As someone who has been in an abusive relationship, the video of Ray Rice knocking his wife unconscious in an elevator does not necessarily shock me. Domestic violence occurs everyday. I know this not because of statistics or police reports, but because I fell to the hands of my own Ray Rice. As a society we tend to overlook this, but I can speak on behalf of all victims of domestic violence when I say that Ray Rice is not the first man to lay his hands on a woman. And he will not be the last. However, what does shock me is the NFL commissioner’s reaction — or lack thereof — to Ray Rice’s actions. Rarely does domestic violence receive attention from the public, because let’s face it, most acts of violence occur behind closed doors. But this wasn’t an undisclosed incident, there is no he said/she said, there is no grey area. Ray Rice threw a punch at a woman that resulted in her losing consciousness.
The raw footage of Rice physically assaulting his wife was not released until yesterday, however the video of Rice dragging his wife’s unconscious body out of an elevator surfaced months prior. Why is it only now receiving widespread attention? For those of you that are just seeing the raw footage today, why did you think this woman was unconscious in the first place? Why does it take proof of a man actually striking a woman to draw attention? To the NFL commissioner, who made his decision to punish Rice with a two game suspension: it should not matter that you are only seeing the full length of the security footage now. Rice admitted to striking his wife. You watched as he dragged his wife’s unconscious body out of an elevator, dropping her on the floor and then standing above her as if his actions were not the result of this. Two games. You determined that Rice missing two games, and losing two games worth of pay, was a fair punishment for an athlete that engaged in a domestic act of violence. If your wife — or god forbid your daughter — was assaulted in the same manner as Rice’s wife, would you still conclude a two-game suspension to be an appropriate punishment?
For those that have argued that an athlete’s personal life should not reflect their success in their professional life, I also have some questions for you. Professional athletes receive fame and widespread attention, resulting in the support of millions of fans. They become role models for children and inspirations. Yes Rice may be skilled when it comes to tossing a football, but should he be placed in a position where he serves as a role model to others? You can argue that Rice did not ask to serve as a role model, but he signed a contract as a professional athlete, knowing that he, along with his team, would receive widespread attention. The thought of a young man growing up thinking, or in the case of the NFL knowing, that he could commit an act of domestic violence and still receive pay as a professional athlete is troubling. Is Rice’s two-game suspension supposed to deter other athletes from engaging in acts of violence? Is missing two games really that intimidating of a threat?
Although he may not realize it yet, Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, is indirectly encouraging acts of domestic violence. He has demonstrated to athletes, and the public in general, that you can engage in acts of violence and still have a career, an extremely high income and fame. I can openly admit that I know nothing about football, but the focus here is not on football, the focus is on a man’s despicable actions towards a woman. And as a woman who has been assaulted by a man, this issue affects me in a way that some will never understand. Because my assailant — and, at the time, my partner — never laid his hands on me in a public setting, he remains without punishment. And for those that argue that it is a woman’s decision to remain in an abusive relationship, it really isn’t as simple as that. Leaving an abusive relationship can result in far more harm than was endured throughout the relationship. I cannot speak on behalf of Rice’s wife. I do not know if she wants to leave him. I do not know if she faces violence behind closed doors. But I do know that she was knocked unconscious at the hands of a man. As much as it pains me that this footage has gone viral, I am also hopeful that domestic violence will finally receive the attention that it deserves. Because I was abused by my own Ray Rice, and right now there are women being abused by their own Ray Rice too.