Years ago I sat in a bathroom, and I snapped an image of the bruise on my body. I suppose I was taking the photo so that I could have something tangible to grasp, as though the bruise itself was not tangible enough. I looked at the photo for hours, and kept telling myself that this was it, the final chapter. I could never go back.
The next day my boyfriend’s sister expressed disappointment in me as she did not understand why I did not go with him to the wedding we were supposed to go to that weekend, and she was furious that I would allow him to go unaccompanied. What kind of girlfriend was I to do that to someone? Eventually I would get letters in the mail from my boyfriend, and these letters were heartfelt. They would share about the domestic violence program that he had enrolled in, as part of a mandatory requirement at his job. The letters expressed disgust in himself, and an explanation of sorts. For me, the choice to go back was a rational one. I vowed that if he were to ever lay a hand on me again I would leave for good. There was something in my boyfriend that kept me there. His heart was so good, and he seemed to be unaware of his ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ personality that would go on and off like a light switch.
When I watched the second video that was released which showed Ray Rice giving his now wife a knock out punch, I thought about the ‘near miss’ and imagined if Ray ever wonders, and I mean truly imagines what it would be like without the mother of his child on the planet. He could have killed her. Not to dwell on that fact, but he could have been sitting in jail like so many of the men who allow an act of rage to get the better of them.
The reason I’m writing about this, this morning …. I have no idea. I think I just feel that we are missing something here. We are so careful not to want to blame the victim, and we seem to be so caught up in the drama of it all that we are forgetting about the reality that he could have killed her.
Does a victim provoke an attack? For the record, I believe those who commit violence are responsible for the act of rage that is committed against their intimate partner, but let’s talk about provocation. Unlike so many who are afraid to say that a victim’s provocation plays a role, I will suggest otherwise, and while this provocation is not always present, nor it is always a conscious act, it is a variable at times. Here is an example I would like to share to show how a victim could learn to avoid injury and it is merely meant to show how someone can pay attention to things, and consider that they have a choice to avoid injury. Someone like Greg Hardy’s girlfriend did not have to continually put herself in harm’s way. Just like me she choose to do so, right?
One time, while I was teaching a first grade class I asked one of my students to walk to the blackboard to write a math problem on the board. This student went on to explain to me that every time she would walk to the blackboard and walk past Charlie, who happened to sit next to her that he would trip her. It mattered not that she did nothing to provoke the attack, she was just walking past and Charlie, for whatever reason would extend his leg and trip her. So I asked this young lady, if walking past Charlie was the only way to get to the board. I then asked other students to come up to the blackboard and show other routes for this young lady to get to the blackboard. Although, I was careful, not to allow any accusation that it was this young lady’s fault for Charlie kicking her, and assured her that if Charlie did do this, he was wrong. However, I was also looking to empower the young lady, and show her she might have a choice to choose not to be abused by Charlie.
Although I think it’s a shame that people do not have complete privacy during times like this, and it’s not as though everyone’s private life should be aired all over on TMZ, from a utilitarian perspective it is good that we all saw the video because this allowed us just a glimpse into the very real world of domestic violence. So many people truly have no idea about the harsh reality of it all. I know I had no clue that anyone could live like this. I had no idea just how horribly real domestic violence was until I found myself in the shoes of the victim.
What can we do about it? Maybe nothing. Yet, then again maybe something. We can continue to look at the variables that are involved and we can continue to educate about mutual respect. Charities like the Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation can help. We can learn about how to engage in intimate relationships without misusing power just because we are riddled with fear. At the core of most violence is fear, and we can seek to understand. Imagine for a moment if Janay Rice had gone to the hospital and reported that her boyfriend had hit her, and that her boyfriend was Ray Rice. Imagine if there was no video. Would people have believed her? Imagine if she had a wedding to go the next day, and she excused herself because she was so distraught. Imagine if people were mad at her for that.
Nobody has any idea what a person is going through when they are involved in the sick, cyclical circle of domestic violence, except for the people who are involved, and possibly those who have been in similar shoes. Sometimes denial is so deep that even those who are in the relationships are not conscious of the horrific dance they are participating in. They are by the way, very often participating in a dance that involves active and passive engagement by both parties. It is my hope that we continue to learn more about the variables involved and that we consider traumatic brain trauma as a key element when we look toward understanding physical abuse, as well as, a possible variable for those who allow it.