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Is Janay Rice Mentally Ill?

Janay Rice is the wife of Ray Rice, the Baltimore Ravens running back who knocked out his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, in an Atlantic City casino elevator.

There is outrage to spare – against Ray Rice, the NFL, Ravens brass, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. But what are people’s attitudes toward Janay?

You see, Janay came down four square for husband Ray, whom she says she loves. They were married after the assault. She blamed critics for ruining their lives. She wrote the following statement on Instagram:

No one knows the pain that the media & unwanted options from the public has caused my family. To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing.

To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his ass off for all his life just to gain ratings is a horrific.

THIS IS OUR LIFE! What don’t you all get. If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels. Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is!

She repeated her defense of her husband in a brief interview with ESPN, saying, “I love my husband. I support him. I want people to respect our privacy in this family matter.”

Janay sounds sincere, and highly committed to Ray and her marriage. But, is the public buying it? Here is how several readers of my blog for Psychology Today reacted to Janay and her message:

They were fighting and hitting, in a public place where people could see. They did that. If they don’t want the consequences then they should refrain from doing it. Find safer, healthier strategies for conflict resolution!

This guy isn’t owed a job and his wife isn’t owed a husband with a job. Talk about entitlement! If he doesn’t act in a professional way then his employer won’t want to be associated with him.

Janay hates her husband’s haters because she is in a relationship with him and wants to preserve her status quo. It is hard to envision breaking away and losing what you have.

She can hate all she wants, but she doesn’t get to control what other people think or do (for example, people thinking that hitting at each other is a dangerous way to handle conflict, or an employer not wanting to be associated with a man who knocks a woman out for all the world to see.) What she controls is how she herself behaves, including whether she stays in a relationship with him.

Note the hostility to the victim—this comment regards her as a co-conspirator who should be punished equally, particularly if she doesn’t leave her husband (which Janay’s comments indicate most assuredly she won’t). She shouldn’t have been in a public brawl (isn’t that the defense abusers use, saying that women participated in the fight voluntarily?) and insinuating that she is sticking with her husband because of his money and the lavish lifestyle she enjoys.

The next comment sees Janay as suffering from a number of mental disorders:

When victims of domestic violence are given the choice as to whether to prosecute or not of course economic considerations, emotions and trauma symptoms that cause victims to defend perpetrators who are close to them are going to come into play, to the benefit of these violent criminals and to the detriment of victims.

This comment indicates that Janay is suffering from PTSD (in the form of battered-woman syndrome). I have heard commentators say both this, and that Janay is afraid to leave Ray because he would likely kill her. Does it seem like she is being forced to stay in the relationship? Does she have the right to make this decision, or is it a sign of her mental illness?

Here are five questions for readers to consider:

  • Is Janay incapable of judging her situation and her husband?
  • Do you think Janay should be prevented from continuing in this relationship?
  • Would it be possible to get a judge to decide that she is incompetent to make decisions for herself due to a mental disorder?
  • Do you disrespect Janay, or pity her, because you think she is doing the wrong thing?
  • Are there racial differences in views of domestic abuse?

Following are news items that indicate, first, a number of “rank-and-file” women support Janay in her decision and, second, spousal abuse by NFL players is far more widespread than the Ray Rice case.

News item 1: Ravens fans wear No. 27 for Rice
“There’s two sides to every story,” said a 23-year-old waitress from Baltimore. “I saw the video. That’s their personal business, and it shouldn’t have affected his career. I don’t agree with domestic violence, but she’s still with him, so obviously it wasn’t that big of a deal. Everyone should just drop it.”

Do all of these women have mental disorders?

News item 2: Domestic violence in the NFL
Panthers Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy has been convicted on two counts of domestic violence and is still playing. Ray McDonald of the 49ers also remains active while he is being investigated for abuse allegations.

The opinions presented in Pro Talk reside solely with the author, and do not necessarily represent those of or its employees. Pro Talk exists to elevate the discussion around substance abuse, behavioral addictions and related topics and we appreciate the efforts of our professional content contributors.