After the recent release of a video showing former NFL running back Ray Rice hitting Janay Palmer, his then fiancé, I feel it is an important time to have some real dialogue about domestic violence. The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women reports that at least 38 people were killed from domestic violence in 2013. Of those, 25 were women who were killed by a former husband, boyfriend, or male intimate partner. There is a question that is often asked, and has been asked repeatedly with respect to Janay Palmer: Why did she stay?
It’s rather easy for those on the outside to judge someone’s decision for staying in an abusive relationship. Sadly, asking that question presumes that the individual had a real, viable choice to make. Oftentimes, victims of domestic abuse find themselves isolated with no financial resources to leave, or they are fearful that leaving will result in additional physical harm. Many times, individuals are concerned that if they leave, they may not see their children again or worse yet, their partner will hurt their children in retaliation.
Even more disturbing is that asking “Why did she stay?” impliedly blames the victim for staying, as if she knew it was coming and should have expected it. This prevents us from talking about how to solve domestic violence because it shifts the blame away from the true problem.
Instead of asking “Why did she stay?”—the only question we should be asking is “Why did he hit her?”
*Samuel Edmunds is an attorney at Sieben Edmunds PLLC and also serves on the Board of Directors of 360 Communities, a non-profit that seeks to end domestic violence in Dakota County. For more information on domestic violence, watch this Fox News video of 360 Communities CEO Sal Mondelli discussing why people stay in abusive relationships.