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To stay or go: Domestic violence is inexcusable, complex

Kristin Larkey, Family Advocacy Program licensed clinical social worker at the U.S. Air Force Academy. (Courtesy photo)

Kristin Larkey, Family Advocacy Program licensed clinical social worker at the U.S. Air Force Academy. (Courtesy photo)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The subject of domestic violence has drawn the attention of millions after a video recently surfaced showing Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice assaulting his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer Rice.

The video shows the couple arguing in an elevator, followed by Ray punching Janay in the face. Janay falls to the ground unconscious and Ray drags her out of the elevator. The assault occurred in February and the couple married in March. Rice's contract was terminated by the Ravens Sept. 8 after the video went viral.

Before the release of the video, the Baltimore Ravens tweeted, "Janay Rice said she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the accident." The day after the video release, Janay said "reality is a nightmare in itself," and criticized the media for causing her family pain.

"To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing," she wrote. "No one knows the pain that the media (and) unwanted opinions from the public has caused my family. This is our life!" she wrote. "What don't you all get?" She defended her husband to ESPN, saying "I love my husband. I support him. I want people to respect our privacy in this family matter."

Since then, Janay has faced constant attacks from the media. She has been accused of provoking her husband by arguing with him and hitting him first. She has been criticized for choosing to marry him after the abuse occurred and labeled a "gold digger," choosing only to stay with him for the money. Many are wondering why she chose to stay and how she could have let this happen.

This phenomenon is called victim blaming, and occurs when the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held responsible for the harm occurring to them. We often see victim blaming in cases of domestic violence and sexual assault. The real focus in these situations should be helping the survivor and holding the offender accountable.

For victims of domestic violence, the decision to leave is not easy. According to national statistics, it takes seven to nine times to leave successfully. There are countless reasons victims stay in an abusive relationship: control, fear, financial worries, children, low self-esteem, hope for change and love. Domestic violence is a cycle of power and control in which the victim experiences emotional manipulation and isolation in addition to physical abuse. Abusive relationships are often characterized by a cycle of abuse, a pattern consisting of a tension-building phase, explosion phase, and a honeymoon-reconciliation phase. During the honeymoon phase the abuser often seeks pity, apologizes and promises that things will be better and tries to make up through gifts or favors.  All these factors make it very difficult to leave an abusive relationship. In fact, the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence is the period right before and after she or he leaves the offender. Instead of judging those who live in an abusive environment, it's crucial to understand the complexity of domestic violence and provide victims with the resources and confidence to escape.

There are numerous resources available to help someone involved in a violent relationship. One is the Academy's Family Advocacy Program. Services are available at no cost and include parenting classes, anger and stress management, couple's counseling and the New Parent Support Program. 

TESSA is another agency is available for victims of domestic violence.  TESSA is located off base and offers a safe house for women and children who have become homeless due to domestic violence, a 24-hour crisis line, confidential counseling and several support groups for victims.

If you know someone who is being abused, don't ignore it. You can help by letting the victim know domestic violence is a crime and assistance is available. If you or someone you know is being abused, contact the Academy's Family Advocacy office at 333-5270.

Where to go for help

· U.S. Air Force Academy Family Advocacy Program, 333-5270

·  Chaplains Service, 333-3300

· TESSA's Domestic Violence Crisis Line, 633-3819

· National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE

· Sexual Assault Coordinator, 333-7272

· 10th Security Forces Squadron, 333-2000