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Domestic Violence: Breaking the Silence

In recent months, domestic violence has been everywhere in the headlines: from the distubing video footage of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice beating his wife in an elevator to the horrifying cases of domestic violence turned deadly in local Puerto Rican media, these events have become part of a larger conversation that goes above and beyond handling them as isolated incidents. Domestic violence leaves emotional scars on all of its victims, sends so many of them to the hospital with injuries and, in quite a few cases, leaves them dead. Some are able to escape their circumstances and have even become advocates against domestic violence, raising awareness about this horrible crime that so often goes unnoticed or unspoken of and encouraging others to speak up. In the most recent case come to light, Ray Rice was arrested in mid-February for a domestic dispute with his then-fiancé, now wife, Janay Palmer. Gossip site TMZ released a “cleaned-up” version of a video in which we can see Rice brutally dragging an unconscious Palmer out of an elevator. Rice avoided jail time by entering a rehabilitation program and was suspended by the NFL from playing two games. After TMZ released the whole surveillance footage last Monday, a video that showed him hitting her so hard that her head bounced against the elevator wall, social media sites like Twitter and Facebook were flooded with horrified reactions from people who couldn’t believe that this man was still employed and walking free.  But what shocked some people the most was the fact that Janay Palmer, now Mrs. Rice, made a public statement defending her husband, even after millions of people saw her being brutalized.

 

 

Janay Rice-Palmer’s statement lead some to ask questions like: “How could she marry him after that happened?” and “Why did she stay?”. Questions like these are often hard to answer. Domestic violence is a complex subject, in part because it’s been taboo to talk about for a long time. It seems almost impossible to believe, but it was not always considered a public issue: the famous Ley 54 (Ley para la Prevención e Intervención con la Violencia Domestica) is less than thirty years old. That means that before 1989, when the law was passed, there was little to no protocol the police and courts could follow in domestic violence cases. In fact, most people refused to talk about it or to help victims that they knew because they considered domestic violence to be a “relationship problem”, or a private matter that should be settled by the people involved without anyone else intervening. Once the law was passed, it established a set of rules intended to help the victim by allowing them to file a restraining order against their abuser, and outlined all kinds of abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, etc.) as crimes punishable by law. 

And this is where many people’s confusion starts: If domestic violence is a crime, if there are serious repercussions for the abuser, why is it that some victims never come forward, or rush to their abuser’s defense? It’s hard for people to understand that domestic violence doesn’t just consist of physical violence that bruises and broken bones, but also a series of emotionally manipulative acts that leave victims in unique situations that don’t allow for a single consistent answer to that question. A quick Twitter search of the hashtag #WhyIStayed, shared by domestic violence victims, shows that there’s more than just one reason behind staying: some said that they stayed because they were too afraid, or had become convinced that they deserved the abuse that was being inflicted upon them. Others stayed because they felt forced to, because their families disapproved of them divorcing (even if it meant staying in an abusive marriage), because a loved one’s well-being was threatened or because their abuser made it physically impossible for them to leave. Quite a few of them even said that they stayed because they loved their abuser and their abuser claimed to love them too, often apologizing after hurting them.

 

 

Domestic violence comes in all shapes and forms, but all of them boil down to a toxic, abusive relationship. While many domestic violence victims are physically beaten, what a lot of people don’t understand is that the hurt can be caused by anything from the abuser’s hands to the words coming out of their mouth. Things like intimidating or controlling behavior, humilating or cruel remarks, and pressure to act accordingly to their desires are all indicators of an emotionally abusive partner that could potentially turn violent. The hurt is psychological, physical, sexual, and verbal, and it’s important to speak up if you or someone you know is in a relationship like this. 

Gabriela Cirilo is a Marketing student at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras campus. She's currently an intern at the IT company and consulting firm Wovenware Inc. Gabriela is a social media and movie addict. She enjoys reading, swimming and listening to new music. Also she loves fashion...and history. 
Nahir Robles was a former member of the Her Campus at UPR chapter from 2013 until 2018. She graduated with a Bachelor's in Integrative Biology. Some of her interests include writing, modeling, and wrestling. She is currently a Her Campus Mentor and works as a Pathology Assistant.
Gabrielle Thurin is a Sociology major at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras campus. She interned at the professional services firm Ernst & Young during the spring of 2013 and spent the summer of 2013 as an intern at the prestigious law firm Fiddler, González, & Rodríguez, P.S.C., where she currently works part-time as a law clerk in the Foreclosures department. Gabrielle enjoys reading, pop culture references, vintage-inspired dresses, and discovering new things. Also, Netflix.
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