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Blaming Janay Rice is an outrage

By Carol Costello
updated 7:54 PM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
  • Carol Costello says there should be no tolerance for blaming victims in domestic violence
  • A "Fox and Friends" co-host joked that abusers should take the stairs to avoid cameras
  • It takes abused women seven attempts to finally leave their abusers, she says
  • Costello: If you want to know why it's so hard, talk to those who are abused

Editor's note: Carol Costello anchors the 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. ET edition of CNN's "Newsroom" each weekday. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- Shut up. Shut up. Shut. Up.

I never wanted to become the poster child for anything, let alone domestic violence. But my blood is boiling, so when I say shut up, I'm venting at all those people out there who insist on blaming the victim.

I do not watch "Fox and Friends," but I do read the blogs, and when I stumbled across a story about the "Friends" "ha-ha-ha you pathetic woman" moment, my stomach turned.

Carol Costello
Carol Costello

"She still married him!" co-host Steve Doocy exclaimed after viewing the now-infamous Ray Rice elevator tape. Doocy was talking about Janay Palmer, the woman Rice punched, then married. Doocy's co-host, Brian Kilmeade, chimed in: "Rihanna went back to Chris Brown right after...[he beat her]."

Wait a minute: She's the one who went back? She married him? Is that supposed to make Rice's actions or Brown's actions somehow less violent? Or criminal?

Why I stayed: Tangles of domestic abuse

Carol Costello to Fox hosts "Shut Up"

The worst part for me, though, was when Doocy and Kilmeade started joking: "I think the message is, take the stairs," Kilmeade said. Doocy responded with, "The message is when you're in an elevator, there's a camera."

Does that mean it's OK to deck your gal if no one is around to see it?

I don't think Kilmeade and Doocy meant it that way, but it was those comments that wormed their way under my skin. And I wasn't alone.

Ray Rice video prompts stories of #WhyIStayed, #WhyILeft

As Jan Langbein, who runs the Genesis Women's Center, told me, the whole episode is a form of victim-blaming. "I'm horrified," Langbein said. "I mean 'take the stairs,' please! I am constantly surrounded by messages that it's somehow her fault of or that if she had taken the stairs or done something else or not worn that outfit the abuse wouldn't have happened. It's not about her actions at all."

If you want to know why some domestic violence survivors return to their abusers -- here's a thought -- ask them.

You want to know why I never told the authorities, or my family, that a college boyfriend threw me against a wall and knocked me out? Because, at 20, I thought I deserved it. Some of my girlfriends made me feel that way. My boyfriend certainly did. I was ashamed.

You want to know why I agreed to see him again after he assaulted me? Because when all was said and done I could not believe the charming, handsome man I chose to be with could hurt me again.

I quickly discovered I was wrong about that and I left him.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline says it takes women seven times to leave an abusive partner for good. There are 50 different reasons for that and none of them are simple, although some are downright frightening. Langbein said the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence is the day she leaves her abusive partner for good. Abusers are all about control. And when they lose control, they become more dangerous. There's a reason that one-third of female homicide victims are killed by their current or former partners.

So, please, shut up. Domestic violence is a serious crime perpetrated by a violent partner. And, you know what? It rarely happens in front of a camera.

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