My thoughts have been spiraling since the elevator footage was leaked. I’ve been trying to imagine what I would say to Janay Rice as a friend or the conversation we would have if she were to walk into our office in search of help or support.
I would do my best to remind you that you aren’t alone — that nearly two out of every five Black women have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner. If you lived here in Louisiana you’d have a 33% chance of being sexually assaulted by your partner in your lifetime.
I’d remind you that this isn’t just a Black issue or a Southern issue, but that it’s happening in communities all over the world — one in four women will be assaulted in her lifetime, and nearly 5 million instances of intimate partner violence occur every year in this country alone.
I would remind you that this isn’t your fault, and I would say it again. This Is Not Your. Fault. Despite all the victim-blaming and claims that you brought this on yourself or deserved it, this is not your fault.
No one but you and your husband will understand or fully know the dynamics of your relationship and how the cycles of abuse, power & control play into those dynamics. To counter those who question why you’ve chosen to marry him and to stay, I would give you a Power & Control Wheel to show them.
I would talk with you about how partners use male privilege, intimidation, blame, denial, guilt, and especially fear to keep you from leaving: fear that you won’t be able to make it on your own, that you’re not good enough for anyone else, or that no one will believe you if you choose to report it.
I would remind you that there is always help. There are people available to support you and who can help you develop a safety plan or talk with you about the red flags of abuse. And if those people aren’t around, there is a 24-hour crisis hotline that is always available to you (1-800-799-7233). I would remind you that there are organizations, such as Women With A Vision, that will give you a safe space to breathe, figure things out, and develop your path forward.
And, I would finally give you encouragement and remind you that no matter your decision, whether you decide to leave or stay, you are still an intelligent, competent, beautiful, vibrant, and strong woman.
Rebecca Atkinson is the Gender Based Violence Program Coordinator at Women With A Vision, and she will complete her Master's at Tulane University School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine in December 2014. She became interested in the social determinants of health and violence as a public health issue while serving as a board member for Hagar's House, a transitional home for women and children.