Stalker Awareness Month critiques celebrity victim-blaming


Janay Rice, wife of Ravens running back Ray Rice, made a statement to the news media May 5, 2014, at the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills, Md, regarding his assault charge for knocking her unconscious in a New Jersey casino. On Monday, Sept. 9, 2014, Rice was let go from the Baltimore Ravens after a video surfaced from TMZ showing the incident.

January is National Stalking Awareness Month. In honor of this serious and oft-overlooked issue of violence against women, it’s an ideal time for our student body to reflect on their role as conscious advocates in discussions about gender-based violence.

Not long ago, the headlines sung of the tumultuous relationship between Ray Rice and then-fiancé Janay (nee Palmer). A brutal assault by Rice against Janay was caught on film and leaked onto the internet and into the scope of public scrutiny.

The public, for the most part, lambasted the NFL superstar for his violent attack. This same public sphere was shocked when new footage surfaced showing Janay reconciling and embracing her abuser. Her tender actions perplexed the prying eyes of the public.

Shortly the release the new footage, online commenters and bloggers denounced her as mentally ill for staying in the relationship, or else in the relationship for the money. Others dismissed the abusiveness of Mr. Rice as a one-off accident, a lapse in judgment resulting in a rather violent outburst. For many, her act of forgiveness was enough to prove his innocence.

Through a limited lens of analysis, it makes sense that one would avoid a known source of harm. If someone hurts you, you are inclined to remove yourself from the threat.

This line of rationale ignores a dynamic about domestic violence and other crimes of control.

On average, it takes on average of seven attempts before a woman leaves her abuser for good, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

This statistic suggests an unseen obstacle that prevents women from leaving their partners. Certain factors, such as economic dependence, emotional investment, religious reasons, or fear of physical harm sometimes trap people in these volatile situations.

Well-meaning but shallow public opinion contends that once a woman leaves her abuser, the abuse ends. While optimistic this is rarely the case.

The incidence of stalking increases in intensity after the woman attempts a separation. The statistical risk of homicide increases exponentially.

For some, staying might just be the safer or less frightening option. It isn’t a matter of low self-respect or stupidity. It is a complex rational for survival.

While the public was be quick to put Janay Rice, who married her attacker after the incident, and other victims of gender-based violence in the hot seat for their decisions, this writer expects Washington State University students to recognize and respect the motives and complexities of domestic violence, including stalking, and refraining from passing judgment.