Survivors are trying to survive: On Janay Palmer and the insidious nature of domestic violence

“To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”- Aristotle

Ray Rice and his wife Janay met with the media on Friday. (Twitter/@Ravens)

Rice and Palmer at a press conference where they made HER fucking apologize for her role in the incident. (AP Photo/ CBS Sports online)

[Trigger Warning.]

I mostly refrain from commenting on current events on social media. Whether that’s a result of my own cowardice or lack of eloquence is up for debate. However, keeping silent on the violence that Brown and Black bodies experience every day was isolating. I am angry but feel no right to express my anger because I have been silent for so long. As a product of my generation, I convinced myself that using a hash tag was synonymous with activism. But that’s bullshit. It doesn’t take any effort to type a fucking pound sign or like someone’s status. What takes effort is working with people through painful experiences, giving of yourself and your time, and sometimes opening yourself up to the risk of experiencing second-hand trauma while struggling with self-care.

My passion for working with survivors of domestic violence began during my senior year of college. My first Clinical Psych internship was at shelter for survivors of domestic violence. I counseled people who had been sexually, physically, emotionally and financially abused. People who self-medicated, people who attempted to take their own lives. I listened to frightened phone calls made in the middle of the night while their abuser was outside of the home or asleep. And yes, on several occasions, I listened to the deafening sound of a disconnected dial tone when the threat to someone’s safety was so great that they stayed with their abuser.

People who have never seen or experienced abuse have a hard time empathizing with survivors. “Well, she stayed…” or “She admitted that they get physical sometimes” or “She probably hit him first”. That’s the perverse nature of abuse. Abusers are some of the most charismatic and convincing people. They prey on people who may have past trauma, lull them into a false sense of security and then piece by piece destroy their autonomy. As a survivor, the shame and guilt eats away at you. Your abuser’s words become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you do speak out, you may be blamed, punched, kicked, raped or killed. You may starve if your abuser controls all of the finances, which in the case of Rice and Palmer, he probably does. If you have children, their physical and emotional safety may be threatened.

People who remain with their abusers aren’t “asking for it”. They’re usually trying their best to survive. To his publicity team who probably convinced her to apologize for her role in the incident, “FUCK YOU!” This story keeps revolving around Rice and what he’s lost. What about what Palmer has lost and continues to lose every day?

When will we stop blaming women for the violence that they endure? When will the violation of a woman’s body be the violator’s fault?

I refuse to repost the video but you can check it out here and read this awesome post. I fear for what will happen to Janay Palmer now that Ray Rice has lost everything. What has been happening to her since the original photos surfaced of him dragging her unconscious body across the floor? He had no regards for his career when he knocked her out the first time. What will happen now that he doesn’t have a career to lose.


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