Janay Rice Is Under A Pressure We Cannot Imagine So Stop Judging Her For Staying
We all heard the incredibly sad and infuriating news earlier this week of Baltimore Raven’s running back Ray Rice beating his wife, Janay. He punched her hard enough to knock her out and then, dragged her body out of an elevator like it was a rag doll. In the days after this information went public, much was made of the fact that Janay married him after this incident and that she is defending him now. There are many people insisting that she should leave him and that she is just as “bad” as he is for staying with him despite being physically abused by him. I think everyone needs to stop submitting their opinion because none of us can possibly understand what this woman is going through. She is under a pressure we cannot imagine so stop judging her for staying.
This was how I felt from the first moment I heard about this story- that anyone not involved in the situation has no right to judge Janay for her actions (or inaction) or to tell her what she should do. This piece from Mother Jones written by former NFL wife Tracy Treu about the pressures surrounding the significant others of NFL players confirms what I suspected:
I’m so fed up by people blaming Janay Rice. We’re asking for incredible bravery, and we’re giving little compassion to this woman. Because it’s so easy to say: “Well, she’s the fool who married him. Why doesn’t she just leave?” There are just so many components to it that people aren’t aware of.
The NFL is a culture that values secrecy. When you’re with an NFL team, the message to you is clear: Don’t fuck anything up for your partner, and don’t fuck anything up for the team. Don’t be controversial. Don’t talk to the media. Stay out of the way. Support the player and be quiet.
Wow. Those are incredibly powerful words and a perspective that I doubt many have considered. When Janay contemplates going against her husband and reporting what he did to her or when she thinks about leaving him and letting the rest of the world know the reason why she has the added pressure of knowing that she is drawing negative attention to the Raven’s franchise and causing problems for everyone, from the players to the owners. This does not mean that she should not speak up- just that she knows what speaking up could mean in the culture of the NFL.
And I’m sure that sort of thing was going through Janay’s mind: If I tell, and if I take away their best running back, and they lose on Sunday, that’s my fault. I did that. I set that ball in motion. This is what she was risking: embarrassing the Ravens, embarrassing her family, screwing his teammates out of their prized running back, losing money, losing security. Janay was under an incredible amount of pressure. She probably thought to be quiet was to make this go away. Because she needs it to go away.
What a crushing weight to bear- to know that in speaking the truth and obtaining justice for herself, she could be “ruining” the season for the rest of the team. Furthermore, Janay has been with Ray since high school and they have a child together. As Treu notes, “this is all she’s ever known”.
If a player has a partner, that partner needs to not be controversial. I don’t know if teams do research on players’ partners—I’d assume they do, but I don’t know. “Be seen and not heard.” That’s the assumption. Well, that and, “You’re just lucky to be here, so shut up.” He’s making great money, so you support him and shut your mouth. You’re put in a subservient position financially. He’s the star. Keep him happy.
If that is truly the mind-set these wives and girlfriends have, then is it any surprise that Janay would stay with her husband despite what he did to her? Is it any surprise that she would rather be punched to the point of unconsciousness than risk rocking the boat for the entire team? She is dependent on him and the Ravens are dependent on all of these wives to stay quiet and not cause a problem that could mean the downfall of the franchise. Treu speaks of how grateful she was for her husband to be on his team and the benefits they received because of it and notes that this is likely how many spouses and girlfriends of NFL players feel:
Most of the girlfriends and wives feel the same gratitude and happiness, and I encourage them to be supportive of the team. But that quiet support stops the second you are abused. Speak up. It’s not a secret worth keeping.
I wonder now what the Ravens will do for Janay and her daughter. And I wonder, with the league’s new, stiffer penalties for domestic violence, how many abused women will stay quiet—because that means the end of a career, the end of the insurance, the end of it all.
For Janay, she knows that by speaking out, it could be the end of everything as she knows it and I’m sure that prospect terrified her into silence. She deserves justice and Ray Rice deserves jail time but before anyone tries to say that Janay needs to walk away, maybe they should consider where she is coming from and the weight of the knowledge that her reporting her husband could mean the end of the only life she’s known since she was a teenager. Her financial security. Her husband’s career and reputation. The fact that they have a child together who will one day find Google and hear all about this entire story. I am not saying Janay is correct in staying with her husband but I just don’t think anyone has a right to judge because we have no idea where she is coming from. Right now, the world needs to support Janay as she tries to navigate this horrifying and now, very public situation. Whatever she chooses to do, no one should judge her for it.