There’s a small, sinister tree by my front porch that I have to keep cutting back every few weeks. It’s an invasive species that pummels D.C. with seeds every spring. It found a vulnerable spot in my yard–between the gas meter and the foundation. Every time I try to dig it out of my yard, the roots seems more snarled and tangled, still searching for water. I’m always so surprised how deep they go. I keep cutting the new growth back so you can barely tell there’s a tree there where there shouldn’t be.
When I think about the psychological impact of domestic violence, I think about those tree roots: How hard they are to get rid of, how deep they go. Abuse becomes so entangled in your way of processing information and learning how to respond. The coping mechanisms and survival responses become part of your landscape. The human capacity to rationalize is really incredible. Even if you can finally rid yourself of the unwanted tree—which is a long and hard path—you can never really get rid of the roots. It’s not a complete metaphor, but it helps me.
I also keep thinking about Janay Rice and how glad we all are that Ray Rice is out of the NFL and off our TV screens. We’ve been so thankful that he paid the price and we don’t have to deal with him anymore.
Janay’s still in danger. In fact, now she’s in more danger than she was before the video came out. In terms of lethality, leaving is the most dangerous time. Not to mention that her privacy rights as a victim were violated by posting the video, so the world outside of the relationship may not seem any safer.
Just because we’ve seen punch (and it’s frustrating that it took the video and not just the facts for the outrage to start) doesn’t mean the abuse is over. It doesn’t mean that she can just pull up the roots of the abuse and leave, and it doesn’t even mean that he won’t try to physically harm her even if she does leave. It doesn’t work like that.
We have the luxury of being done with Ray Rice, but Janay Rice doesn’t.