Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 48 hours, you’ve probably heard about the incident that occurred between Baltimore Ravens’ player Ray Rice and his wife, Janay. Here’s what we know so far: back in February, Ray Rice was charged with assault after an altercation with his then-fiancé in an Atlantic City hotel elevator. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Rice for the first two games of the Ravens’ season. However, video of the altercation in the elevator was released by TMZ on Monday, which shows Rice knocking Janay unconscious and dragging her out of the elevator. In response, the Ravens terminated Rice’s contract and he has been suspended indefinitely from the NFL.
Please allow me to preface what I’m about to say with the following: I am only stating my opinions. I recognize that there are many opposing viewpoints on this situation, and on domestic violence in general, and my goal is to be as respectful as possible while still expressing my point of view.
I’ve been deeply troubled by this incident for countless reasons over the past couple of days. My frustrations have originated from many different directions so I will try to organize them as concisely as I can. First and foremost: Ray freaking Rice. Now, to be fair, none of us were in that elevator. None of us know what was said by whom and when. None of us know the inner workings of Ray and Janay’s relationship. However, with that being said, there is absolutely no reason for a man to ever raise his hand against a woman. Ever. Period. Is it okay for a man to get angry at his wife? Of course. Is it okay for them to argue as two mature adults? Sure. But the moment Ray Rice balled up his fist and struck his wife, he crossed an unacceptable line. He should be held accountable for such a heinous and barbaric display that was meant to instill fear and exert power over his spouse. I’ve read quite a few conversations on social media about the topic, and one of the most common arguments I hear in Ray’s defense is that “she hit him first.” While that very well may be the case, my response has remained the same: if your mother/sister/wife/aunt/niece/friend hit her significant other in the midst of an argument and he struck her in the same manner that Ray Rice struck Janay, would you feel the same way?
Of course, on the other end of this issue is Ray’s wife, Janay. This is the part where I struggle to reconcile my feelings about the statement that she released regarding the altercation with my lack of knowledge about her and Ray’s private life. In a nutshell, Janay expressed frustration about the media portrayal of the incident and about the fact that Ray had been stripped of everything he’s worked so hard to achieve (her full statement is posted here). However, there was one line of her statement that struck me most profoundly: “Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is.” Show the world what Real. Love. Is. The last time I checked, getting knocked unconscious by your significant other isn’t real love. Being dragged out of an elevator isn’t real love. Being victimized by someone who is supposed to protect you isn’t real love.
Instead, what Ray and Janay have “shown” is that domestic violence exists at all hours of the day and night on every street on every corner of the earth. It does not discriminate based on race, age, gender, education, or income level. NFL players with multi-million contracts are just as likely to be abusive as an angry alcoholic who just lost his job. We ask ourselves the same question about that alcoholic’s wife as we do about Janay Rice: why does she stay? For many in abusive relationships, walking away isn’t as simple as those of us on the outside would like to think. There may be fears of more violence, of poverty, or of simply being alone. Whatever the reason, as desperately as we may want to, we should not – MUST not- pass judgment. Should Janay be applauded for remaining committed to her marriage despite this incident? Or should she be encouraged to walk away from a man who physically abuses her? And ultimately, is the decision really ours to make?
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, intimate partner violence is most likely to occur among women between the ages of 18 and 24. That’s us, twenty-somethings. If you or someone you know is struggling with domestic violence or abuse, speak up! Don’t be afraid to guide them towards resources that might help make the difference in their lives. For more information, visit www.ncadv.org or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.
Do you have questions or comments about this situation? Feel free to sound off in the comments!