I don’t often write about the serious stuff. My blog is primarily a silly, sarcastic little place, and generally, I like to keep it a silly, sarcastic little place. Sometimes, I just don’t want to talk about the depressing things. And sometimes, I think, No one comes here for your thoughts on social injustice or American politics. You can’t write a review about some shitty, straight-to-DVD horror movie one day and then the very real issue of domestic violence the next, right? And even if you could, what new or worthwhile things do YOU have to add to the discussion? And what if you say it wrong? What if your articulation fails you, the way it always seems to about the things that actually matter?
Regardless, I just. I felt like I should try. Because the thing about Janay Rice, about her marrying the man who knocked her unconscious, about her apologizing for “her part” in what happened that night . . . it’s hard because I get a lot of the reactions people have. Not the ones where people are like, “Well, I bet she asked for it. She must have done something to deserve a beating.” Those guys are just assholes. I’m not wasting my time with them. But when people are confused or angry that Janay Rice didn’t leave her then-fiancee, that she stood by him and continues to stand by him . . . I get that. When people say that anything that happens to her now is her own fault for staying with him . . . honestly, I get that, too. And I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to feel that way, either, at least not at the outset. It’s very hard to understand why anyone would stay with someone who’s hurting them. And it hurts to watch someone choose to do that, to watch them hold on and wait for things to get better, when you know that’s not how these stories end. That’s not how these stories ever, ever end.
It’s natural to be angry. It’s instinctual. It’s not wrong.
But. Relationships like this, they’re not so cut-and-dried when you’re actually in them. And I don’t want to try and pass myself off as some kind of expert — I’ve never been in an abusive relationship, either physically or emotionally. I want to think I’d never let that happen . . . but that’s what every women thinks. Every woman thinks it can’t happen to her. She’s smarter than that. She’s stronger than that. The problem is, that’s the lie we tell each other, that it has something to do with strength or intelligence, that it’s about the kind of women who are born victims. But no one’s a born victim. It’s not about the victims at all. It’s about the abusers. They’re to blame.
People on the internet can be hateful, awful, fury-inducing trolls sometimes, but sometimes they surprise you. Sometimes they’re supportive and insightful and brave. The #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft hashtags on Twitter have been incredible to read over the last few days. They’re depressing, yes. They’re also hopeful. They’re also educational for people on the outside of this.
I won’t tell people not to be angry. It’s better if you can place the blame on the abusers and abusers alone, but I understand that gut reaction to hold the victims accountable for choosing to stay. I understand it, and sometimes I share it. There’s nothing simple about domestic violence. I think it’s okay if, in your head, you can’t always direct the anger where the anger should go.
But out loud, we need to be supportive. Out loud, we need to stop perpetuating a culture which blames the victims. We need to be there for women when they’re ready for help. And we all need to keep trying to understand until we actually do.