Ray Rice and Domestic Violence

 

You may have heard about the fallout from Baltimore Ravens’ running-back Ray Rice’s altercation with his then fiancé on February 15.The situation is strange and concerning. If you don’t know anything about it, here’s the quick and dirty rundown.

 

On February 15 the couple engaged in an “altercation” in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  Rice allegedly hit his fiancée.  There’s video of Rice dragging his unconscious fiancée from an elevator.  Later, authorities charged Rice with assault.

 

Then, Ray Rice held a press conference with his now-wife, Janay Palmer.  In the press conference, Rice didn’t make much of a statement as he still has charges pending against him. But he apologized saying; “I failed miserably, but I wouldn’t call myself a failure because I’m working my way back up.”

 

“One thing I do know is that I’m working every day to be a better father, a better husband and just a better role model,” Rice went on to say.

Rice entered a diversion program and, if he completes the program, the charges against him may be expunged.

 

But then, the NFL banned Rice for two games this upcoming season.  In comparison, individuals who violate the league’s substance abuse policy face a ban of four games.  Recently, this disparity has instigated further conflict with the story.  Fans voiced derogatory and accusatory comments towards Palmer.  ESPN suspended Stephen A. Smith for comments he made regarding the case.

 

The media fallout of this case highlights many of the uncomfortable dynamics that flow from domestic violence cases.   The facts that the individuals involved in these cases want to remain private leads to assumptions in those that find out about the situation.   Whereas in normal life, people may not go so far as to imply that an individual “provoked” or “asked for” the attack, a widely public case like this allows for some very disheartening views to come to the surface.

 

 

Spouse Response

 

The individuals who allege Palmer provoked Rice tend to cite her comments at the press conference.  Palmer, whose charges in the incident were dropped, apologized during the press conference for the “role” she took in the situation.  This lead to people thinking she was in some way responsible for the altercation.

 

She said:

“I do deeply regret the role I played in the incident that night”.

 

She went on to say;

“but I can say that I am happy that we continue to work through it together. I love Ray, and I know that he will continue to prove himself not only to you all but to the community, and I know he will gain your respect back in due time.”

 

If you have a chance to watch a video of Palmer’s comments, I doubt you’ll be able to finish the video without feeling uncomfortable.  Her body language makes it clear that she’s uncomfortable.  Beyond the video and what limited information we have about that night, we know very little.

 

However, the fact remains that at some point, Ray Rice did something that knocked Palmer unconscious. Rice is listed 5’8″ and 206 lbs.  While Palmer may have attacked him, for him to respond in a similar fashion, is inherently dangerous. There is a huge disparity as to what each of them can do.  Without information that demonstrates that Palmer was a genuine threat, any response other than blocking seems very inappropriate.

 

 

People’s Reactions

 

In cases outside of media exposure, people face scrutiny from their co-workers and employers after personal conflicts come to light.  Maybe talking heads don’t get banned for the comments they make in the everyday world, but our co-workers and social circle may make comments that demonstrate a lack of understanding of the situation.  Rumors spread and reputations are ruined.

 

It’s easy to show a lack of empathy for the situation when we talk about it in private.    Allegations like these, understandably, reshape peoples’ perceptions of an individual.  But, in domestic violence situations it’s imperative to provide support to victims.  No one in the social circle will know all of the facts, and nor should they.  That lack of knowledge doesn’t forgive a lack of empathy.

 

There’s little we can do except wish the couple the best and hope that this situation improves how our collective culture approaches domestic violence.

 

For more on breaking the cycle of domestic violence, click here.

 

For information on domestic violence and orders of protection, click here.

 

For Arizona’s current law concerning domestic violence and handguns, click here.

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