An NFL running back’s violence against his then-fiancee was caught on an elevator surveillance video for all the world to see.
But the extent of domestic violence is too often hidden, say those who deal with the problem every day locally.
“I think that we have to become a community that is completely aware of how this affects everybody in the picture,” said Judy Strnad, newly named executive director of Dayton’s Artemis Center, which serves domestic-violence victims.
“It’s not somebody else’s problem,” said Libby Nicholson, director of CARE House, which cares for children affected by violence in the the home. “It’s our problem. It’s happening right here in our community.”
“What we saw on the video happens behind closed doors,” said Shannon Isom, Dayton YWCA chief executive.
The Baltimore Ravens Monday terminated the contract of Ray Rice after footage from an Atlantic City casino elevator was released. Ray was seen smashing a fist into Janay Palmer’s head, knocking her out. “He just kind of dragged her out of the elevator and out onto the floor,” Strnad said of the widely publicized video.
Leaders of the NFL — who had earlier suspended Rice for two games — also suspended him indefinitely this week. NFL officials said they had not seen the damning video before Monday.
One question observers may ask: Why would women suffering domestic violence “stand by their man?” Why stay with a violent partner?
Even on Tuesday, Ray Rice’s wife (now Janay Rice) defended her husband in an Instagram post. She blasted the media attention and wrote: “Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is!”
Isom said that perhaps surprisingly, there are some people who might not consider what Ray Rice did to be true domestic violence.
“You see the pathology there: She (Janay Rice) is blaming the media … she is defending her husband, but she is still not speaking up for herself,” Isom said.
Jane Keiffer, Artemis clinical services director, said the emotions involved are fundamental. “First, I think people forget that she loves him. Right? I mean, this is a man she was engaged to be married with, she had a relationship with. She clearly loved him,” Keiffer said.
But she added: “And there’s fear. There are lots of different factors of fear. Fear that she can lose lots. Clearly he was making good money. Fear that he’s going to retaliate even more, he’s going to get mad at her, especially now that he has lost his right to play.”
Keiffer said she worries how Rice may respond to his wife.
Strnad said it’s not uncommon for women in these situations to “make excuses or to want to put off the responsibility on to something else, on to someone else.”
She agreed with Keiffer that Janay Rice “may be more danger than she was before.”
All individuals with whom Artemis works have their own reasons for remaining with a violent partner, Strnad said. It may take someone “six or seven” violent instances before they leave a batterer permanently, she said.
The center explains the extent of the situation on its website, artemiscenter.org: “About one of four women will be abused by a partner in her lifetime; domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the U.S., a woman is beaten by her husband or partner every 15 seconds; police report that between 40 percent and 60 percent of the calls they receive are domestic violence disputes.”
But the problem reaches beyond spouses and partners.
Nicholson, director of CARE House, which is affiliated with Dayton Children’s Hospital, said up to 10 million children a year in the United States see domestic violence in their homes. They see battering directly or witness its outcome.
But children don’t have to see the violence with their own eyes to be affected, Nicholson said. Even if they only hear the violence, that’s traumatic enough, Nicholson said.
“Children who have been exposed to this kind of violence are often fearful and anxious,” she said. “They are uncertain about what triggers they may exhibit that may cause this whole violent scene to recur in their homes, fearing that their own behavior is somehow responsible for it.”
Experts agreed that women who want to escape violence have options.
The YWCA can provide emergency shelter and clothing but can also refer women to partner local agencies such as Artemis, which offers counseling, education and safety planning that can help protect women and children in violent households. The YWCA shelters up to 85 women and children on any given night in its downtown Dayton building, Isom said.
“We have always been a huge safety net for women,” Isom said.
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