I’m sure you’ve grown weary of talking about Ray Rice, but what I’d like to speak on briefly is not about the suspended NFL player, but women like his wife, Janay Palmer.
I’ll never forget the Sunday where I was cleaning up my new apartment, my first home in NYC, only to hear a girl screaming outside my apartment complex.
“Why did you hit me!?”
I didn’t think anything of it, as I assumed what I was hearing was just kids playing around. But as the crying continued, I walked to my window and realized that the girl wasn’t that young after all. She was a young woman and had blood coming from her mouth. Her boyfriend, a muscular young man, tried to act like he didn’t hear her and kept walking as she cried. I’ve learned after sharing the longer version of this story that most people would have stayed in the house and minded their business, but I couldn’t help but run downstairs to come to her aid.
So I went with a bootleg weapon in tow (my keys pointed between my fingers ready to stab and jab if necessary…yes I was terribly naive) and approached the young woman and her boyfriend. I directed my attention to her and asked if she was okay. She didn’t answer. I looked at him for an explanation, and his response was “I didn’t touch her!” With the conclusion in my mind that he wasn’t s**t, I put my attention back on the young woman and asked if I could help her–but she ignored me and talked to her boyfriend only:
“I didn’t ask her to come down here.”
The tone in her voice let me know that I wasn’t welcomed, even if I might be needed, so in a huff, I told them to stop acting a fool in front of people’s homes if they didn’t want others to get involved. Shaking my head, I walked back into my apartment pissed, making sure to miss the blood that had dripped from her busted lip onto the ground.
Like many women who are abused by their partners, that young woman wasn’t ready for help. Perhaps she wanted to make things work–like the sister of a colleague of mine wants to.
During choir practice, one of my fellow members asked for prayers for her sister. She had just found out that her younger sister (who resides in another state) had been abused by her live-in boyfriend for years after the police were called for the first time during their most recent scuffle. But the choir member said that her sister kept the violence a secret, and now that it was out to her family, she still didn’t want to press charges–she just wanted to move on. My fellow choir member tried to get through to her, but the younger sister didn’t want an intervention, and she didn’t want to get her man in trouble. So we prayed for her to find healing, to find protection, and in my personal thoughts, prayed for her to find her way out.
So many people have questioned women who stay, including Janay Palmer. But more than criticism and anger, these individuals need support. The more the people in and outside their lives judge and express disappointment in them, the more they feel comfortable in the arms of those who abuse them. Today Show correspondent Tamron Hall recently spoke about regretting the way she went about dealing with her sister when her sibling was in an abusive relationship. She is currently working to stop victim shaming and abuse among young people altogether.
“She was visiting my home in Chicago. I heard yelling and a commotion downstairs. When I rushed to see what was wrong .[sic] I found my home torn apart and my sister had facial injures and a huge knot on her forehead. She was embarrassed and afraid. The only person in the room attempted to explain how my sister fell. I demanded he leave and called my parents. I comforted my sister but I also said she needed to leave the person. I didn’t sugar coat my opinion as I just couldn’t understand why she didn’t have the courage to leave. My sister was bold, smart, fearless, a true life of the party type of person. The next morning I went to check on her and there in my home was the very individual I had kicked out. I told both of them to get out. I didn’t speak to my sister for several months until my dad said enough. A few years later my sister would die…Since my sister’s death I’ve learned so much about the steps we can take to avoid victim shaming. I have spoken to family members who also felt helpless or lacked the education needed to help a loved one suffering…Some admitted how hard it is for them to see someone return back into a house of horrors where there is domestic abuse. They don’t give up and I won’t either.”
So I wonder what is the best move when it comes to trying to help those who have faced domestic abuse and don’t seem ready to get out? It’s scary because you don’t want to sit back doing nothing only to see someone lose their life at the hands of someone who they can’t seem to move on from. After doing some reading and research I realize that I probably should have let that young woman outside of my apartment know that the abuse she dealt with wasn’t her fault. Given her support even if she was not feeling it and maybe even my number so she would know that I could be an ear if she needed someone to talk to. I shouldn’t have assumed that my presence would have been celebrated and that she would have run to me ready to run from the man she was literally following down the street with a bloody lip. She didn’t know me from Adam. Maybe calling 911 would have been the best move. But it’s clear that shaming and providing more criticism rather than options doesn’t help, and me telling them to take their drama somewhere else definitely didn’t.
To this day, I still wonder what became of that young woman from time to time. As you can see, I still wonder if I should have tried to help her more. But I hope that in her own time she was or is able to find her way out from her abusive partner. And looking back, while I probably should have gone about approaching her and her situation in a different way, I don’t regret at least trying to help, because I would have wanted someone to at least try to do the same for me.