Update: Since the publishing of this article, Ray Rice has been released by the Baltimore Ravens and suspended indefinitely by the NFL. His wife, Janay, has taken to social media to defend her husband and blame the media for all that has happened.
The ugly truth about domestic violence is the victim is often punished over and over again. They’re assaulted by their attacker, protect that attacker out of fear, then they’re victimized by a system that doesn’t always want to prosecute as much as they should. Such is the case with this ever evolving situation with Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.
Back in February when this story broke, we only saw footage of Rice dragging his then fiancée (they’ve since married) from an elevator unconscious. What we knew was that Rice had knocked her out. What we didn’t know was what happened inside the elevator, and according to Rice, his lawyers and shockingly his fiancée, we didn’t know the whole story. That’s often domestic violence code for “she had it coming”, “you had to be there”, or “you don’t know her, she gets out of control”. All things that seem to suggest that it’s okay to knock a woman out.
Fast forward to today, and celebrity website TMZ has released the full video. It shows two people entering the elevator having a verbal altercation. As Rice’s then fiancée approaches him, she’s knocked out cold with one punch. No physical back and forth, nothing more than words being spoken. The video is hard to watch
No doubt, it’s not shown what happened before they got to the elevator. It’s not shown what she may have done to Ray before that point. However, here’s what we do know: The facts of the case are they both were arrested for battery that night. But whatever she may have done to him physically was over. Whatever she may have done, it obviously wasn’t enough for Rice to fight back at the moment it happened, or they never would’ve made it to that elevator. If he was able to hold his peace for that long, why not longer?
More domestic violence justification would be to suggest that we don’t know what was said in that elevator. While that’s true, the response given – a punch in the face from a football player to a woman – was not the correct one. As stated in a previous post, it seems odd that a man that takes physical punishment for a living from 300 pound men that wish to him nothing but harm can’t take a moment of verbal abuse or even a punch from a woman that’s weaker than he.
Even the NFL fell short, issuing Rice a slap on the wrist two game suspension, which is even more reprehensible today if in fact they’ve seen the entire video. Commissioner Roger Goodell has since admitted that the league got this wrong, after months of standing by their original decision. It’s shameful that a player in the league is suspended twice as long for taking performance enhancing drugs, something that harms his own body, than someone that commits a criminal act of violence against someone else’s.
The fact that NFL involved the victim in the punishment phase of the process was also shortsighted. She was placed in a position where she had to choose between the NFL and her attacker, whom she still loved and wanted to marry. Who else would she choose? Just a little bit of research on the NFL’s part would’ve revealed to them that victims often protect their attackers and the only reason to question Rice’s fiancée was to gain information, not to get input on what she thought his punishment should be.
Men must end the degradation of women, whether verbally or physically, sooner rather than later. The idea that a woman that’s “out of control” must be beaten back into control must be done away with. It’s true that society is more aggressive than it used to be, and that includes women being just as aggressive as men these days, but there must be a different approach than violence. We live in a society that always advises women when to leave, but men need that same advice. Men must now be strong enough to leave any situation that can cause them to do something that can’t be taken back. If a man is in a relationship where a woman takes him to a place that makes him want to get physical, he must be willing to move on before someone gets seriously hurt or even dies, and love can’t be the excuse he uses to stay.
A man’s relationship with his woman should never cause him to embrace violent tendencies that may exist in him. Disagreements are what come with the territory, but there are healthy ways to do so. At times, verbal arguments may even get heated, but if it takes violence to achieve peace with your woman, your relationship is not a healthy one. While the Rice’s have said that they’ve sought counseling, the lesson for all here is to do that before things get this far.
By all accounts Ray Rice is a great guy that had a really bad night, and that may be true of him or many others that may have found themselves in his shoes. Who knows, he may end up doing great things for the cause of domestic violence from this day forward. While that remains to be seen, it doesn’t excuse the fact that he escaped any real chastisement for his actions, both legally and from the league. There are many young men looking up to him and it would seem to me that the authorities, the league and Rice himself should’ve wanted a stiffer punishment to discourage this type of behavior.
Often, when we escape punishment for our actions, it sends the wrong message to us and to others. The message must be clear that when something like this happens, there are consequences and those consequences should come no matter what your standing in the community is or what your celebrity status is. It was easy to sit back and say that no one knew the whole story, but it’s wrong for Rice to have sat back and tried to convince everyone that they didn’t see what they saw. Because even though the world is just now seeing the rest of the footage, he knew what happened all along.