Last week the entire nation watched footage of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his then-fiancé unconscious in an elevator.
Many people could not believe that the incident occurred, but what was more shocking to the public was that it had occurred several months ago. At the time, the NFL, the Ravens and the criminal justice system did little to nothing about it.
It was not until recently, when the video went viral after being posted online by TMZ, that it had any kind of public effect on Rice’s career. Since then, Rice has been fired from the team and indefinitely suspended by the league.
The media, celebrities, politicians and community members have also publicly criticized him.
Feminists would argue that as a society America has come a long way since the 1994 O.J. Simpson trial – arguably the most infamous case of domestic abuse in recent history. Simpson was tried and acquitted after a trial that lasted more than eight months for the murder of his wife Nicole Brown Simpson.
The O.J. Simpson trial helped raise awareness about domestic abuse and ultimately helped pass the Violence Against Women’s Act, in which then-Senator Joe Biden pushed through the Senate, reports Time.com.
And while the national outrage about Ray Rice deems domestic abuse unacceptable in any and all forms, physical or emotional, some still believe that it was Ray Rice’s wife’s fault for remaining in the abusive relationship.
Shortly after the video surfaced and public backlash against Rice ensured, Janay Palmer, Rice’s wife, took to social media to defend both her and her husband.
Palmer released a statement on her Instagram page that condemned everyone who tried to ruin her relationship and now-marriage with Rice. She has since said that they have been going to counseling and plans to continue working through their problems with the man that she loves.
The truth of the matter is that many women stay in abusive relationships because they do not always know what a healthy relationship looks like, fear for their personal safety if they muster the courage to leave or simply don’t have the resources readily available to do so.
Since the media’s outburst, hundreds of women have taken to Twitter to share their stories. According to ABC News, the "#WhyIStay" Twitter hashtag was started by Beverly Golden, who explained in a blog post that she was abused by her husband for over a year.
As a self-proclaimed feminist, the type of reaction to Palmer and all the women who stay with their abusers is extremely problematic.
The idea that victims of domestic abuse can “just leave” creates a victim blaming culture that continues to hinder a community of women who are already victims of a misogynistic society.
While horrific and inexcusable, the video of Rice dragging Palmer’s limp body out of the elevator is not the end-all-be-all in the situation. I do not, in any way, defend Rice’s actions that night, but we must take into consideration that we didn’t get to see the remorseful guilt, the tear-filled apologies, and the making up that occurred thereafter.
Often, women who are victims of abuse have mixed feelings of love and hate for their abusers that translates into hesitancy to leave. We can not simply judge someone’s relationship because we do not know what the persons have experienced or how they have been socialized.
Many people are questioning why women like Palmer stayed, and continue to stay, in abusive relationships but we may never know the answer. In fact, asking why women stay is not the answer to the problem at all – we must instead ask what we can do to help. As a society, we must support women who are survivors of domestic abuse and give them resources. In order to eradicate the problem we must look at its roots and work to end the violence.