Because Ray Rice punched out his then girlfriend, now wife, Janey, I think that the NFL as well as others have learned that “boys will be boys” stated with a chuckle and wink won’t excuse abuse anymore. The brutal behavior in the elevator has brought domestic abuse to the forefront. That’s the only good thing about it. I’ve not written much about this incident. Been waiting to see how it played out. The incident has continued to fill the headlines. People debating the roll the NFL should have in disciplining the player. The contract includes a code of conduct that is meant to keep a black eye off the NFL. If they are serious about that, they need to prevent black eyes and other injuries to the partners and children of the players. The best way to prevent abuse is to educate employees. Some may need batterer’s treatment, others, awareness training. Sounds like the only educating they’ve done so far is to teach victims to stay silent.
The more survivors willing to come forward reduces the chance that domestic abuse will be swept under the carpet like gun control was after the death of so many children, innocent bystanders and police officers. There are no deep-pocketed lobbyists protecting abusers. Or are there?
Think of the pressure put on Janey as a result of this incident- the NFL would like to down-play what happened so it can go away and they can get back to playing the game, not to mention smooth things over so that sponsors won’t pull out. The NFL has huge amounts of money to loose, and Ray, his career. So they look to Janey to make herself responsible for the whole mess. She’s in a no-win situation. If she files charges, he will hate her and possibly make her pay for destroying his career (in the abuser’s mind his bad behavior is his partner’s fault.) The league will make her the scapegoat, blackballing her and painting her as the one at fault.
Former wives of NFL players are coming forward to report how the league had drawn them into a cult-like existence where what happens in your home stays in your home. Women were expected to buck up and put up with violence or affairs to protect not only the player, but the whole team and the integrity of the NFL. If they didn’t play nice, they were booted into poverty.
If nothing else, the Ray Rice incident has shown how this behavior has been cultivated but will no longer be accepted. Other sports clubs are reevaluating their codes of conduct. I’d call that a step forward. Now we need the legal system to prosecute perpetrators, no matter who they are. Big money has managed to trump that in the past. It’s time to put the blame where it belongs— the abuser ruined his own career, not the wife who came forward to save herself and children.
I’m glad to see victims of rape and abuse speak out with a new strength, no longer afraid that they won’t be taken seriously. Still, they are met with stupid comments and myths like:
- “These claimants are just jumping on the bandwagon, out for money.” Really? Most of these cases are past the statute of limitations.
- “They are seeking to become a celebrity.” Seriously? Why would anyone declare themselves victims of abuse when there is such a stigma attached? Unfortunately, there are easier ways to become a celeb these days, but that’s another blog.
- “They just want to make trouble.” Once again, victim blaming. Those who perpetrated the violence made this happen.
- “It’s a family matter. We don’t interfere.” If Ray had punched someone on the street, wouldn’t he have been arrested and charged? Why should battery laws only apply if the victim is not his partner or child? Why should celebrities be above the law?
- “She must like it, she stays. She could just leave.” Seriously, who would welcome being terrorized and punched in the face? Women stay for many reasons, mostly they feel trapped and terrorized. Leaving is the most dangerous time for victims and children. When they leave, they are 70% more likely to be murdered. See my post Why Women Stay or Return to Abusers from January 9, 2011 for a better understanding of this issue.
- “She said it was her fault. She antagonized him.” We covered this in the paragraph about the pressure put on Janey. Victims live in such fear that they will do anything to make peace. Including accept the blame and marry the perpetrator. After all, he’s been telling her all along that he wouldn’t hit her if she didn’t make him so angry. Anything short of taking responsibility for the incident could cost the victim her life.
- “She hit him first.” The difference between a man’s and a women’s punch is usually about 100 pounds (in the case of a football player- 200 pounds.) As a large man, he could have easily restrained her to protect himself. Instead he chose to punch her out. When Janey hit Ray he was not afraid for his life. When a man hits a woman, she’s afraid for her life. I’d call that a huge difference. Let me make it clear— no one needs to be hitting anyone.
Ray Rice’s bad behavior has given us the opportunity to educate society and get rid of the ridiculous and dangerous beliefs. We need to keep this conversation going. No matter how many times we must respond to these archaic myths, we have to keep repeating the truth until everyone gets it. No sweeping it under the rug. Violence is not okay.