The Best Thing Men Can Do After The Ray Rice Incident Is Hear Women Share #WhyIStayed

by Jason Francis

As the TMZ video footage of the violent interaction between former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice and his then-fiancée Janay gets replayed repeatedly across networks and websites, I have to turn away.

This is not an attempt to avoid the reality that is domestic violence, but honestly, I didn’t need to see the blow-by-blow imagery to understand what had happened. I am left wondering how the bigger issue of domestic violence — in this case, toward women — will be handled moving forward.

The national eye has been reverted back to what the NFL hoped would disappear from the public’s collective consciousness. From the ugliness the security footage shows, however, we may get some resulting positivity.

In trying to understand domestic violence, many people ask the question, “… but, why doesn’t she leave?” Those who have experienced domestic violence firsthand took to Twitter and formed #WhyIStayed, a hashtag for women to publicly open up and share accounts of why they remained in relationships with abusers.

#WhyIStayed I thought what he was doing was completely normal. — Mailiya cai (@maialilo) September 9, 2014

A big part of adult life is being able to acknowledge a situation and admit that you do not know everything. As a man, I understand that the majority of society’s rules are to my advantage, so when something arises that I do not understand, it’s my job to sit and listen.

Friends have personally called and come to me in the aftermath of being physically abused.

When this happens, I typically have two reactions: One is to hurt the abuser and the other is to make sure my friend stays away from the abuser.

In these cases, the abusers weren't great guys, but due to the relationships they had with these women and the kids they shared, the women felt an obligation to work things out.

For years, this has held me in a state of confusion. It logically doesn’t compute and still doesn’t. It may never make sense to me, but as these women using the hashtag to present the situations they endured and open up old wounds for public viewing, I owe it to them to listen.

I will listen, not in an attempt to debate their truths, but so I can let them know that they are being heard.

Many of the tales they have shared thus far have a common denominator of having no outlet -- no one to whom they could turn to hear them.

Every issue can’t be handled via muscle and force. Many of the women to whom I've spoken express the desire, not the need, to be heard and to not have their feelings brushed aside and treated as disposable.

So many play the blame game in circumstances of domestic abuse as they search for ways to rationalize and justify the abuse. Many men search for a means to connect the violence with a trigger that the woman must have pulled.

It’s always easier to cast blame rather than accept that you are the person who deserves the finger pointed in your direction.

Photo Courtesy: Baltimore Ravens