If you are anything like me, you probably watched the video of Ray Rice punching Janay Palmer in the face and cringed with anger and sadness. I was shocked by the brutality of it. And when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I heard the part of the story about how Ms. Palmer went on to marry Ray Rice and refused to testify against him in court. It gave me chills.
Those of us who have not lived through the experience of being in an abusive relationship cannot fathom how anyone would allow a significant other to treat them like that. Initially, I became angry with Ms. Palmer for marrying Mr. Rice and refusing to testify against him, and that is the natural reaction most people have. But it is the wrong reaction.
Statistics show that a victim of domestic violence will attempt to leave her (or his) abuser numerous times before actually leaving for good and ending the relationship. Leaving exposes the victim to great risk- roughly 75% of women who are killed by their abusers are murdered when they attempt to leave or after they have left the relationship.
We (meaning the friends, family, and supporters of victims) cannot effectively convince a victim that she must leave her abuser, that is a decision that must come from within. So the correct response from us in this situation would be to support Ms. Palmer, to be a resource for her when she is in need, to help her come up with a “safety plan,” to get her in touch with professionals who can help, and to encourage her to make the decision to leave on her own.