Beauty talks violence

PAGEANT winners are known for supporting world peace.

But Miss America winner Kira Kazantsev is speaking out on a more controversial topic — domestic violence.

The New York beauty queen told NPR people should stop victim-blaming Ray Rice’s wife Janay after she was beaten by the NFL star.

“I want people to stop asking, ‘Why doesn’t she just leave’?” said Kazantsev of the NFL star’s partner. “Every woman is an expert in her own case, and there are so many extenuating circumstances that lead to a woman staying with her abuser.”

The 22-year-old political science graduate chose violence against women as her pageant platform topic because she was in an abusive relationship during college, and regularly speaks at shelters on behalf of non-profit group Safe Horizon.

She said it is hard for women to look for help when they are being abused, because “you don’t feel like anyone could possibly understand”.

“I definitely had friends that saw this and tried to help and didn’t know what to do,” she said. “And at that point I isolated myself. I was completely isolated from any help they were offering me.”

Kazantsev said her aim was to get people talking about domestic violence to stop it being taboo.

The leaked video showing Baltimore Ravens player Rice knocking out his wife in an elevator has triggered heated debate.

Rice has been dropped from his team, and the NFL criticised for not holding him to account sooner.

But much of the conversation has focused on why Janay has stayed with him, which has led others to share their experiences on Twitter using hashtags #WhyIstayed and #WhyILeft.

Miss America winner Kazantsev is not the only contestant to tackle a difficult topic during the pageant, usually heavily criticised for reducing women to their looks.

Miss Delaware Brittany Lewis also chose to talk about domestic violence, because her sister was in an abusive relationship for five years before being fatally shot, and the case has still not been solved.

Raeanna Johnson, Miss Wisconsin, spoke out on the impact of substance abuse on families after her drug addict brother took his own life.

Miss Kansas Amanda Sasek also discussed suicide. She developed anorexia after her father took his life when she was 17.

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