I’ve been struck by the opinions I’ve seen on social media today about Janay Rice, wife of (former) football player Ray Rice. Janay has been quoted defending the beating her husband gave her in a hotel elevator. Two hits that knocked Janay out cold. Not only did he knock her out, he dragged her out of the elevator and dropped her on her face. I’ve seen the video, and I’ve seen her response. I have also seen the trending hashtag #WhyIStayed. I’m honestly disgusted at Janay’s support of her husband, and before you call me callous or think that I don’t have any clue what I’m talking about, here’s why I stayed. I stayed because I was too young to realize that what I had wasn’t love, it was control. I stayed because I’d been alienated from the friends I came into that relationship with. I stayed because I didn’t have enough self-esteem to find another place to live, and a job to support just living on my own. I stayed because I’d been told I was stupid and I believed it. I finished my master’s program with a 4.0, but I’d been told I wasn’t smart for so long back then that I actually believed it. I stayed because I didn’t think I could do any better. I stayed because I blamed myself for not being able to change someone else. To this very day, I still make excuses for how I was treated – claiming that we were so young…somehow making his behavior acceptable. I find it hard to write this because it means thinking about all of the excuses I made over the years.
Here’s the thing. I get all of the reasons people stay. I do. But standing up for someone who beat your ass after the whole world knows what is going on? I just do not fully understand. My guess is that Janay has been given the support of people who can help her. Family. Friends. Strangers. But I also guess that she thinks she’s in too deep to leave: a marriage, a child, and now a very public story. I know that my shaking my head at her situation from afar is easy to do. I lost friends who could eventually just shake their heads at me. Perhaps it’s time to change the trending hashtag from #WhyIStayed to #WhyILeft. I have read all the reasons people stay. What about the ones who had the courage to leave?
I left because I had a friend who I knew I could call in the middle of the night. I left because someone else began to pay attention to me and compliment me. Not healthy in retrospect, but confidence helped me leave. I left because I was so tired of being sad. And scared. I left because I woke up one morning and began to come to my senses about what was going on around me. Looking back, I left because I had a small group of my own friends who were concerned and opened their home to me. Looking back, I was scared, but I was not alone. One day I will tell my girls that no one should tell you he loves you, and in then next breath call you a stupid bitch. No one gets to lay hands on you in hurtful ways. I left, but I went back more than once. It was never easy…until eventually it was.
Back then I didn’t know that I’d find something the opposite of what I had. I didn’t know how smart I was, or how much I had to offer. I had to rebuild that inside of me, and that was the hardest part. I might even still be doing it. I left, but it’s NEVER just that easy. There is always more to the story, whether you’re 21-year-old Kate or you’re Janay Rice. And yes, I am frustrated beyond belief to see that she’s supporting her husband. I’m frustrated at the very public message her support sends to young women who might be in similar situations. I’m frustrated at the myriad of messages it sends Rice’s own daughter. But mostly I’m frustrated because it’s certainly only a matter of time before it happens again.