Give Janay Rice privacy. Spotlight should be on domestic violence.


By Rena Galanis

Watching the video of Ray Rice punching the lights out of his then fiance, Janay Palmer, has been nothing short of horrifying. Reading comments and open letters giving advice to Janay has been almost as disturbing.

National outrage at the video footage of former Baltimore Ravens running back, Ray Rice, 27, punching his then fiance out cold and then callously dragging her limp body out of the Revel Casino elevator in Atlantic City (now closed) in which the altercation took place, has led to his indefinite suspension from the NFL.

It has also put a spotlight on the issue of domestic abuse with comments coming from all over the world via Twitter, comments after online news articles, blog posts and opinion pieces.

It has remained an issue many women must deal with ( statistics show that DV incidents have not diminished over the last 20 years and often they go unreported) and that is largely not covered in the media because unless a death is involved, it is just not news.

While some comments offer words of support to Janay, many are openly critical of her behaviour after the incident, in particular her decision to follow through with wedding plans last March to the man who abused her and participating in a news conference in which she said she regrets her actions on the night of the incident.

Janay is being pounded again and again with each replaying of the elevator video. And comments which call her a “gold digger” for staying are another means of adding to the shame and mortification domestic violence survivors grapple with already.

The fact is, domestic violence happens at every income level to women of all kinds of backgrounds. The 2012 paparazzi photos of Charles Saatchi choking his then wife, celebrity chef Nigella Lawson, in England, also put a spotlight on the issue. Lawson is an Oxford University-educated, respected author and television personality with her own personal wealth ranking in the millions, and yet only left her marriage to advertising and art-world mogul Saatchi, once the photos became public and after suffering through “intimate terrorism” for who knows how long.

The now infamous case involving singers Rihanna and Chris Brown in 2009, is also an example in which the woman was completely financially independent of the boyfriend who brutally abused her. Three years after the police photographs of her pummelled face at the hands of Brown went viral, Rihanna did an interview with Oprah (in 2012) in which she admitted her still strong feelings for Brown (“I lost my best friend”) and how she felt protective of him in the aftermath of the public outcry against his actions. Shortly after, she reconciled with Brown before finally breaking ties, purportedly for good.

Women stay for a myriad of reasons. It’s complex. Reasons for staying range from cultural expectations, family of origin dynamics, responsibilities and expectations, self-esteem issues, need for partner’s approval, dependency (both emotional and financial), shame, fear for safety of self and other family members including children, the legal system (which does not always work in favour of the abused), in addition to the emotional bond between the couple.

While I am not privy to the details of the Rices’ relationship, I have read that Janay was only 16 when they began dating. They also have a child together. The bonds are, no doubt, deep. Trauma bonding itself is an enormous entanglement, requiring a huge amount of courage and support to unravel.

There is no shortage of “experts” and non-experts willing to weigh in on this case. That may be fair play given that the actions were carried out in public and caught by our ever-advancing technological world.

Certainly I don’t feel the same level of compassion for Ray being publicly decried as a coward, as he is a man who weighed about a hundred pounds more than Janay,  had a great deal more muscle mass and was still willing to physically assault her, then callously drag out her limp body in a public space.

However, I do believe Janay deserves the dignity of privacy to deal with this, get any counseling, knowledge about the cycle of abuse, help and support she wants to get, in order to come to peace with how she wants to go forward and to determine what is in her best interests.

Criticizing her decisions and giving opinions on what she ought to do, whether from an “expert” who is not working with her or anyone else who doesn’t personally know her, is just infantilizing (which by the way, is a big part of a controlling relationship as well) – treating her as though she is incapable of making a sound decision.

Breaking the cycle of violence within an intimate partnership is a daunting task and research shows that anger management classes and legal intervention alone, are still not enough to change intimate abusive behaviour which is centred around power and control. Also, it often takes abused partners a number of attempts to leave their abuser before being finally able to do so.

Domestic Violence Awareness months are in October and November in the U.S. and Canada respectively. Perhaps more work needs to be done to make clear some more facts around this all-too common issue and how to support – not further shame and stigmatize –  the one in four women who are faced with contending with it in their lifetimes.

For people who know someone who is experiencing intimate partner abuse, hearing from friends and family that they have value, that they don’t, under any circumstances, deserve to be physically assaulted, and that support systems are available, can be crucial.

Let’s keep talking about intimate partner abuse, why it is so prevalent and how women and men can take greater steps to finally understand the dynamics so that they can appropriately assist those who have been assaulted.

As for Janay – time to stop talking about what she should or shouldn’t do. She needs support from the people who care about her and privacy, not more public pain and humiliation.


Corporal punishment should be outlawed


By Rena Galanis

Corporal punishment should be outlawed and studies which show a correlation between child abuse and the development of mental disorders in adulthood, should not be ignored.

Parenting can bring overwhelming joy as well as – at times -overwhelming frustration.

You try to be the best parent you can be while juggling jobs, finances, multiple children with varying developmental needs, single parenting, temper tantrums, schoolwork, all in tandem with the day-to-day requirements of  keeping a household together.

And there are times when you get to the end of your fuse. But are you an abusive parent?

A recent study in Canada shows one in three Canadians have experienced some form of child abuse and that there is a resulting “robust” correlation with disorders such as drug/alcohol dependence, OCD, anxiety and depression in adulthood, to name a few.

It uses a benchmark of over three episodes of hitting a child to define physical abuse. Specifically, physical abuse was defined using one or more of the following three criteria:

1) being slapped on the face, head or ears, or hit or spanked with something hard three or more times.

2) being pushed, grabbed or shoved, or having something thrown at the respondent to hurt them three or more times.

