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Other Questions You Can Ask A Victim of Domestic Violence

September 10th, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

Let’s start with the facts: That we never know the full story. Whether it’s a domestic violence situation close to home or it’s one being played out on the news documented by security cameras, we will only know what we saw and what we’re told. Naturally, we all have questions, and most of them come from a good place, and valid, but some of them, while well-intended, are poorly executed.

Case in point, this question I have heard a lot since Monday when TMZ Sports released video footage of Ray Rice knocking out his wife Janay Rice in an elevator at an Atlantic City hotel.

What did she do to provoke him?

Before I get into why this question is the last question anyone should ask, here is a list of five other questions I think are better suited for not only Janay Rice, but other victims of domestic violence as well. For the sake of this post, let’s just imagine the woman we’re talking to has come to us directly to tell us she and her partner got into an argument and he physically hurt her to the point where there was visible damage. Also, because unfortunately MOST domestic violence victims do not have the benefit of video footage and therefore reports must be taken at their word, let’s say this woman is someone we believe would have no reason to lie. She is reaching out to you because she would rather go to someone she loves/trusts/respects rather than the police.

Here are the questions I would ask if a woman I cared about said her partner assaulted her:

This doesn’t really need any further explanation, but this is where it should start, because she is the victim here. Her well-being is paramount.

You’re not looking for him so much as you’re making sure he’s nowhere near her. She may not know where he is, and that’s fine, but if she does, she has to stay away at least until cooler heads prevail. If he’s looking for her, you can stay with her until she decides to make it known where she is.

She didn’t go to the cops, but maybe she didn’t want to do so alone. In a moment’s notice, when emotions were high, she reached out to you first or you were the first one to respond. Whatever it is, you have to remind her, you’re not the only one who can keep her safe and protect her. Not to say you’re not enough, but remind her there are more options and other people can help.

One time is one too many, but it’s helpful to know if this sort of thing has been a regular occurrence in their relationship.

This is what I mean when I say there’s a better way to at least gain an understanding of what led to a domestic violent dispute other than asking a woman what she did to provoke the man. That question (what did you do?) starts from an accusatory place; that question implies he was in some way justified for putting his hands on her.

I believe every man and woman has their limit, so I would never go so far as to no person should ever resort to violence. Some have a quick trigger, others have their violent side buried in a place so deep, they will probably live their whole lives without ever finding it. In other words, breaking points, we all have them. But we are all responsible for controlling them, so trying to determine if the victim deserved to be physically hurt is a red herring to the real issue, which is the person who did the harm.

  • ljh

    Your compassionate response is so refreshing. Unfortunately compassion is a novelty in discussing this incident.

  • Meg

    Thank you. It’s so refreshing to hear a man’s perspective that still empowers the overwhelmingly female victims.

  • TenableBelief

    We need to stop operating in absolutes: “Zero Tolerance” “Violence is never the answer” “You should never hit a woman”. Human interaction is too complex for that. No one is absolved from their moral, ethical, social responsibility to act humanely just because someone else did not. Because of the simple corollary: Action may NOT equal Reaction. You may lose control at a low level but the other person may respond at a much higher one. The video I saw showed Janay throwing a punch before and after getting on the elevator. So she does not automatically get conferred victim- and saint-hood because women have traditionally been victimized or get sympathy just because she passed out after punching someone. Just as he does not get a pass to knock her out because he was hit first or because he’s a rich athlete or because his male ego must prove domination.

  • smartsista

    As a victim, your questions are on point. However, I’d like to add one that should we should ask ourselves anytime we try to justify the actions of a celebrity over those of any of their victims, i.e. Ray Rice, Bill Cosby. What if the victim were my mother, sister, or friend? How would we react to “allegations” coming from someone we know personally?