Footage was recently released showing NFL player Ray Rice savagely punching his fiancé Janay Palmer and knocking her out cold. The footage was shot back in February, and Palmer and Rice have since made amends and wed.
“Many people are wondering why Janay would marry Ray after he violently attacked her,” says Kimberly Mishkin, a Co-Founder of SAS for Women, a private comprehensive education and support resource for women. “After all, this probably isn’t the first time or the last time that Ray will be abusive. As a fellow domestic abuse survivor, I can tell you that the reasons a woman stay with an abusive partner are very complicated.”
Here are the top five reasons women stay in an abusive relationship:
- It isn’t always bad. Mishkin says, “What people don’t realize is that when I say I was in an abusive marriage, it doesn’t mean that he beat me up every day or that I went around in dark sunglasses to cover up black eyes. There were periods of time… weeks, months and even entire years where things were lovely and we had a lot of fun together.”
- You’re embarrassed. Opening up about the abuse can be very shaming. Getting hit doesn’t just hurt physically; it can make you feel humiliated and debased. Mishkin explains, “[My ex-husband] told me repeatedly not to “air our dirty laundry in public” and so I didn’t. Eventually, I lost sight of myself, what was real, and what was right.”
- You think you can fix it. Andrea Miller, CEO of YourTango and relationship expert says, “Many times abused women suffer from ‘repetition compulsion,’ a psychological phenomenon in which a person continues to reenact a trauma in order to try to gain control over it. For example, many abused wives were also abused as children by their fathers. In marrying an abuser and staying with him, these women are trying to overcome their painful pasts and rewrite history. Unfortunately, you can’t fix an abuser, and these women only endure more abuse as a result.”
- You think it’s your fault. Mishkin reveals: “Abusers will say things like, “This is your fault because you shouldn’t have made me so mad” and after hearing it time and time again, you start to internalize those words and think perhaps he’s right. You did, after all, yell back, hit back, throw back. You were angry too, so it’s both of your faults. Or so you convince yourself.”
- You lose your self-worth. In reflecting on her own abusive marriage, Mishkin says, “The emotional abuse was far more difficult to bear. He would tell me I was stupid and worthless and that I was lucky to have him at all. After hearing things like that over and over again, I started to believe him.”