(Janay & Ray Rice/AP Photo)
What I found even more shocking than the punch seen around the world, were the reactions of many people, predominantly women, vilifying Janay Rice for not only taking the beating, but marrying him. Many critics were not sympathetic toward Janay; in fact, she's being called everything from "desperate" and an "idiot," to "gold digger," using her husband's fat paycheck to ease the pain from a fat lip (and other myriad injuries). Even people I thought I knew well had harsh words for Janay, saying she was as much to blame for the elevator altercation as her Pro Bowl husband because she hit him, too.
Now, I have no idea what goes on behind closed doors in the Rice household. I don't know whether the elevator incident was an "isolated" one. Some comments accused the media of fueling a one-sided story by airing the video, using it to condemn Ray Rice and "bully" the Ravens into cutting him loose. Others are questioning why the extra video is only coming to light now, instead of months ago, along with the snippet seen by millions - showing Ray dragging an apparently unconscious Janay out of the elevator by her hair.
Take ten seconds and go back and read that last sentence. Go ahead. I'll wait.
The video showed Ray Rice dragging his apparently unconscious then-fiancee out of an elevator. BY. HER. HAIR.
This could hardly be considered an an act of love and concern on behalf of a besotted young man. The sight of a man dragging a woman by the hair sends a very clear message: HE's ANGRY and SHE's PAYING THE PRICE.
And yet, several things happened as a result of the original video clip:
- Both Ray and Janay were arrested and charged with domestic violence
- They held a join press conference where both apologized for their roles in the "incident."
- Janay married Ray, a man she has known and loved since they were 16 year old high school students.
The fact that Janay married Ray seems to lie at the root of 85% of the backlash against her. There's also the fact that she's seen pushing him before he punches her so hard, she hits her head on a railing inside the elevator and is knocked unconscious. Oh, and she was also arrested, so it's just as much her fault as his (another popular assertion).
So... am I being hypersensitive about this? Am I bandying about the term "domestic violence" a little too freely? Am I reading too much into Janay's body language from the joint press conference and seeing a woman who is firmly under her husband's thumb; a man she's been with since the tender age of 16? Is she really a gold digger, overlooking his apparently violent temper for his multi-million dollar salary, jewelry, a nice house, fancy cars and all the perks that come with being an "NFL Wife?" Is she pushing his anger buttons because she has become addicted to his temper?
Or... is Janay Rice a victim, whose husband has had years (decades) to groom her, chip away at her confidence and bend her to his will? Is she feeling useless and trapped, unable to stand up to her famous husband, especially not with a toddler in the house? Is she feeling as though she cannot make it on her own, in spite of a communications degree from Towson University? Does she look in the mirror and see a failure, blaming herself even for the newest video released today and for her husband losing his job without even a glimmer of hope he'll ever play professional football again? Is she afraid he'll blame her, too, and take it out not just on her, but on their little girl?
Whenever I think about this situation, I try to place my mind in an impartial state, but my gut keeps seeing that brief clip of Ray dragging an unconscious Janay out of the elevator by her hair, and just like that, it's difficult to be impartial.
The majority of men who took to social media today seem to agree. Current and former NFL players came down on Ray Rice like the proverbial ton of bricks. Many fans called for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to step down, accusing him and the Ravens' front office personnel of trying to cover up the severity of the so-called "altercation," then expressing surprise when TMZ posted the incriminating video this morning. Several sports pundits, including a couple of former NFL coaches, vented their outrage "as fathers." Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he and Ray had talked a lot since the first video emerged and expressed hope the couple would work their way through this, together, and come out stronger for it.
I've never been in an abusive relationship.
I know people who have been in very abusive relationships.
Some were able to leave and not look back.
Some look over their shoulders all the time.
Some have gone back to their abusers, over and over... and over again.
Some remain in troubled relationships because they just can't leave right now, because they're afraid, because of the kids, because they have no support system, because, because because.
Some of these people have very successful careers.
Some of these people would make you shake your head in disbelief and say, "Her? NO WAY is she a domestic violence victim!"
Is Janay Rice a victim? No matter how incriminating that video looks, only she knows for sure, and she's not telling, at least not right now. If she is, we can only hope she finds her voice before it's too late.
If you're reading this and you ARE in an abusive relationship or know someone who is, call the
National Domestic Violence Hotline for immediate help, 24/7:
Or-- visit the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence for more resources: www.wscadv.org.
(Please, make sure you're in a safe place or using a phone your abuser cannot access)
If you know me and want someone to talk to before making any decisions, either for yourself or someone you're concerned about, get in touch with me via Facebook or Twitter (@Motley_Su or @TaoOfSu) - or have someone get in touch with me on your behalf if you don't feel safe reaching out. You're not alone and you do not have to go through this alone.