How Not to Talk About Ray Rice

By all means, let’s talk about Ray Rice and domestic violence. But before you broach the subject, let’s put a few caveats in place.

Let’s stop questioning Janay’s decision to stay with him. The reasons women stay with their abusers are well-documented, and blaming Janay for her abuse is part of a culture that shames women who have already been victimized.

Let’s stop lauding the Ravens for their decision to terminate Ray Rice. The evidence to support such action was available four months ago, had highly paid investigators been incentivized to get to the bottom of things instead of protect the NFL’s reputation and the competitiveness of the Ravens as a team. The only reason action is being taken now is because TMZ (of all sources) gave them no other option.  The NFL? They didn’t fire Rice. That wasn’t on them.

Let’s stop being excited that the NFL has stiffened the penalties for domestic abuse charges. Beating the hell out of another individual the first time around means a six game suspension. Doing it one more time means you’re banished for at least a year, but after that, you can always get picked up again. Those same behaviors would destroy a traditional career the first time around. And let’s not forget that these NFL penalties for domestic abuse are on par with the punishment for marijuana use. Yes, getting stoned is apparently the same thing as brutally attacking another human being.

Let’s stop bemoaning the dismantling of a career for a promising young man. This isn’t an unfortunate accident. This is a man who brutally attacked another person, and is paying the price. That’s not a tragedy. No, the only tragic part of this story is that there’s any sympathy being given to him at all.

Let’s stop talking about the fact that the victim was a woman as the primary reason for outrage. It frames women as victims in need of protection. The more important issue is that an assault took place. The gender of the victim is only relevant in the context of broader discourse, as we recognize the rate of violence against women as a whole is exponentially higher than instances of domestic violence against men (while acknowledging that the latter still happens and is condemnation worthy itself).

If you want to talk about the prevalence of domestic violence, or the cultural norms that discourage reporting, or the backlash that victims face for reporting at all, or the continued belief that domestic abuse is a private struggle, then by all means, let’s go. Even better, let’s talk about solutions. But if you want to dish out shame and blame and undeserved pats on the backs of those who fell down on the job, you can take your drivel elsewhere.

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