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“That’s Not Her” -- Why Janay Rice’s mother is wrong about domestic violence

Janay Rice and her mother Candy Palmer speak with Matt Lauer

Today Show

Janay Rice gave an interview for the Today show on Monday, speaking out publicly on the infamous video of her husband, Ray Rice, beating her senseless in an elevator. And when I say Janay Rice gave an interview, I really mean her mother, Candy Palmer, did.

It seems that both Candy’s and Janay’s main intention throughout the interview was to to distance themselves from the label of “domestic violence” and all the stigma associated with it (and to defend Ray Rice and his career, obviously).

Janay repeatedly suggests that she was somehow responsible for the beating she received at the hands of her husband, saying things like, “we can’t make excuses for anything, but we were both intoxicated.” The word “we” is used numerous times when referring to the event, as if to suggest that her brush with domestic violence was a team effort. At one point, she even goes so far as to say, “At the end of the day I got arrested, too, so I did something wrong, too.”

I think it’s important to mention here that it’s challenging and problematic to try and criticize Janay’s reactions and choices in the aftermath of the violence she faced from her husband. She has the right to deal with what happened in her own way, and we as the public shouldn’t try to undermine her autonomy.

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Her mother, Candy Palmer, on the other hand, we can criticize, because she seems to play a bizarre and destructive role in the whole situation; the whole time, she keeps spouting victim-blaming nonsense about domestic violence, and explaining that her daughter is “not that person.”

According to Matt Lauer, Palmer told him that she “did not raise a young lady to be an abused woman.” Because apparently abused women were raised to be that way.

In the ultimate display of the weird domestic violence myths she ascribes to, she describes the public’s reaction to the video of her daughter being knocked unconscious as an overreaction: “I heard everything -- I heard that basically they needed to come in here, knock the door down, and drag her out, ‘cause she was like, chained in the house somewhere… or that she grew up in this type of environment.”

Here’s why this is super troubling.

She seems to think that having a daughter who winds up in an abusive situation is somehow a reflection on her as a mother. She doesn’t want to be blamed for bad parenting, and she can’t handle the shame of raising an “abused woman.” This is all victim-blaming, of course, and it only serves to promote the idea that the person at fault in domestic abuse is not the abuser, but the victim. Not only that, but she also fails to realize that just because someone is not “chained in the house” or being beaten on a daily basis, doesn’t mean that what her daughter experienced isn’t domestic violence.

Janay has evidently internalized this absurd train of thought, and backs up her mother’s viewpoints by saying, of course this was just a one-time incident, because she would never “sit there in silence and let something happen to [her] — and God forbid, in front of [her] child, just like, let it happen.” She seems to agree with her mother that abused women are in that situation because they have somehow “let it happen” to them.

Most people doubt that this was indeed a one-time incident, as domestic violence rarely occurs just once, but Janay continues to assert that it was. She uses that fact to deny her status as a victim of domestic violence, because “everybody makes mistakes.” (Yes, Janay, a man knocking his wife out in an elevator would definitely qualify as a mistake).

Let’s just say it was an isolated incident. That doesn’t change the fact that this was domestic violence.

The worst part of all of this is that while Janay and Candy repeatedly deride and blame victims of domestic abuse, they simultaneously express a sort of disingenuous sympathy for them. Near the end of this train-wreck interview, Janay tearfully says, “God chose me and Ray for a reason, and it was definitely to bring more awareness to what people are going through every day. I mean it’s not what I’m going through, but it’s definitely brought this topic to the forefront.”

The fact that both mother and daughter appear to come out in support of domestic violence awareness, after spending an entire interview suggesting that victims are responsible for their own abuse, is ridiculous. Not only did they repeatedly defend a man who knocked his wife unconscious, but they just had to add insult to injury by pretending to care about “real victims” of domestic violence (a.k.a., people who are “chained in the house”).

Candy, I hope you educate yourself and realize you’re not helping domestic abuse victims (including your daughter) by promoting victim-blaming stereotypes. And Janay, I sure hope, for your sake, that you’re right about this being a one-time incident.

Pegah Yazd is a blogger for all things feminism for Metro. You can reach her at pegah.yazd@metro.us.

 
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