Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ray Rice - A Force For Good?

A lot has been said about Ray Rice over the last few days, especially because the Ravens are in my backyard. For anyone who has been living in a cave without TV or internet access, Ray Rice is a football player with the Baltimore Ravens.  Back in February of this year, it came to light that he struck his then fiance and now wife.  I use the prior sentence because that's how the NFL and the Ravens looked at it.  Sort of feels not so bad, huh?  Sure, he "struck" her, but it was once and he said he was sorry, so that means it's all OK - right?  The NFL imposed a 2 game suspension (a lesser consequence than for marijuana use), he and his now wife diverted to therapy, and it was all taken care of.  Except it wasn't.  The sad part about this all is that the NFL will suffer no consequences as a result of their handling of this incident.  People won't boycott the games, and I doubt they will lose any sponsors.  After all, money talks, and the NFL and its star players generate a lot of revenue both for themselves and their sponsors.

Ray Rice didn't just "strike" his wife - he cold cocked her so hard that it knocked her across an elevator and caused her to lose consciousness.  Then, he dragged her by her hair like a sack of potatoes and dumped her body unceremoniously out of the elevator.  How do we know this?  Well (again, for those of you in a cave), this week TMZ decided to "leak" the surveillance video from the hotel where the incident occurred, so the world could see what the NFL and the Ravens already knew.  Well, the NFL and the Ravens back pedaled fast and furiously to cut Rice from the team and indefinitely suspend him from the game.  Bully for them.  They would have been absolutely content to give this misogynist a slap on the wrist had TMZ not leaked the footage.  Domestic violence is apparently no big deal in the NFL unless you get caught on tape doing it.  Great message; fabulous image.

Wait, it gets worse.  Rice's wife apologized for the role she played in getting hit. What????  Certainly the tape shows that she and Rice were arguing prior to her being knocked across the elevator.  But is there really ever a reason why a spouse should hit another?  Her apology seems to imply that it was her fault for getting him angry or for making him strike her.  They are both in counseling, and in couples counseling. His is court ordered to deal with his anger issues.  Unfortunately, domestic violence isn't about anger.  One of my discussion groups is talking about this issue, and Marc Brennan, an instructor at Morgan State University, had this to say in a discussion about an article on anger:   "Some experts in the field believe that anger management training for domestic violence perpetrators is worthless. This is because these individuals in general don't have a broad anger management problem, they have a violence issue toward their girlfriends, wives, etc. In other words, they don't assault the clerk at the grocery store or the bus driver or their boss. If their problem was anger management, they'd display this problem more broadly. In addition, domestic violence perpetrators can often manipulate those who teach anger management classes, or just put in their time in the class. Judges who order anger management classes should reconsider."  He's spot on.  

What is gratifying, however,is the response by the general public.  Most people and most of the commentary expresses shock and outrage at Ray Rice's behavior.  Certainly, domestic violence is and has been a serious issue, but except for its victims and those of us here in the Trenches who see its outcome, most people can't visualize it happening.  It is an abstract concept at best for most of the world.  Sure, we hear about Mike Tyson and Chris Brown, but not only do we not see the violence occurring, we rarely see their victims in all their bruised and battered glory.  Ray Rice was different.  This video gave a stark visual example of domestic violence, both in its awful power and in its lack of provocation.  It shocked a complacent public and drove home the horror with which the victims of domestic violence live every day.  Maybe, just maybe, this video will raise awareness, and spur the public to intervene so that there are many fewer Janay Rices, Rihannas and Robin Givens suffering at the hands of their domestic partners.  Here in the Trenches.

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