anger, and  a small amount of love for myself to escape. Well, to be honest, I left for the sake of my 2-year-old daughter. It took many more years for me to learn to love myself again.

My boyfriend’s reaction to the video of your assault was, “You know she stayed for the money.” And then our waiter piped in, “She even married him the next day so she wouldn’t be able to testify against him.” But, I know why you stayed, Janay. I believe that you stayed because you love Ray and because you have a child together and because you believe that life is better with him in it than without. Perhaps you still think you can change him, and perhaps you believe that if you just change that one thing about you that sets him off, everything will be ok.

Relationships with abusers don’t start out abusive. Just like any other relationship, yours probably started off with physical attraction, fun times together, lots of passion, and the wonderful feeling that comes with falling in love. In the beginning, he probably treated you like a princess, like you were the most beautiful, precious thing in the world. You understood him like no one else, and he made you feel loved like no one ever had before. Then, gradually, as his stress level increased and testosterone started flying, he started to take his anger out on you. Abusers can't control their anger and in turn lash out at the people closest to them. Maybe he claimed something you did (or said) triggered him and he convinced you that you deserve to take some of the blame. 

As time passes in abusive relationships, you become more emotionally and financially intertwined (a home, car, and kids together). When the thought enough is enough enters your mind and you want to leave the relationship, the situation feels hopeless. It’s incredibly embarrassing to admit to your friends and family that the guy you fell in love with is beating the sh*t out of you and has done so time and time again. And since abusers often threaten to kill you, take your child away, and make your life even more miserable if you leave, it often seems easier to just stay.

Janay, here’s what I believe happened after the night you were abused by your fiancé, Ray Rice:  

Very quickly, he realized how badly he screwed up. Not because he physically hurt you but because he was caught on camera abusing you and that would hurt his football career. He then apologized to you profusely, saying something like, "Baby, you know I love you and I don’t want to hurt you. I have a bad temper and it gets out of control. If you wouldn’t push me to my limits, this would have never happened". You have probably heard this lame excuse many times before. After all, you know what pushes his buttons and you did it again. Then, either because of some legal advice received or his own bright idea so you can’t testify against him, he asked you to marry him immediately — because it’s what you’ve always wanted. 

But Janay, you have to listen to me. You need to get away from him and seek protection.

Your daughter deserves to grow up in a safe and loving environment. Domestic violence in families is a disease and the cycle will continue from you to her unless you take the initiative to end the cycle for good. You deserve true love and happiness, free from violence. So does she. No amount of money, stuff, or modern-day comforts can fill that void. Once your loved one starts abusing you, it will only escalate and get worse. There is no going back to the way it used to be when you first fell in love with Ray. No matter how hard you try to change things it can never go back to what it once was. 

Because this situation is very public, women all over the world are watching you and waiting to see if you'll make a move. You have something to say and it’s not, “I’m sorry for the role I played,” as the Ravens quoted on Twitter. We want to hear from you for the strong woman you are. We're all hoping you'll stand up and say, “Enough is enough! I deserve better!”

Let the NFL and any other organization know that zero tolerance is the only acceptable policy in regards to domestic violence.

I hope you get out and seek protection because I fear for your and your daughter’s lives. Having lived through a similar situation myself, I know that with the increased stress of your abuse negatively affecting Ray’s football career, you are highly vulnerable to increased violence.

I know why you stayed Janay, because I was once in your shoes. Now I join the rest of the world cheering for you and wanting to see you get out of that situation. I hope you'll find the inner courage, inner anger, and self-love to take a stand ... for you daughter and for yourself. You both deserve so much better. We all do.