3) being kicked, bit, punched, choked, burned or physically
attacked one or more times.

The nation-wide study was conducted using data from 2012 with over 23,000 respondents over the age of 18. The participants were asked if they had experienced physical, sexual or emotional abuse (as witnesses of abuse between adults) under the age of 16.

Although the study updates research on the long-term effects of child abuse, it isn’t exactly news. Organizations and front-line workers working with children and adults who have experienced violence in childhood have known this for years.

Here in Canada, Section 43 of the Criminal Code makes corporal punishment of our children (between the ages of two and 12) legal and allows a special defence to assault, which justifies corporal punishment of children by parents, substitute parents, and teachers, if the force used is “reasonable” and for the “child’s correction.”

The words “reasonable under the circumstances” in s. 43 mean that the force must be “transitory and trifling, must not harm or degrade the child, and must not be based on the gravity of the wrongdoing.”

Section 43 was challenged in 2003 by groups advocating to abolish the law and for the full implementation of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child. Canada ratified it in 1991 and article 19 in the Convention calls for the “protection of children from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse.”

The decision to uphold Section 43 in 2004 by the Supreme Court of Canada came after much debate and in the face of numerous studies, which show that corporal punishment is ineffective for long-term teaching or as a disciplinary tool and that physical punishment can escalate to abuse. (Over 100 organizations and people advocated for to repeal s.43.)

It’s a controversial issue because some parents who give a rare slap on the behind or wrap on a hand to avoid a hot stove, fear they will be labelled abusers. Canadian (and Blogher) writer, Jen Pellegrini, voices that stance here via Huffington Post.

She may have a point and the fact is, no parent likes to be told they aren’t doing a good job with the threat of a Big Brother-type government watchdogging their every move. Even the most conscientious parent can have bad days – days they wish they could do over with more patience.

But Canadian law has a number of safeguards in place to prevent charges for “minor slaps and spankings,” as well as reasonable, required restraint (in order to secure a child in a car seat, for example.)

Most parents aim to be more than a “good enough” caregiver with the hope that their children will thrive and lead healthy lives built on a foundation of loving care.

Canadian law provides a legal shield against domestic abuse and all adults a right to physical security. Between the ages of two and 12, our children do not enjoy this privilege.

Abolishing the law that allows for reasonable physical restraint or correction of a child by parents, caregivers and teachers will probably not eradicate child abuse.

It will, however, make clear our value that our children have the right to be treated with the same dignity and respect and with the full force of the law which all adult members of our society expect.

Study after study showing the far-reaching effects of physical punishment can’t be ignored. When should a child’s human rights take effect? On day one.

Let’s not roll the dice on the futures of our children.






Top 15 unforgettable U.S. style icons


By Rena Galanis

The USA is a young country and like most toddlers and teenagers, it can be rebellious, self-centred, arrogant and challenging of the status quo: All the ingredients for rip-roaring style and it has it in spades.

The land of plenty has given us the most popular item of clothing in recent history – jeans, as well as its constant companion, the t-shirt.

Levis jeans, the perennial youth favourite for over 140 years.

When Levi Strauss put out the now famous closet staple in 1873, it was designed for miners and the working class. The humble t-shirt was constructed for similar purposes (see post The Basic T-Shirt, Never Fade Away.)

Popularized by films of the ’50s and stars like Marlon Brando, Jimmy Dean and Marilyn Monroe, these pieces took on a life of their own with the emerging baby boomer population coming of age and with the help of a little  music movement we like to call rock’n’roll which, just happened to take the country by storm.

Elvis Presley swaying his hips in a pair of dungarees, guitar strapped to his chest and a sneer that would launch the genre around the world, was a kind of “@#$% you” to the establishment back in the day. And what teenager doesn’t want to raise the middle finger to their parents’ moral constructs, at least once?

Elvis Presley doing his thing in jeans, a jean shirt and jean jacket!

The timeless, classic combination of jeans, t-shirt, leather motorcycle jacket, a pair of Chucks, all topped with Ray Bans, is still the uniform of choice for rebels without a cause.

With the youthquake movement of the ’60s taking hold, American youth, both male and female, firmly embraced denim and contributed to a world-wide phenomenon which, really, has not been paralleled. Flash-forward to 2014 and denim sales are in the multi-billion dollar category.

But the US style history certainly doesn’t end there. Colliding influences have come from New York high life to the rugged mid-West, to the more laid-back cool of Southern California tomboy/girls.

American designers are an eclectic bunch and have taken on the challenge of catering to all these divergent groups with visions ranging from the ladylike, the business woman, the preppy,  the surfer girl and the modern-day hipster. And that’s just for starters.

Not shy to borrow from their cultural ancestors (this is a land of immigrants, after all) designers have pilfered from a variety of sources and continents, but end up producing in a very US-way.

Some examples, past and present, include Oscar de la Renta for a European-influenced elegance; Bill Blass and Donna Karan known for luxe style in ready-to-wear for the working woman; Ralph Lauren who created a lifestyle brand around the clean-cut, Ivy League preppy; Calvin Klein for a pared-down, simple elegance; Perry Ellis and Marc Jacobs who ushered in youthful irreverence and attitude; relative newbies like Proenza Schouler, Alexander Wang, and Thakoon – just to name a few.

So, here’s to the US of A! You have given us Ray Bans, Converse, tomboy style, jeans, t-shirts, tank tops, army/navy, the hippie/bohemian, preppy style and minimalism, to name just a very few contributions to the fashion world.

Like teenagers we just can’t ignore, we have watched and followed.

Below is a list of 15 of the most unforgettable, US style icons. Click on one of the photos for details/close-ups and a slideshow:






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