An open letter to Janay Rice

Dear Janay,

The last few weeks have undoubtedly been difficult ones for you, and the last couple of days have probably been among the most trying of your life. I can imagine that you’re torn so many ways, and since I have never been in the position you’re in – have never experienced anything remotely like it – imagine is about all I can do. And speculate. I guess we all speculate. We can’t help it.

But you said something today that I just can’t let go. You said:

I love my husband. I support him. I want people to respect our privacy in this family matter.

I’m not going to tell you how to feel, and it probably seems like the whole damned world is up in your business. But – and I can not stress this enough – the events that have dominated the news since that ugly video broke yesterday are not a family matter.

What happened in that elevator was a crime. Despite what certain people in the prosecutor’s office decided – people who may well be looking for new jobs soon thanks to their gross malfeasance in this case – what happened in that elevator was a felony. Your role as victim does not give you the right to send the authorities away and drop the veil of privacy around it. If the law worked that way no woman would ever be safe again.

What your husband did to you is no more a mere “family matter” than if he had strangled your daughter Rayven in her sleep.

I certainly understand how you’d want this to all go away. A lot of victims of domestic violence feel that way. But “respecting your privacy” is the last thing that anyone should be doing right now.

A lot of women have died because people respected their privacy. A lot of women have died because outsiders chose to treat violent felonies as family matters.

I don’t want your name added to that list.

I don’t know you, but rest assured, I wish you the best.


Sam Smith


  • Wow Sam. I am almost speechless after reading this open letter. I applaud your sensitivity to all women here, and to children as well. You make some incredibly important points and this is the first piece I have read on this subject that makes these points so directly and strongly. As a victim of domestic abuse myself, I know firsthand that the lack of immediate intervention in such situations is dangerous and highly problematic. I know that her situation may get far worse before it gets better. She is probably not thinking very clearly now that this has all become a public matter, whether she likes it or not. She is on very shaky ground and she is most likely ill-equipped to “fix” this problem for herself, regardless of how much she “loves him”. On behalf of all domestic abuse victims, I thank you for writing this letter.

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