Janay & Ray Rice: Victim Blaming and Ignorance of the Cycle of Violence

*trigger warning*

Ray Rice, a former running back of the Baltimore Ravens, was originally suspended for two games for assaulting his wife, Janay Rice. The first video released to the public was one which captured Ray Rice dragging his unconscious wife from the elevator. At the time that the first video was release, it was reported that the NFL had viewed a second video capturing the incident which took place inside of the elevator. At some point last week, TMZ released the second video, and leading up to that people were mad at the two game suspension of Ray Rice, which may have pushed forth the public video release. However, following the release of the second video NFL officials began denying that they ever saw the second video.  Whether or not they viewed the video, people were making a constant comparison between the length of game suspicions of players who tested positive for THC and Ray Rice, who assault his wife. For players who tested positive for THC received a 4 game suspension whereas Ray Rice originally only received a 2 game suspension.  Ray Rice has since been released from the Ravens and suspended from the NFL indefinitely.  Some people are calling for members of Raven’s upper management as well as the NFL commissioner.  Another troubling result of this assault is that NFL has made a new rule which states that for a first offense of assault that a player will be suspended for 6 games.  First offense? Only 6 games? And that is only if the NFL officials become aware of the incident and even then it seems to be unsure whether or not they would acknowledge an assault incident as such.

What I have found most interesting has been the coverage and disturbing opinions of this incident. For instance, Stephen A. Smith from ESPN First Take commented on the Ray Rice incident by saying that he of course doesn’t agree with domestic violence of women but women should learn that they should not “provoke men.”  This statement essentially blames women for incidents of domestic violence and seems to suggest that if women don’t want to get abused, then simply don’t give men a reason too. However, this statement is not only disturbing for women but for men as well.  This statement portrays men as beasts ready to pounce, reduced to tigers in a cage and women are the ones poking them with sticks.

Stephen A. Smith’s response to the assault was unfortunately a common one. Victim blaming statements pervaded a majority of the news coverage as well as public opinions shared on social media sites. For instance, I sadly came across a Youtube video entitled, “Ray Rice is the bigger victim of domestic violence.”  Also, following the report of the incident on Fox news, the respondents responded that the take away message should be to “take the stairs” and to remember that “when in an elevator there is a camera.” This statement not only failed to address the true severity of the situation that is domestic violence but seemed to suggest that the abuser should carry out the violence in private.  Another incident which essentially condoned the act of violence against women was when an individual called into Limbaugh’s radio show to share that if women want to be on the front line and treated equal they should be able to take a punch. Limbaugh then comments that feminist are wrong and feminism is “artificial” for men and women aren’t equal and that the assault is a clear demonstration of such.  This statement said by the caller and supported by Limbaugh was used as an attempt to rationalize domestic violence but bash feminism with Ray Rice’s assault of his wife.

Many people were arguing that Janay “got what she deserved” because she had initially started the incident by “lunging” and “antagonizing” Ray Rice. Some people even used the same language of Stephen A. Smith in saying she “poked the bear.” However, physical abuse is wrong and is against the law. No one ever deserves abuse!  Janay Rice was also reticulated for staying with Ray Rice following the incident. Leaving an abusive relationship is never an easy choice. Victims feel responsible for assault and will defend the abuser.  Leaving an abusive relationship can be the most dangerous time for an abused woman.  Also, it is important for individuals become familiar with the cycle of abuse. Abusers know who to take power and control in the relationship and over their partners.  Now, this is just an assumption but Ray Rice is the primary financial holder, and therefore may have all the economic control within the relationship. Janay may not have the financial resources to the leave the abusive relationship.  Furthermore, there is many psychological tactics which the abuser employs on the victim including denial of abuse or justifying their acts through accusations of infidelity or in Janay’s case, her hitting Ray Rice first.  

But what I feel is more important is that everyone is wanting to discuss why Janay didn’t leave the relationship when we should be discussing why Ray Rice felt it was acceptable to abuse his wife. By having people caught up in the discussion of why Janay didn’t leave the relationship it distracts individuals from the true issue of domestic violence.

Although this incident is a truly disturbing one it has brought domestic violence into the spotlight. Survivors of domestic violence have come forward sharing their #whyIstayed stories, where they share the reasons why they stayed, after Janay Rice received criticism for staying with Ray Rice. Also, a story was shared were a father altered his children’s Ray Rice jerseys to say “be nice to girls.” There have also been an increase number of calls to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, for women in abusive relationships came forward wanting to receive help after seeing the incident.   

Assault is NEVER justified, regardless of one’s gender! And stop showing the video! Survivors of domestic violence and others do not want to see the disturbing act of violence. The fault of the incident should never fall on the backs of the survivors of domestic violence. Domestic violence should be put to an end.

-Written by Angela Barney 

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