An Open Letter to Janay Rice

Dear Janay:

I’m writing this, first, to say I’m sorry.  I’m sorry that your personal life has been made so public and that people who don’t know you or care for you in any way are dissecting your choices, your lifestyle, your motivations and your culpability.  I am sorry that a very dark moment for you has become a national topic of discussion.  I’m sorry that you must relive that pain, embarrassment, suffering so often and that your name will forever be linked to this event in our world’s history.  

None of us really know what happened that night–what circumstances led up to the brief scene we have all witnessed.  We don’t know what happened in the moments prior to you coming into view, much less the weeks, months and years before.  We have no idea what your life might have looked like behind closed doors.  The world has witnessed a tiny moment of your existence, yet have collectively decided to be judge, jury and executioner, somehow thinking that 30 seconds gives us enough information about who you are. 

My heart breaks for you and for the women who have gone before you down this path.  Women who are blamed, re-victimized and whose lives have been paraded around before people who seem to think they know better.  I grieve for those who remain silent victims. My marriage, by the end, was increasingly violent and had I not asked (forced) him to leave, I might have indeed been where you were that night.   I do know that by the time the relationship reached that point I had been so emotionally and mentally beaten down that I was starting to not recognize the woman in the mirror.  I know what it is like to lose yourself, to wonder “how the hell did I get so lost?”.  I know that feeling of desperately wanting out but feeling trapped.  And sadly, this is the narrative for many women in our world today.  Some of the strongest, most resilient women I’ve had the privilege of knowing have been in abusive relationships, which used to surprise me.  Now, I am not shocked to discover that anyone has been a victim because, as the saying goes, it happens to the best of us.

So I write this letter, knowing you will likely never see it, to extend a hand of solidarity–sisterhood–support.   There are many more like you, like me, like US, in this world than we are perhaps comfortable talking about.  There are many who suffer silently, who live in fear and who will never be reduced to a statistic that is callously reported to the news media.  There are even more who are quick to judge women like us for being in the relationships that we chose, and very few of them ever take the time to know who we are which is vital to understand why we do what we do. 

Ladies who have never been in an abusive relationship–lay down your arms.  I am so, so very tired of seeing women attack other women.   Where have we gone so wrong in our world that, as women, we can look at another woman being brutally assaulted and insinuate that somehow she asked for it? Where have we gotten so off course that we don’t see another woman’s broken & lifeless body as a clarion call to stand up for women everywhere?  Why have we become so calloused that we forget that it could be us, our sisters, our daughters, for God’s sake?  Why must we be so quick to shoot our wounded?

Janay, and all women like you (me),  I will stand up for you, even when you lack the strength to stand up for them yourself.  I will continue to speak out against violence.  Most importantly, I will not judge your decisions, attempt to understand your motivations or criticize your actions.  I will continue holding space in my heart and consciousness that you-we-us will find a safe place to live in & the strength to do what is right for us individually.  I will combat the hatred and vitriol that is directed at you not by waging war but rather, by sending love.  After all, darkness can’t defeat darkness.  

Ladies, sisters, can you please join me in this?  Can we cease firing violent words at one another and start loving each other?  Can we stop competing and start complementing?  Can we, once again, meet where our hearts connect, embracing our shared humanity and let our love light the way?  

After all, we are certainly in this thing together.  

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