Janay Rice’s attempt to put her husband’s assault behind her is understandable in terms of wanting to keep their private lives private, but it only conceals how serious this type of abuse is where more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends, EVERYDAY.
photo is from Patrick Semansky/AP/file
Ray and Janay Rice in court last May dealing with his assault on his wife in February this year
The public outcry that has surfaced following the release of the video of former Baltimore Raven Ray Rice’s assault on his wife has had two essential reactions. 1) Rice losing his million dollar job with the Ravens and more importantly 2), the pubic debate about spousal abuse becomes energized again, as it should.
The act itself was brutal as the video of the assault attested to. But some people question whether Rice should have lost his livelihood and source of income for this domestic violence which appears somewhat to be provoked by a lack of anger management on Janay’s part. If prosecuted in a court of law the answer would of course be yes if found guilty because the abuser would likely spend time in jail and he now becomes a person with a criminal record. Few employers would be able to justify to themselves and others the value of keeping someone like this on their payroll.
But Rice wasn’t prosecuted because his wife not only didn’t press charges against the man who knocked her unconscious during an altercation between them last February but stood by her man in the face of public outrage and married him the day after he was indicted. They have a small child between them so most people would reasonably argue that depriving the husband of his source of income could have a lasting negative impact, not only for their child, but for the wife too since many marital arguments revolve around economic issues.
But a million dollar contract with a pro sports team is not like any other job. People like Ray Rice get paid handsomely as public figures who, for right or wrong, become role models for younger people. The expectations for being a professional athlete come with the assumption that their character in part be of the nature that inspires impressionable kids to achieve something worthy in themselves. It is after all allegedly America’s game. Such things then as using drugs or punching out weaker people are therefore not in line with this expectation.
Someone who works an assembly line or sales insurance doesn’t get this exposure. When domestic violence occurs with these people perhaps only their immediate families and a few co-workers may become aware of it. Not that their own children won’t suffer later in life from such poor role modeling but this pales in comparison to the millions of young children who want to emulate their perceived heroes in sports. For Ray Rice to continue his role as a public figure that will be watched with great interests by enthusiastic children risks perpetuating the domestic violence so many suffer from in this country.
Rice’s job loss with the Ravens and his indefinite suspension with the NFL may be a career ending consequence of his actions but it is not a life ending one. How he deals with this and moves forward will determine if the character we expect, not only from sports figures with lucrative incomes but with all men, will be a testament to whether or not this one act caught on tape was an anomaly or something inherent in his behavior that will only get worse over time. Once this has been established then and only then should he be considered worthy of rehire or be forever banned from the one thing he worked all his young life to achieve.
What is at the heart of this issue however is not whether it is fair or unfair that the NFL cut ties with this one man for this one known act but that it reflects a serious illness in our society – domestic violence.
Men who beat their wives – and their children – are prevalent in this country as they are in others, especially where there is a strong patriarchal tradition that covertly at least accepts the right of the father figurehead to physically discipline his wife and children. It’s an intolerable act that goes on far too long before the wife leaves and takes the children with her or someone gets killed before the courts and society intervene.
Janay Rice’s decision to stay with her husband is typical of women early in their relationship with abusive men. The feeling that they can change them and that the love they once shared before the violence occurred will prevent a re-occurrence is a codependent response that refuses to accept that their man has a serious problem dealing with conflict. But abusive men are not born that way. They are conditioned from an early childhood who likely experienced abuse personally or where such behavior was a deep part of their culture that signaled its acceptance.
To believe as many do, especially men, that this was or will be a one time incident since both have reconciled publicly, is naive at best. In all likelihood, if Rice continues in pro sports, the fame and pressure to sustain his performance in a violent sport will add to the possibility that at some future date, when Janay feels rejected or Ray becomes full of himself or even depressed, sparks will fly and Ray Rice’s inability to contain his physical responses will waylay Janay, and likely from more than one blow next time.
According to statistics domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women that occurs every 9 seconds in the U.S. Roughly 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually and $4.1 million is spent each year for direct medical and health care services by victims of partner violence.
It may or may not be justifiable that Ray Rice lost his job from the Baltimore Ravens for this violent incident and time may prove that he is capable of rising above it by demonstrating he no longer reacts in such a violent manner. I have my doubts however. But it is clearly never justifiable that any woman should be cold-cocked the way his girlfriend-turned-wife was in that elevator. NEVER.
Men who can’t accept that may themselves be in need of rehab for abusive behavior or at a minimum, admit themselves into anger management classes.