In the case of Ray Rice, even the court system seems to believe that participating in a first-time offender’s program will prevent Ray from committing similar abuses against his wife in the future.
Victims witness this type of repeated and continued fair treatment and consideration given by society to abusers every day and use it as their own model to establish hope. After all, if the “experts” believe anger management and couple’s counseling will work, it must really work.
Despite zero supporting evidence that proves counseling and prevention programs can rehabilitate abusers, victims remain convinced that these steps are worth trying and that the relationship will improve, their abuser will learn from his/her mistakes, and that abandoning and leaving their abuser would simply be wrong, unjustified, unfair, and disloyal.
The more a victim puts false loyalty and false assumptions above reasoning and logic, the stronger the addiction grows and the more entangled and indistinguishable the love bond and betrayal bond become.
- The abuser keeps saying to the victim, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry! I will never hurt you again.”
- The abuser’s friends keep saying to the victim, “He just loves you so much. You should hear how he talks about how much he loves you. Don’t give up on him.
- The couple’s counselor/clergy keeps saying to the victim, “Relationships and marriages often hit obstacles. Doesn’t your relationship deserve you to work harder to save it?”
With all of these people surrounding the victim trying to convince the victim that she/he is not really a victim, the victim redefines his/her definition of love to support, match, and justify the dynamics of the toxic relationship.
And continuing to have sex with an abuser is the ultimate chemical betrayal for victims.
An October 2013 article published in Psychology Today, Oxytocin: The love and trust hormone can be deceptive, explains how sex serves to perpetuate confusion and dissonance, especially in female victims:
“Here is what happens with women. After making love a woman might mistake the oxytocin release for feelings that tell her, ‘This is your perfect partner.’ Despite those initial feelings, it does not necessarily mean that the person is trustworthy. The perception you have at the moment is an illusion you create about the person that may or may not fit what happens next.”
Therefore, a conclusion can be drawn that if each trauma/abuse/betrayal event is followed by a love-making, make-up session, a victim of abuse is chemically and biologically fooled into believing that the abuser did not really mean to be abusive and that the abuser is someone who can be trusted at his/her word.
The abuser makes a convincing claim that he/she will change and sex helps to solidify this claim.
All of these factors, in addition to the threats abusers make to harm the victim’s family and themselves if the victim decides to leave, keep victims of abuse inside the abusive and toxic relationship, while protecting the one person who should be punished the most: the abuser.
Domestic violence is an insidious disease that blankets our country in fear, denial, and injustice. We all believe that there are two sides to every story. That is true unless there is abuse, manipulation, and control at the heart of the story.
We want to be fair as a society, which should be commended, but when fairness overshadows logic and safety, our desire for fairness becomes the absolute perpetrator of abuse and violence. Victims are not only beaten down by their internal, destructive self-talk and by their abuser’s shaming and blaming, victims are indirectly abused by their friends, family, and a society in denial.
In this state of denial, we allow abusers to run free and victims to be minimized and vulnerable to additional abuse.
Janay Rice and other domestic violence victims do not deserve condemnation for remaining inside their abusive relationships. Domestic violence victims need a new hope–a hope that they can leave without fearing for their lives, without fearing the loss of custody of their children, without fearing the loss of a home to live or food to eat, without fearing the loss of a means to make a living, and without fearing they will be called crazy for anything they did inside the relationship while stuck in the state of cognitive dissonance.
Hope for domestic violence victims begins when society chooses to understand and protect the victims rather than choosing to understand and protect the abusers. Once we make this simple adjustment in our thinking, the power will no longer be in the hands of the abusers. The power will be available to victims to become independent and free.
Paula lives and works in the Washington, D.C. area. She holds a master’s degree in Communication and Adult Education and a bachelor’s degree in English. She is the author of the novelette Escaping the Boy: My Life with a Sociopath. Her next book, “Embracing Your Light: Healing and Recovery from Pathological Abuse and Trauma” is set to be published later this year.