Ray and Janay Rice speak to the media about their domestic violence incident in Owings Mills, Md. on May 23 (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky).

The Million-Dollar Question

There is nothing like controversy to shed light on a serious issue like domestic violence.

On Monday, TMZ released a video of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and his then fiancée, now wife, Janay Rice.

In the video, the couple was on an elevator and after an argument they exchanged a few hits between the two, leading to Ray punching her and knocking her out, then dragging her out of the elevator unconscious.

Thanks to social media we’ve seen videos of men hitting women, such as the infamous video of the male bus driver hitting a female passenger.

Men knocking women out is horrible enough, but the Rice video is of a man hitting the mother of his child, his fiancée, a woman who he loves and one who loves him.

Everybody is taking a side on the issue such as should Ray Rice have been suspended for only a few games or indefinitely. But the real issue is the abuse, and a question that’s starting to boil is, why did she stay?

However, this question is not just for Janay Rice. This question is for all women in either a physical, mental or an emotional abusive relationship. If the man who “loves” you is abusing you, why do you stay?

Before answering why women stay in abusive relationships, women need to be aware how you could possibly get into that type of relationship.

Huffington Post reports that 60 percent of young women have been in an abusive relationship, and a whopping 94 percent have been in an emotionally abusive relationship.

How are women ending up in abusive relationships?

“I think it starts with how their fathers treated them as a child,” says Rochelle, 29. “If you didn’t have a strong male figure in your life to show you that you are valuable and show you your self worth then that’s a big reason why women stay in an abusive relationship.  If a woman (wasn’t) taught that she is worth a lot then she won’t know that she’s too good to be hit on or cursed out on a daily basis just because some man can’t handle his life or can’t control his anger. Also his childhood matters too, because if he saw abuse while growing up and he gets with a woman who has low self-esteem or doesn’t know her self worth, that’s a recipe for an abusive relationship and possibly on both ends.”

We’ve all heard that low self-esteem is a reason why women stay in abusive relationships, but is that always the case?

Michelle, 35, disagrees saying, “I was involved for four years in a mentally abusive marriage. My parents were divorced, but loved me. I was always secure in myself, successful in my own right, and an overall happy person, and I did not see the abuse coming until I was in a constant game of manipulation. Most of the time I was fearful to go home because I didn’t know what state he would be in. I don’t know what happened, how I got in the situation. One day we were in love and he was over the top sweet, and then a year later, some days I was told, ‘bitch get out of the house, to leave and to not come back until it was dark,’ or being told I couldn’t sleep in my own bed and to sleep on the couch. I would ask myself, how did I end up here?”

When married couples are involved in abusive relationships one reason women stay in abusive relationships is because of their spiritual or religious beliefs.

“Yes, the reason I stayed for those years (was) because of God,” continues Michelle. “I made a vow to God first, then my husband, and I wanted to keep my vow to both. Some of my girlfriends were in abusive relationships and were told by their pastors to stay no matter what, but my pastor told me otherwise. I stayed initially because I loved him, and I hoped one day his apologies and promises to get help would come true. Then I stayed because I was embarrassed to get a divorce and worried about what others would think. I stayed because I knew he needed help, and I also stayed because he had my mind so twisted into believing that I was doing him wrong. After that wore off, I left because I knew I deserved better.”

Ray Rice is a millionaire and there has been some speculation that his wife is with him for the money. Could it be about the money when so many women are in abusive relationships with non-millionaires?

“I do think a reason why women stay in an abusive relationship could be for money,” suggests Contrina, 38. “It depends on the woman and the situation. Some stay because it’s all they know, they are afraid of being lonely. Some hope they can change the man, but the saddest thing is because domestic violence is normal for them. They feel he doesn’t love me unless he hits me.”

Are there woman who feel that it’s normal for a man to hit them or show anger in a drastic way and that equals love?

Nicole, 20, says, “I wouldn’t take a man hitting me, but I just feel if he does something drastic like scratching my car, or putting a tire on flat because he’s that angry behind something I did, or if he’s just that jealous, I would honestly feel like this n**** must love me to do all of this. I would feel like we could go through anything together.”

It seems as if love looks different to everybody.

You need to know your definition of love, and if that person steps out of that box then it may be time to question is it real love?

Could a man really love a woman who he abuses?

“I do think these men love them in their own twisted way,” continues Contrina. “I think they love them the best way they know how. They love the way they were taught to love. However, they are incapable of loving that woman the way she deserves and needs to be loved.”

There are many reasons why women stay in abusive relationships, but regardless of their reason, no one deserves to be hurt constantly.

With the abuse rate being so high, we need to start reaching out and helping victims of domestic abuse and finding solutions.

The first solution is preventive, and that means starting with your kids and teaching them that love does not hurt.

Hopefully some good can come from the Ray Rice incident and more people will come out and admit what they are going through and start getting help.

And surely the help isn’t just for the abused, but also for the abuser.

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