Law Blog

The Ray Rice Debacle and How Janay's Support Paints a Common Picture of Domestic Violence Victims

By Lonnie L. McDowell, Esq. and Michael C. McDonald, J.D., McDowell & Associates, Attorneys

On Tuesday, September 9, 2014, the day after the violent and graphic video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée in the face, knocking her out in an Atlantic City casino elevator was released to the public view, Janay Rice has publicly and adamantly defended the man who hit her. Mrs. Rice has condemned the NFL for suspending Ray and the Baltimore Ravens for releasing him, as well as the media for invading the couple’s privacy. She posted to Instagram on September 9:

I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I’m mourning the death of my closest friend. But to have to accept the fact that it’s reality is a nightmare in itself. No one knows the pain that the media & unwanted options from the public has caused my family. To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing. To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his ass off for all his life just to gain ratings is horrific.

THIS IS OUR LIFE! What don’t you all get. If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels. Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is! Ravensnation we love you!"

Back on May 23, 2014, Ray and Janay Rice held an awkward press conference after the first video of the Atlantic City incident was released, which showed Ray Rice dragging an unconscious Janay out of the casino elevator. At the press conference, Janay showed similar support as she did Tuesday, and even attempted to put blame on herself, stating, “I do deeply regret the role that I played in the incident that night, but I can say that I am happy that we continued to work through it together.”

After release of the video Monday revealed what actually happened inside the elevator—Ray Rice punching Janay and knocking her unconscious—the question that most people likely have is, “Why in the world would she support and defend the man that did that to her?”
While it is impossible to know just how Janay Rice is truly feeling or thinking about this entire situation, and in turn improper to speculate, the fact is that this is common behavior of the victims in domestic violence cases. Domestic violence victims very often will defend the person who abused them. Even the victims that report the violence to police and set the criminal charges into motion will often retract their statements and claim they made it up and their spouses or partners never actually hit them. They will stand up in defense of the person who beat them, even in brutal cases.

The reasons victims of domestic violence sometimes support and defend their abusers vary from person to person. Sometimes the victims are scared for their personal safety or the safety of their children. They worry that if they go forward with charges, when the abuser gets out of jail, the abuse will be even worse. Sometimes the victims are repeat victims who have grown used to the violence and do not feel like they are strong enough to leave their abusive significant others. In other cases, the physiological abuse has made the victims believe they actually deserve the abuse because they have in some way failed their abusers. But the most cited reason is financial.

Many times the victims are dependent on the abuser for their and their children’s support. The abuser many times is the breadwinner. After reporting the abuse, the victims begin to worry they will lose everything. Who is going to pay the rent and groceries if the abuser is in jail? Where will they go? Victims feel they have no choice but to put up with the abuse and hope it is truly an isolated incident that their significant others regret and will never repeat.
Evidence that many victims of domestic abuse stay with their abusive spouses or partners was prevalent in the wake of Janay Rice’s public support of her husband. Dominating Twitter newsfeeds were posts with the hashtag #WhyIStayed. Under this label, countless victims of domestic violence tweeted about why they stayed with the person who domestically abused them. In turn, a second hashtag #WhyILeft popped up with domestic violence victims explaining why they finally left their abusers.

This conversation Janay Rice inspired sparked a sociological examination of a fact that prosecutors all over the United States already knew: victims of domestic violence often support their abusers. Because of this, domestic violence laws in New Jersey, California, and most U.S. states allow the prosecutors of domestic violence cases to move forward with the charges even when the victims retract their stories and refuse to cooperate with the prosecution.

The National Statistics are sobering. According to the Los Angeles Domestic Violence Project:

• 1.5 million Women in the United States are assaulted by their intimate partners every year.
• One in three women will experience sexual violence in her lifetime.
• Nearly 30% of all female homicide victims were known to have been killed by their significant others.
• Domestic Violence causes more injury to adult women than cancers, heart attacks, or strokes.

Being in the public spotlight makes Ray and Janay Rice’s situation no different, just more publicized. Janay Rice’s support of her husband, whatever her reasons, provides a great example of these supportive domestic violence victims. Her support of her husband does not remove the prosecution’s ability to pursue domestic violence charges against the fallen Raven star. The video evidence that has been broadcast to the entire world provides the prosecution with all they need to convict Ray Rice on domestic violence charges. It was shocking and horrific, and it would leave no reasonable doubt to Ray Rice’s guilt if the prosecution had not already granted him diversion.