Mel Evans/AP
September 10, 2014 01:45 PM

The nation has expressed outrage over the graphic video that appeared to show Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancée unconscious in an Atlantic City elevator last winter – and the NFL’s initial response to his assault. Now, four NFL wives are speaking out, saying they understand why Janay Palmer Rice stayed with her alleged abuser and even married him.

“I don’t think it’s too hard for me to understand why Janay would stay with Ray,” Dawn Neufeld, wife of former NFL tight end Ryan Neufeld, told TODAY on Wednesday. “Unfortunately, I was raised in a home where there was some domestic violence women stay with abusers for many, many reasons.”

Palmer Rice surprised many by staunchly defending her husband on Instagram Tuesday after the shocking video was released, and the alleged assault has spawned trending Twitter topics under the hashtags #whyistayed and #whyileft documenting reactions and heartfelt experiences of others involved in domestic violence.

“Thank goodness I was not in a situation to make that choice, but I think I would probably end up being one to stay, because you assume that role,” said Michelle Rivera, wife of former NFL offensive lineman Marco Rivera. “You’re there to support, and you uphold the image that you feel is necessary for your family.”

Mioshi Johnson, wife of Rice’s former Ravens teammate Chris Johnson (and good friend of the Rice family), said: “They’re just feeling very ostracized. Like, you’re not helping. Everybody is continually making us relive this when we’re trying to heal and grow from this. So where’s the help? Where’s the support?”

Added Johnson: “It was out of character for both of them. They are not violent people. They are very loving, doting over each other, over their daughter.”

Melani Ismail, wife of former NFL receiver Raghib Ismail, insists that NFL wives are not “gold diggers.”

“The money comes and goes, and there is no amount of money that could even touch the injuries and the heartache and all the things that go with the NFL. It’s a very, very difficult business,” she told TODAY. “It’s not just the man. It’s his wife, his children.”

RELATED: Baltimore Ravens Drop Ray Rice After Apparent Assault Video Leaks

Ismail said that Rice “doesn’t have to remain a bad guy. He needs some help.”

Neufeld did say she felt the NFL “mishandled this situation tremendously.”

“The NFL can figure out who draft picks or potential draft picks are dating, what their grades are in school, but they couldn’t find this video,” she said, referencing the growing pressure on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and his handling of the situation. “I think that’s troubling.”

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