Abuse victims need our love and support, not blame

TW: discussion of domestic abuse

Dear Dad,

Sigh. I didn’t think it needed to be said, but apparently it needs to be said. I know I don’t need to say it to you. Your classes and experience in counseling have taught you that. But if the Internet is any indication, plenty of people don’t understand that the victim of domestic violence is not at fault.

That is, if you look at the responses to Janay Rice’s statements about her assault. I have seen Janay called a “gold digger” and “stupid.” And that’s just in the first two comments on an article about her. I didn’t have the stomach to go any deeper.

Your work has taught you that leaving an abusive relationship is anything but simple. The abusive partner is controlling, and manipulative. Abusers use tenderness from time to time to hold their partner in the relationship, while at the same time taking away the victim’s ties to friends and family and cutting them down emotionally so they don’t have the confidence to leave. Abusers convince their victims that they are ugly and unlovable, lucky to be in a relationship at all. They create a power structure where the victim is more afraid to leave than to stay.

It’s a terrifying combination of fear, affection and reliance. Small violent outbursts are quickly followed by apologies and promises to never do it again, but those outbursts grow over time.

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I don’t know much about Janay’s relationship with Ray Rice, but it’s possible he used these same tactics, and that when he punched her in that elevator, it was not the first time.

Now, as to the victim blaming that is inevitably taking over the Internet: This is one of the most harmful responses to a person in an abusive relationship. I’m sure you know, Dad, that it is hard for a victim to leave their abuser. Part of that is because the abuser isolates them from their family, friends and anyone who could offer them support. By shaming a woman who has been abused, we prove to her that she doesn’t have the safety or support she needs to leave a man who could kill her.

Janay Rice is not stupid. She is not a gold digger. She is a victim in a terrible relationship, and right now, more than ever, she needs our support.

If you know someone in an abusive relationship, they need your support. If you know someone who decides to leave an abusive relationship, they need your support. Support victims of abuse, period. End of story.

With all my love,
Victoria

P.S. Readers, if you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, you may be struggling with how to find support. Here are some resources:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s page on helping abuse victims
The Red Flag Campaign
Band Back Together

Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. I’m here for you, and so are thousands of other people who care.

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